Graham MacFadyen, Head of Digital and Marketing Operations at the British Library, will be speaking at the Festival of Marketing next week. 

In the run up to the big event, we sat down with him to talk about the British Library’s content strategy.

You'll find the video interviews in full below, handily divided into two parts as we know people have short attention spans these days.

Or, you can scroll down to read some of the highlights of what he said.

Part one

Part two 

What is your role?

My job is to extend the library’s reach, so that means bringing more people to our building here at St. Pancras and online to our website.

It’s also to increase engagement amongst our users - getting people to use the collections that we have (again both online and offline), and ultimately to generate revenue.

We want more people to be buying from us, so that means retail sales and ticket sales and so on.

What is the British Library’s content strategy?

In short, it is about owning the domain.

Essentially that means becoming the natural destination for the thing our customers are looking for.

At a high level that’s pretty easy – we want to be the home of medieval history or English literature. These things fit really nicely with our audience’s brand perceptions.

However, below that, we need to be challenging those audience perceptions.

For example, the library has an extensive patents collection, which makes us a great destination for researching and developing your next great business idea. 

With these things we need to work a bit harder on the content strategy.  

Is content marketing for the British Library as easy as we all think it is?

Anyone who believes in content marketing would kill to work somewhere like the British Library, because you’re working with such unique items and a world class collection.

But there are challenges around that.

Metaphorically, we say that the British Library has 150m items, so when you’ve got 150m things to talk about, just working out where you start is a big problem.

But we’re getting really good at that, with the marketing team working with the curatorial team as well as the library’s expert bloggers, getting together regularly and bringing to life these incredible stories.

What channels are the most effective for bringing the British Library to life?

The channels we find most effective vary for different things.

We find Twitter and Facebook particularly effective for audience engagement, so surprising people with what we’ve got and getting them interested in using it.

And we do that through features like item of the week and #onthisdayinhistory.

When it comes to more of the commercial measures, we find some of the performance channels most effective, so PPC and paid social etc. 

Do you think there’s an appetite for video content among your audience, or are you sceptical about it?

I’m not sceptical about the audience’s appetite for great video content, but for the time being, I think the priority for the British Library is the words and pictures.

As we build the muscle for content marketing, we should be able to move quite naturally into video, and in fact we are doing a lot of that.

We have fantastic speakers who come here week in, week out, and we are already experimenting with capturing that and distributing it to a much larger audience than the 250 people in our theatre.

Are you experimenting with new distribution platforms, such as personal messaging services?

We’re experimenting with distribution all the time, but the remit of this content and community team is not just the content development – it’s the distribution of that content.

So, we’re always trying new things, like native advertising and more paid social. Everything that we do has that multi-channel mix.

We look at the performance afterwards and figure out what works well, as well as what we can do better.

Find out more about the British Library’s content strategy by attending the Festival of Marketing in London on October 5-6.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 29 September, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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