The Content Mix Community Spotlight Melissa Lyras

From top tips to career mistakes, Spotahome’s Brand and Communications Manager provides insights on her career and content marketing in Europe.

Melissa Lyras

  • Where are you based? Madrid, Spain
  • Current position/company: Brand & Communications Manager, Spotahome 
  • Where are you originally from? Sunny Sydney, Australia 
  • Where did you study? I did my Masters at the University of Sydney and later did the CEMS Double-Masters degree at Bocconi University in Milan and Vienna University of Economics and Business. 
  • What countries have you lived/worked in? This is going to be a long paragraph! I’ve lived and worked or studied in Sydney, Melbourne, Milan (x2),Vienna, Madrid (x3), Düsseldorf (x3), Portland (OR), Johannesburg and Dublin.
  • What languages do you speak? My mother-tongue is English and I grew up in a Greek-Cypriot-Australian family so I understand quite a lot of Greek also, I speak Italian and Spanish fluently and some (very) basic German and French. 

How did you end up working in the content industry?

I’m a strategic marketer and brand manager, so content started off being just a small part of my role when I was working in consumer goods, as we recognised the growing need for a presence on social media channels and to integrate consumer engagement as a way to attract consumers and have two-way communication with users.

Now working for Spotahome, a PropTech startup whose purpose is to digitize residential property rentals, content is king (as they say) and it has become a much more central part of my role. Our social media channels are hugely important for acquisition and keeping our brand top-of-mind for our users, and I work very closely with our SEO experts to ensure our content is working hard to promote our position in Google search. The other part of content I take care of is press relations, working with our PR agencies to create news-worthy stories to land Spotahome in the media. 

What’s a normal work day for you like?

Every day is different! I work across a broad range of topics including social media and community management, our blog, public relations, internal and external communications, employer branding, advertising, and general brand work such as defining the value proposition for new launches and the communications strategy behind company announcements.

We start every day by monitoring our mentions in the media and checking our social networks, then it can be a mix of briefings for campaigns, strategy meetings to decide how we will communicate the features and benefits of new products, revising texts our copywriters create and checking the performance of our campaigns.  

Being a startup, our day-to-day is a continuous learning experience. We’re growing at a very fast pace and there are new colleagues joining the company frequently, which challenges us to improve the processes we follow, and to contribute where we can add value and involve the necessary people in our projects. 

What are the top skills you need to do your job?

Attention to detail is paramount, ensuring consistency across different mediums and drumming it into everyone who communicates outwardly from the organisation. 

An analytical mindset will help you support your projects and ideas, and get buy-in across the organisation—we need to ensure all of our content is bringing results, and we are always innovating on how we track and measure this.

Confidence, as I often have to chase up senior people in the company either to engage them in our activities or to guide them—sometimes even to bring them in-line with our communications policies.

Finally, be innovative—constantly look for new developments in your field, new tools and better ways to do things. Content marketing and marketing in general change at an incredibly fast pace, so it’s good practice to always question whether you could be doing things differently.  

What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made and challenges that you’ve faced in your career?

The biggest mistakes I’ve made, and that I learned a lot from, were around internal communications. It’s important to make sure that the right people know what you are doing and why, both to get buy-in and visibility. Working in a vacuum is a sure-fire way to jeopardise your team’s success. Make sure people know what you’re doing and why so they feel they are part of it and can share your success.

For example, at first glance it may seem strange that at Spotahome our content focuses on topics such as the best rooftops or restaurants in our cities, since that has nothing to do with property rentals. The strategy behind this is that someone who is new to a city is going to want to get to know it, and by creating this content we are helping to raise awareness of our company amongst new arrivals who often fall within our target market. One way we ensure visibility at Spotahome is to have a weekly team meeting with the Marketing Department where we update each other on all our projects, and the presentations are open to all our key stakeholders.

One of the biggest challenges for me was the shift towards digital marketing. When I did my Undergrad and even my Masters, digital marketing wasn’t even talked about so I needed to find ways to upgrade my skills and adapt to all the new mediums which are now the most prominent. I did this through practical and theoretical applications, undertaking a postgraduate degree in Digital Communications and Social Media at INESDI Digital Business School, as well as taking advantage of free courses online such as Google Garage. The practical side was very much on the job, talking to my colleagues, asking for help when I didn’t understand things, and making an effort to get to know the different roles in the department.

What’s unique about content marketing in Europe? 

This may seem like the obvious answer, but for me the biggest thing that stands out in the content industry in Europe is the complexity of managing content in different languages. When we launch a piece of content, we always need to consider a translation process and it can be quite lengthy. Best practice dictates that you would back-translate to the original language to check the integrity of the translation but in practical terms this is normally not possible. It is difficult to ensure translations that respect the tone of voice of the original piece and are not simply word-for-word translations. 

We work really hard at Spotahome to transmit our content with the original intent, and this includes working with translation agencies who are close to our business and understand terms we use frequently although there is the occasional (and sometimes hilarious) bad translation. 

The biggest thing that stands out in the content industry in Europe is the complexity of managing content in different languages

How has the European content industry changed in the past years?

I don’t think this is unique to Europe, but the content industry as a whole has expanded exponentially in the past years. Not even five years ago, I feel content was an after-thought. Now it is central to the marketing function, and needs to work across a number of different mediums and fulfil various objectives, such as SEO, and reaching them at all stages of the customer journey all the way to conversion.

As a result of this, marketers need to have hybrid profiles and understand how their work impacts and supports the work of their peers and other teams within the organisation. For example, we recently launched a new product called Spotahome Select, which offers the most secure rentals model for landlords in Madrid. When creating the content for the landing pages related to this product, we needed to consider the impact on SEO, the impact on performance marketing, and how the features and benefits of the product could be adapted to both online and offline marketing campaigns.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for people or businesses looking to tap into content marketing in Europe?

Be unique, tailored and specific. I receive so many emails every day of different companies offering me various services related to content, from offers to post on our blog, offers to post on their blog, translation services etc. There are three key mistakes I see: 

  1. Being same-same: oh, you’re a travel blogger? That’s great. So are thousands of other people. Why should I pick you to write for my blog vs. the others? What unique value can you create for us? 
  2. Not tailoring the offer to your audience. We receive emails from companies wanting to create content for our blog, and it is obvious they haven’t read it and considered what would make sense based on our content strategy. These emails get deleted within three seconds.
  3. Not being specific in your intent: if you’re pitching your business, the best thing you can do is state exactly what you are offering, what benefits you can bring and give an indication of the results you will achieve. We get a lot of really random requests so if I need to go search for the numbers myself, I won’t. Provide data and reasons-to-believe in your pitch to make it an easy decision for your reader.  

Quick-fire round

  • Favorite social network? Facebook (says something about my age!)
  • Long-form or short-form? Long-form that’s well organized, and easy to skim.
  • Content marketing or branded content? Content Marketing, 100%
  • Favorite book? “How to Eat” by Nigella Lawson—I’m a massive foodie
  • First thing you do in the morning? On a good day, gym. On most days, check my emails and social networks.
  • Language you wish you spoke? Chinese—mostly to access the secret menus
  • Smart or casual? Smart
  • Most important wardrobe item? A good handbag. They’ve got the best fashion ROI

Melissa Lyras, LinkedIn

Melissa Lyras has over 12 years’ experience leading brand growth and innovations management projects both locally and internationally across a number of sectors including fast-moving consumer goods, renewable energy and prop-tech. In her current role as Brand and Communications Manager for Spotahome, she is working to reinvent real estate, making it transparent, instant and exciting. Spotahome is the easiest way to rent a home from your phone, in 11 cities across Europe.