Daniel Gray, the Head of Content Marketing at Blick Rothenberg, talks to The Ortus Club’s Marcella Tortora about taking the biggest risk he’s ever taken in his career, his incredible journey as a Head of Content Marketing, and the greatest piece of career advice he can give to anyone.
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Can you give us a one sentence company description about Blick Rothenberg?
Blick Rothenberg is an accountancy practice that specializes in complex tax and audit and we’re well known for our work with high net worth individuals, entrepreneurs, and international businesses.
Can you describe the role of Head of Content Marketing in one word?
If I had to say one word, it would be “storyteller”. I’m passionate about storytelling. My role as a Head of Content is to find the best way to tell our businesses stories to our audiences which are our current and future clients in the most compelling way possible. People consume information in a variety of different ways.
To make sure that our stories resonate with as many of our audience as possible, I need to use a range of channels in my role including the written word, audio, visual, video, and put them into both digital and physical assets or experiences. Not only do we need to tell our stories the right way, we also have to tailor the experience for each person based on who they are, and where they are in their buying journey with us.
What current challenges are Heads of Content Marketing facing right now? Can you identify a solution?
The pandemic has had a lot of impact on everyone obviously. It’s also put a lot of pressure on businesses’ marketing teams. They’re under great scrutiny as well both due to an increased need to drive growth within businesses and to stand out and be heard in an even more competitive market. Everyone has moved online quite dramatically over the last 18 months. There’s a lot of noise out there and you have to break through it.
Heads of Content need to be able to be ready to pivot and adapt as things change around the world. For example, when lockdown happened, everyone scrambled quickly to professionalise their ability to deliver webinars because they couldn’t do the physical events anymore. Now that lockdown has ended in the UK, webinars are quickly losing their appeal. In fact, over the last 6 months, I’d say people were getting a bit fatigued with them. But now, people need to ask the question, “when’s the right time to do those physical events again?” “Is there an argument for doing hybrid events going forward?” and “how do you get those rights?”
The reality is that Heads of Content have to be aware of all channels to market and stay on top of what the latest things are while remembering there’s a place for traditional channels. Anyone in Content has to have the right core skills, the storytelling expertise and the ability to craft good content.
How do you explain the success you’ve had in your career?
I love what I do. I absolutely love writing. It’s the reason I get up in the morning. I love telling stories. In my career, I had planned to be a journalist for that reason but I fell into public relations instead for about 15 years. To be honest, it was because it paid slightly better when I had a student loan to pay back.
My career now spans over 20 years. I’ve largely focused on b2b but I’ve moved industries a lot to keep things interesting. I’ve also worked in the public sector and private sector which I think has given me a more rounded experience of different organisations, different audiences, and different challenges.
Over the last 6 years, I shifted focus to marketing from PR, thanks to a very supportive boss and mentor, Sarah Donnelly, who’s coached me through that change. My dynamic experience has brought me to where I am now.
Can you tell us about a time you took a major risk in your career?
The biggest risk I ever took was taking that leap from PR to content. There is a natural evolution there with a lot of core skills. It did require a bit of reskilling so it was a leap of faith. I took a bit of a sabbatical in my career after civil service. Then I took a PR role again when I returned to work but I quickly realised I’d kind of fallen out of love with public relations. I still loved creating the content and writing but not selling into the media, etc.
I had an earmarked role for PR but I just didn’t want to do it anymore so I took that leap of faith. 6 months later, I got that first Head of Content role and the rest is history.
How can you see your role evolving in the next two to three years?
I’m currently embedding content and storytelling in Blick Rothenberg at the moment. It’s a huge opportunity to create potential storytellers out of the 600 plus members of staff that we’ve got to get our messages out into the world. They will also tell others how to tell their own stories so the impact will hopefully get even bigger. I also have the opportunity to work really closely with our talented Head of Digital Marketing, Michael Bolton. Together, we’re exploring new ways and new channels to get our content out there and get people to engage with them. That’s going to be a pretty exciting journey along the way for me.
My ultimate ambition over the next 3 years is to have a team of content specialists who are market recognised for the quality of content we produce. I want to see people telling our stories rather than it just being us telling our stories because that’s the proof the stories really landed. If you can make sure that a story is understandable, memorable, and most of all, repeatable, that’s how you create impact.
What career advice would you like to share with Heads of Content Marketing?
First of all, you should be willing to experiment. People look to you to suggest the best way to get their stories across and you can only do that by continuing to push the boundaries. I’d also say you need to make sure you work in a role and a team where that experimentation is applauded and encouraged, not punished. As long as you learn from your mistakes or you learn from what happened then that’s a positive thing. Just make sure you’re in a culture and environment that’s going to embrace that experimental approach.
The other piece of advice I’d give is, if you are aspiring to become a Head of Content and you’re currently in a general marketing role or a PR role and you know you’ve got the skills, take the plunge. Look for the right role or start to move your organisation towards a storytelling culture and content marketing. That’s how you’ll get more satisfaction out of your career.
I guess the final piece of advice is never forget the fundamentals about the content that you are creating. At the end of the day, you’ve always got to ask yourself a question when you’re creating anything: “What is it you want your audience to feel, understand, and do?”. As long as you remember that, everything you create is going to resonate and achieve results for your business.
“You should be willing to experiment. People look to you to suggest the best way to get their stories across and you can only do that by continuing to push the boundaries. I’d also say you need to make sure you work in a role and a team where that experimentation is applauded and encouraged, not punished.”