Masterclass: How to create an award-winning content campaign

October 18, 2022

 Masterclass: How to create an award-winning content campaign

This year’s masterclass in storytelling brought together a panel of representatives from the BBC, De Beers and National Geographic to provide insight into what goes into making an award-winning content campaign. Each panellist presented their case study, followed by a Q&A session with the audience.

Journey To Ithaca

Alex Beard, a content strategist at BBC Storyworks, began by presenting Hyundai’s ‘Journey To Ithaca’, the winner of this year’s WMA for Social Good. Hyundai approached the BBC to help them publicise their sponsorship of Healthy Seas, an initiative which focuses on cleaning up abandoned ghost gear from the world’s oceans. The goal was to promote the NGO’s work, while showcasing the repurposing of plastic waste in their new Ioniq5 EV.

Okavango Eternal

Chris O’Neill, Senior Manager, Global Brand Partnerships, National Geographic and Letitia Weeks, Brand Manager, Sustainability, De Beers Group presented ‘Okavango Eternal’, winner of the WMA Brand and Media Partnership category. Since 2015, the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project has been working to help secure permanent, sustainable protection for the Okavango Basin. In 2021, De Beers joined the National Geographic Society, providing support and funding to expand and accelerate the work already underway.

The session was chaired by Rachael Adams, Senior Manager, Commercial Content, Reuters, who grilled the panellists about their respective campaigns, and took questions from the live audience. Here are their top three pieces of advice for creating an award-winning content marketing campaign:

  1. Authenticity – what gives you the right to tell your story?

For both campaigns, it was essential to tell the stories in a way that was authentic and true to each brand’s values. As part of the motor industry, which is not generally known for its sustainability or social good credentials, Hyundai were keen to change the narrative. They wanted to reinforce their commitment to driving change at an industrial level and to create a circular economy.

Instead of making the story about the Hyundai brand, their sponsorship of the Healthy Seas initiative allowed them to tell a genuine story of sustainability. Focusing on the ocean clean-up around the island of Ithaca, the story was one of redemption. From environmental disaster to actionable solutions, ending with visible progress and a message of positivity. In order to tell this story authentically, the brand presence had to be minimal. Nonetheless, the connection to Hyundai – ghost nets cleaned up from the ocean and broken down into the material that goes into their cars – was powerful.

De Beers and National Geographic are partnering to help address one of the most critical conservation challenges in Africa: protecting the near-pristine source waters of the Okavango Delta. Located in northern Botswana, the Okavango Delta is one of Africa’s richest places for biodiversity and home to the world’s largest remaining elephant population as well as lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, and hundreds of species of birds.

National Geographic has been joined by De Beers — which has worked with the people of Botswana for over 50 years including through their commitment to Building Forever on education, healthcare, livelihoods, and wildlife conservation — to help secure protection for the Okavango Delta’s headwaters.

It is through these shared commitments, and Nat Geo’s mission to illuminate and protect the wonders of our world, that both organisations have been able to connect authentically with global audiences to tell the tale of this incredible programme.

Top tip: “Ask yourself and your clients: do you have the authority to tell your story? Are there others who you can approach to better tell the story for you?” – Alex Beard, Content Strategist, BBC Storyworks

  1. Trust – choose a partner that reinforces your credibility.

The right partner will encourage the client to tell the story in the best possible way. The client must trust the media partner to tell it effectively, even if that means their own brand is not centre stage. The brand gains credibility from the target audience’s existing trust in the media partner.

Partnering with BBC to produce ‘Journey to Ithaca’, Hyundai benefited from the corporation’s high editorial standard, which requires all claims to be substantiated and demonstrated with the same rigour in commercial productions as in its news and editorial arms. The film was also the BBC’s first piece of short-form content to receive an Albert for sustainably production, adding authority to Hyundai’s desire to change the narrative around sustainability.

According to De Beers’ Letitia Weeks, trust goes both ways. She said having an 18-month preparation period before the start of the Okavango project gave them “the time to prove to National Geographic that we are serious about what we are saying and to build that trust.”

Together, both organisations have been able to leverage collective resources to scale efforts for long-term sustainable protection, working in close collaboration with National Geographic Explorers and hand-in-hand with communities throughout the Okavango.

That, paired with National Geographic’s cast of storytellers, multi-content platforms and vast archive of content, provided a robust framework to explain what the end goal was and demonstrate how they were going to get there together.

Top tip: “Get other voices in a piece, as it’s very much about telling both sides of the story and being balanced. Present it in an editorial or a newsy kind of way, so that it’s of interest to your audience.” – Rachael Adams, Senior Manager, Commercial Content, Reuters

  1. Proof – demonstrate the actual impact of your project

In response to an audience question about greenwashing, the panel discussed the importance of moving away from pledges and promises. Instead, our experts recommended using proof points to demonstrate that a project is more than just a marketing tactic. The Hyundai film was built on factual, quantitative truth that was very tangible to its audience. The National Geographic De Beers project is a five-year partnership, that requires deep engagement with its audience over the longer-term, only possible by showing genuine impact.

The panel were keen to point out that the lessons learned from their case studies apply to both B2C and B2B campaigns in every industry, and not just for big budget creative campaigns. They agreed the key is to find your authentic voice and work out what you have the authority to say. You can then engage your audience by showcasing proof points in a wide variety of compelling ways. Whether that’s an interactive timeline of your company’s history or vox pops of people who add interest to your story, if you are leading with something you have a genuine right to have a stance on, there will be an interesting story to tell.

Top tip: “Audiences can see through corporate narrative. What are you doing and what are those proof points that audiences can quite clearly see when they’re engaging with that content?” – Chris O’Neill, Senior Manager, Global Brand Partnerships, National Geographic

To find out more about why trust and authenticity must be at the heart of any content campaign, head to the World Media Group’s Creative Vault. You can read the full case studies for ‘Journey To Ithaca’, and ‘Okavango Eternal’ along with all our other award-winning entries.