What’s driving change at St. Joseph Media?

Douglas Knight on how the media co is taking the lead on content marketing in its latest incarnation.
Douglas Knight

The c-suite at St. Joseph Media is on a mission, one that is equipping it to respond to the community-driven marketing needs of its clients’ customer base.

The exec shuffles and organizational changes that the Toronto-based company announced are part of a long-term project, which began with the development of an in-house creative lab last year. Today’s announcement not only marks the company’s evolution in its journey, it also begs a shout out to its tagline: “Transforming the Way Brands Engage with People.”

“We take the view that the media eco-system is expanding,” says Douglas Knight, the company’s president. “There is still a role for print, there is a role for the web; it’s understanding how to apply marketing to the whole ecosystem.”

Brands need to tell stories that engage communities, says Knight, and Strategic Contents Lab is set up to do exactly that. The year-long reorganization speaks to the company’s need to have industry veterans who understand the business of selling stories to develop ties with marketers and show them how their brand could be positioned more appropriately alongside rich, informed and exciting content. Part of that message, as their website records, is this: “[Consumers] have flipped the tables so much so, that a brand is no longer what the brand tells the consumer it is. It’s what consumers tell each other it is.”

Content marketing has come a long way from the days when inserting advertorials within editorial copy was the way to go, says Knight. He refers to that era as Content Marketing 1.0, and believes that St. Joseph Media is developing projects in the third phase of the content marketing evolution, in which even viral videos are part of the past. In this new world, storytelling is at the heart of branded content development.

“We need to engage a community with storytelling that is of interest to that community. Once you make that big leap, we need to have people who are really good at that who know how to do proper storytelling.” To this end, Knight says that the company’s story lab is staffed with journalists who excel at the craft of storytelling, and developers who can transform those stories into visual and other content.

Knight himself has a marketing background and worked for 10 years as a marketer for the Financial Post before moving into the position of CEO and publisher. He was also CEO and publisher of the Toronto Sun between 1997 and 2000. (In July this year he joined 99 other Canadians as a Member of the Order of Canada for his services to the arts community and his role in the media publishing world.)  The new hires share some of that professional background with Duncan Clark being a former VP at Postmedia and Douglas Kelly, former publisher and editor-in-chief of the National Post.

Through Strategic Content Labs the company has been able to develop a range of experiential projects for clients like the Royal Ontario Museum for which the lab created exhibition space to feature the work of a renowned paleontologist, Toronto’s Pearson Airport and the in-development National Music Centre in Calgary.

Knight makes the point that content marketing involves real journalism and sites Pearson Airport’s Away magazine as an example of a marketing publication that features award-winning travel writing while providing brands access to 30 million people annually. Moreover, in this world, print is not dead or dying. He points to  branded print content that is popping up. The company’s lab has, for example, developed 1890, a glossy Birks publication to reach the client’s affluent target clientele.

It’s all very exciting but how to marketers respond to the teams 3.0 branding efforts?

Knight pauses before responding. “It’s evolving,” he says slowly. Sophisticated marketers like Red Bull get it, he says. “They’re selling a highly-caffeinated drink to young men so they they partner with extreme sports with the objective that people understand that Red Bull is bringing them extreme sports.”