BBC’s Richard Pattinson on leveraging editorial strength in content marketing

BBC StoryWorks’ Richard Pattinson – “A better way to reach audiences”

By Sally Rawsthorne

In Sydney recently to deliver the international keynote for the inaugural IAB Leadership Summit, the BBC’s Richard Pattinson also took the opportunity to promote the broadcaster’s newly formed StoryWorks division to Australian clients and agencies. Announced ahead of Cannes Lions in June this year, BBC StoryWorks is spearheaded by Pattinson, a career BBC journalist, in his role as senior vice president of content.

Speaking to Mediaweek, Pattinson explained that StoryWorks is designed to bring the BBC’s strength in delivering creative content to its advertising partners. As part of the BBC Advertising portfolio, StoryWorks will work in close partnership with advertisers across the BBC’s portfolio including BBC World News, Top Gear, BBC Good Food, BBC World Service, BBC Worldwide channels and BBC.com. “StoryWorks is the new content marketing arm of BBC Worldwide. It sits within BBC Advertising, and it’s headed by me. I was previously a BBC news journalist for 10 years, until I took this role.

It’s a one-stop shop for all the different types of content partnerships that we can have with different brands. The StoryWorks team offers three different types of content: branded content – commercial content owned by the brand; partnered content – content produced in collaboration with the advertisers and sponsored content – content produced by the BBC with advertiser sponsorship. We will also work with brands on events, research and social media to help them reach customers more directly,” Pattinson said.

StoryWorks is based in London, Singapore, Sydney and New York, with the BBC’s Jelena Li spearheading the Sydney operation. While in Australia, Pattinson said he developed relationships both within the BBC Worldwide team here and with its advertising partners. “I’ve been talking to my BBC colleagues internally, especially Jelena – I got a lot of good facetime with her. I’m also talking with a lot of the agencies about what we can help them to do with their clients. We haven’t spoken to any direct clients, but we have spoken extensively with agencies about specific clients and been having meetings to work out what we could do for those brands. We’ve also been doing more general presentations about what we can do for brands,” he said.

As to market awareness of the new advertising division, Pattinson said: “We only launched in market two months ago, and a big part of my role is educating agencies about what we can offer. We are certainly making people aware of what we can do for their clients and what we can collectively achieve.”

The BBC’s newfound focus on content marketing is due to its increased importance in the media mix. “We think that it’s a better way to reach audiences. Instead of a traditional ad, it can be more helpful to audiences, it can allow them to engage all of their passions, it can talk to them about things that they care about. Another advantage of StoryWorks is that the BBC can talk to its viewers and consumers and readers across all of our digital and broadcast platforms, in a way that’s meaningful to them.

“What StoryWorks brings is a really thorough understanding of an audience, as well as that amazing audience itself. Outside of the UK, we reach a third of a billion people every week thanks to our impressive global footprint. We are always looking to up that too – we’ve just launched our Japanese service, and increased the number of languages that we offer the World Service in. There’s a huge amount that we can do, and having the ability to think holistically about what will best suit a client is a great offer for our advertising partners.”

BBC StoryWorks will remain an important part of BBC Advertising’s offer as the company moves into the future, Pattinson said. “More branded content and native advertising is the direction that we’re headed in, absolutely. Increasingly, advertisers are looking for that sort of content that connects with audiences. We are looking to see exactly what and how much we can do in this space. It’s quite something, and we have very ambitious targets. We want to grow that one-third of a billion people who access BBC services every week to half a billion by 2022 which marks the centenary of our foundation in 1922.

He noted the broadcaster would consider expanding the StoryWorks team according to local demand. “At the moment, we’re in four key BBC territories. We are looking at expanding into other places though. We want to be in a position that allows StoryWorks’ work to grow and grow.”

>> Audience reception

Noting that high-quality, impartial work will be a hallmark of BBC StoryWorks’ content, Pattinson told Mediaweek that the BBC would be careful to ensure that the content generated would be clearly delineated as commercial. “It’s very clear, that’s a fundamental rule that we apply to StoryWorks and creating native content that I put in when I took the role. For every content execution that we do, we’re really clear that it’s ad funded.

“In all of those spaces – whether it’s branded content, partnered content or sponsored content – we are absolutely transparent with our audience about who is funding that content. We don’t want to confuse the audience, and nor do we want to trick them. We are transparent, and we’re finding that the audience is extremely engaged with the content that we are producing with or for our partners.”

In other words, the audience doesn’t mind who funds the BBC content? “Yes, that’s right. As long as it’s transparent and the audience doesn’t expect one thing and get another, then they like it. It’s important that the content lives up to the BBC’s reputation for trustworthiness. Based on the audience feedback that we’ve got so far, we think we have the right mix, the right quality and the right sort of partners that we’re working with so far.”

>> Richard Pattinson: voice of the BBC

When we asked if it was important that a journalist with familiarity with BBC content, style and quality took the role at the helm of StoryWorks, Pattinson commented that it certainly helped. “We’re saying that StoryWorks is a creative studio with newsroom values. What we mean by that is that the content that BBC StoryWorks is producing is of the same quality and at the same level as what the news teams are doing around the world. Like the newsroom, we feel the same level of responsibility for the content that we’re generating across the verticals. As such, I think that it’s very helpful for someone with my background at the BBC to be at StoryWorks.”

Throughout his decade at the BBC, Richard Pattinson has been a senior journalist on Newsnight, program editor of This Week and a news journalist.

Foxtel has announced a new format called Event premiering on Sunday September 6 on Foxtel Arts. Hosted by Deborah Hutton, the series will showcase Australia’s thriving art scene.

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