Contently Case Stories is a series highlighting some of Contently’s most successful clients.
When Victoria Beckham announced plans to take her growing fashion empire to Hong Kong, well-heeled circles took note. However, this wasn’t the only story making headlines. Global enterprises and real estate tycoons were interested in what the move said about the health of Hong Kong’s retail sector.
One of the deepest investigations into the story didn’t come from a traditional publisher; rather, it came from a brand. For real estate advisory firm JLL, Beckham’s expansion was an opportunity to discuss Asian retail insights on its thought leadership platform, Real Views. It’s just one example of the brand’s conscious efforts to tell stories that relate to larger economic issues and industry developments.
“It is really about turning everything on its head,” said Madeleine Little, director of global marketing at JLL. “We’re looking at the impact real estate has on the wider world, rather than how the world impacts real estate.”
Real Views’ most popular piece to date is about Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore, and his contribution to the small island’s booming real estate market. After Yew passed away last March, JLL told the story of how he created a near-perfect property market that transformed Singapore’s economy.
These types of stories weren’t always the norm for JLL, which partnered with Contently to expand its content program. “The content we put out for years would be considered traditional, such as press releases and research reports,” Little said. “While we still produce this content, we have expanded our storytelling efforts as a way to demonstrate JLL’s expertise and to reach more diverse audiences.”
Unifying a global team
Every month, PR teams from JLL’s three regions—Asia-Pacific, the Americas, and EMEA—hold monthly strategy calls to share regional developments and discuss new communications initiatives.
Several years ago, they realized the companies they admired were producing high-quality content that covered topics that went far beyond promotional material. “We were quite conscious that we weren’t really producing any content of that kind—that real sort of storytelling,” Little said.
JLL launched Real Views to move beyond publishing company-centric stories. With the new website, JLL wanted to focus on larger societal and economic issues, such as the interplay of real estate development and technology and the role of housing in sustainability.
Contently gave JLL a unified platform for global collaboration and content creation. “Contently added real value to the content creation process,” Little explained. “We work virtually with colleagues across the world, so being able to have all communications in one place was a big benefit.”
On Contently, JLL could coordinate stories between its key regions and work across different time zones. “When you have endless emails flying around, it all can get a bit overwhelming,” Little said. “When our teams started to use the Contently platform to help the workflow process, it really made a difference.”
The technological integration worked to help JLL develop its global content operation, with content focused on international trends and issues. Real Views publishes five pieces per week, with content created by JLL’s in-house writers and eight freelancers from Contently’s network of over 60,000 creatives.
“It’s hard to find good freelancers, so it’s great that we are able to add to our existing roster through Contently,” Little said. “They get to know us, our brand, and the Real Views style and tone, so it works well.”
Devising a storytelling strategy
JLL’s new approach places the real estate firm in the middle of larger, more meaningful conversations. Instead of promoting services or consultations, Real Views showcases JLL’s thought leadership.
“If you look on our website, we are doing a lot that probably surprises people,” Little said. “Yes, we buy and sell big office blocks, but there’s also so much more we do. For example, our work around sustainability and how workspace design can drive productivity for firms.”
In the article “The rise of the innovation oriented city,” Real Views explores how cities around the world are creating big urban development projects to establish communities built on innovation, collaboration, and communication.
In addition to showcasing employee insights on global trends, JLL also succeeds at turning dry subjects into engaging stories. While articles about warehouse work might not sound as relatable as something about office culture, JLL has figured out how to make the topic interesting to its intended audience. For example, “Are warehouses set for a wearable tech revolution?” tells the story of how warehouse workers are using augmented reality (AR) technology to become more efficient and avoid critical errors on the job.
“It’s a constant journey, digging further and deeper, and really understanding what’s driving audiences to certain stories over others,” Little said. “It’s really important to listen to our audience and respond to what they like and are choosing to read.”
JLL focuses on data that measures the depth of the relationship between the firm and its readers. It uses Contently Analytics to measure engaged time spent with a story and scroll depth, prioritizing the quality of engagement over page clicks and shares.
“We really like the analytics capability within the platform,” Little said. “Measuring the success of content is important to us as it confirms we are producing what our audience wants to consume and demonstrates the value of content to our stakeholders.”
To ensure content reaches a high-value audience, JLL publishes a weekly email newsletter and uses a mix of paid media to reach new audiences. The company also drives traffic to the stories with A/B-tested headlines through paid social campaigns.
“Every month we’re monitoring what’s working and what’s not working,” Little said. “Our strategy is constantly evolving.”
Yet for Little, the key to optimizing content comes back to the core element of JLL’s strategy: produce high-quality content. “Without great content to start with—and having a clear reason for doing it—you’ll have nothing to amplify, distribute, or measure,” Little said. “It’s a constant circle and flow between those key factors.”
JLL’s content plan has been successful because of its commitment to storytelling, its strategic approach to measurement, and its optimization process.
Within JLL, the Real Views content team is setting an example for the rest of the company about the long-term benefits of strategic storytelling. By creating a culture of content, Real Views team members have turned content into a tool that can empower multiple departments within the organization.
“We would love to be the team within JLL that is innovating and introducing best practices to other teams and colleagues,” Little said.
Going forward, the company will continue to enhance its strategy by listening to user feedback and experimenting with multimedia content. The key, Little emphasized, is to keep moving.
“Everything in digital moves so quickly and there’s always a new way of reaching audiences and measuring your engagement with them,” she said. “We very much feel we can’t stand still.”