Behind HIMSS' New Content Marketing Machine: Avoiding the Perils of 'Random Acts of Content'

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Content marketing--—both the creation of content for clients as well as advising clients on their content strategies--—is a business in the “tens of millions of dollars” for HIMSS, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. Last week HIMSS announced the launch of its Media Lab, designed to help healthcare technology marketers crack the code on content marketing through distinct data insights into user behavior, purchase intent and even emotional response.

The Media Lab is comprised of four teams:

The Center Content Analytics: A research think tank focused on discovering the emotional, business and topical drivers of purchase decisions.

Custom Content Team: Develops “enriched” content based on the research findings.

Design Team: Delivers agency-grade graphic design to visualize content.

Audience Analysis: Deploys, monitors and optimizes engagement programs within the HIMSS universe — or beyond, then delivers captured leads.

Leading the effort is senior director of content analytics Frank Cutitta, a longtime IDG veteran who served as both CIO and general manager with IDG Connect, the tech media company’s database marketing and lead gen division. Here, Cutitta shares how the Media Lab works, why it’s helping to generate some of the highest cost-per-lead pricing that Cutitta has seen in the tech field, and why both publishers and brands need to get beyond “platform-first” content strategies to really connect with audiences.     

Connectiv: What’s the background on the Media Lab? What was the opportunity?

Frank Cutitta:  The need was identified by the way market drivers were going. The whole phenomenon of content marketing and brand journalism is really starting to snowball and the need for a data side of this is glaringly evident. We’ve all seen this, we started as print companies, now we’re essentially data companies that need content to drive those insights. HIMSS has an enormous data and engagement database, as well as content from media and from the trade shows, content experts and analytics experts. It was the perfect storm in a good way of things coming together so we can put together products based on the science of the content data.

Connectiv: What are the specific components of the Media Lab?

Cutitta: The Center for Content Analytics is a think tank that uses findings to deliver new forms of content and deliverables that have a data backbone to it. HIMSS has the ability to attract thousands of content engagements across both media and events and even get into more emotional debates on topics such as the repeal of Obamacare. We’re taking what would normally be a whitepaper on cloud computing and getting deeper into what surrounds that topic from both an emotional level and a business level.

Connectiv: What’s an example of a campaign that was developed with the Media Lab?

Cutitta: For one large IT company, we did research on the buying patterns in hospitals and took a persona profile and looked at what people really want to read at each stage of the purchase process. Then we went back and did a GAP analysis to see what they might be missing. Then we would proscribe content based on that GAP analysis, develop a content curriculum that takes people through a series of engagements all the way up to the purchase level. Most media companies and content marketers operate on a “random acts of content” strategy, meaning they throw stuff out all over the place and think they have some semblance of order. There’s really no content strategy other than what they’ve always done with white papers and pod casts.

I did an article back in 2008 called “The Perils of Putting Format First” and by that I mean when people pick formats before content, there’s a problem. What we’re doing in this Media Lab is putting content first, and then mapping that content with the formats that are best for the spread of that information around an organization or to enhance leads. We might have a white paper and three webcasts but it won’t be because we picked those formats first. We have an enormous social media presence and we also focus on socializing and viralizing those pieces of content as well.

Connectiv: Does the Media Lab influence dedicated editorial as well?

 Cutitta: Our edit people are locked at the hip with the marketing database and engagement database. We operate in a world where you can’t wait on reader surveys to see how people engage with content. We do a lot of work on pure editorial as well in terms of using empirical engagement data to come up with themes, especially micro-themes, to really target readers. Editorial knows immediately what’s resonating, we know the emotional factors, we see what’s happening with something like Trump editorial. The editors are driving content based on user needs rather than the ivory tower that editors used to sit in, ‘I will speak and you will listen.’

Connectiv: What’s the launch of such an insights-driven, data-driven marketing service mean for what you can charge clients?

Cutitta: With HIMSS analytics, we can track technology down to individual hospitals and what level they are at compared to the rest of the market. You can back that up against content that is specific to the 2.0 level versus 4.0 level, and people are willing to pay a significant premium for that lead. We are getting CPLs that I haven’t seen before in other tech sectors. This is very difficult content to find and companies realize that if they have to go get it themselves, it would cost them a lot more. Also, the insight into avoiding random acts of content sounds like an easy problem to solve but it’s sort of like when your credit card gets out of hand. We are coming in and adding a layer of sophistication and sequencing to the content curriculum so that people can go back to their CMOs and show what they got out of this content. Not just insight into the market but the insight into their own content marketing strategy is incredible.

 In terms of pricing, everything is so custom. What dials do you want me to turn? Do you just want engagement? Do you want an emotional response? We contracted with one client to assess their overall content, including video, and it’s a $200,000 package. Those are the types of deals that we like to do.  

Matt Matt Kinsman is vice president of content + programming at Connectiv, the only association focused on the integrated b-to-b model—including publications, events, digital media, marketing services and business information. Prior to joining Connectiv's predecessor American Business Media in 2011, Kinsman was executive editor of Folio:, the leading information provider for the magazine industry.