Today’s Q&A features Ilaria Santesso, a consumer marketing specialist who’s currently based in Milan. It wasn’t an easy road to get to where she is today, but perseverance and resilience eventually led her to her dream job at one of the largest players in the global eyewear industry. In this post she shares her top tips for chasing after your goals, overcoming obstacles and creating effective content marketing campaigns.

  • Name: Ilaria Santesso 
  • Where are you based? Milan, Italy
  • Current position/company? Global media and consumer insights manager at Safilo Group, one of the largest players in the eyewear industry.
  • Where are you originally from? Padua, in the Veneto region of Italy.
  • What did you study? I studied communications at the University of Padua.
  • What countries have you lived/worked in? I lived in Spain and worked in California for a little while—many many moons ago, just after completing my studies.
  • What languages do you speak? English, Spanish and Italian.

How did you end up working in the content marketing industry?

There are two kinds of professionals. Some find their path by chance, eventually discovering what they’re good at; others follow a clear vision and fight to reach their goals. It’s not that one is better than the other, but I’m the second type. 

Ever since high school, I knew I wanted to be in content marketing—not just product marketing or PR. I deliberately built my career around this goal, and every choice I made was based on that from the beginning. Sometimes I had to push hard to make a change, and seize opportunities to grow within my company.

I strongly believe that every brand needs an effective content marketing strategy in order to serve their customers well, by communicating relevant information at the right time.

What’s your favorite content campaign ever?

I’m always moved by how Netflix communicates about their products. They play by the book when it comes to social media, but they also have really interesting offline communication campaigns.

In general, we’re surrounded by content marketing—and we have been for decades. Businesses have always created content to entertain their target audiences, long before digital marketing.

Just think of the P&G soap operas in the 1930s, or the Italian Carosello, a 10-minute show made up of four sketches, or caroselli, which held advertising to the same level of quality as primetime programming. 

There are some golden rules for content marketing:

  • Always have a clear and SMART objective.
  • Listen to your audience and provide content that entertains and resonates with them.
  • Analyze where your audience is—this is useful for distribution.
  • Be authentic and stick to your brand values.
  • Tap into trends.
  • Measure results and use data to adapt and personalize your strategy.

What’s your normal day-to-day like?

I’m a creature of habit. I start my day by checking emails, calendars, daily to-do lists, social media and news, all while having a hearty and healthy breakfast accompanied by a huge cup of coffee. Then I dive into my work day, which consists of calls, presentations, brainstorming sessions and communication plans.

The pandemic and lockdown has completely changed my lifestyle and priorities. I’ve always been a sporty person, but recent events have made me even more strict in my routine. I train daily, whether it’s a swim, a session of vinyasa or functional training. Practicing sports helps me feel better and focus on my life goals—it wipes away stress and provides contrast to long hours spent sitting. 

What are your top three pieces of advice for content marketers? 

1. Don’t be afraid to change and adapt very quickly. Embrace the evolution of the industry and make the most of it; be the driver of the change you’d like to see.

2. Take risks and innovate. Don’t be afraid to share your own ideas and question yourself.

3. Be curious and keep learning. Attend webinars and listen to podcasts—even if it’s just for the sake of hearing what other marketers have to say. And read, read, read: articles, whitepapers, specialized publications, etc.

What’s unique about Europe’s content marketing industry?

Its uniqueness is related to the diversity of cultures, languages, customs, traditions and tastes. These elements make such a difference in terms of targeting. Especially when working with global brands, we must consider these differences and adapt our communication.

Also check out our interview with Deliveroo’s content marketing and localization managers

How has Europe’s content marketing industry changed in the past few years, especially now considering COVID-19?

It’s undeniable that we’ve faced big changes in the last several months. Remote working has forced us to find new, smarter ways to create content, since we’re unable to shoot campaigns in person.

We saw a huge acceleration in digitalization as well, especially when compared to more digitalized countries like the United States. 

Small businesses started to use social media properly and embrace content marketing to promote their products and services. They all innovated and added new features—like pickup at stores, home delivery and adaptations to new safety rules—and all these services became the focus of their marketing activities.

We also saw a shift in communication messages; brand values became more important, as did the impact that brands can have on society through their marketing investments. We saw brands offering free services, entertainment and learning sessions.

The pandemic reinforced the need to work on qualitative content marketing—to break through the noise, but also to be relevant and capture our target audience’s attention during the “discovery phase,” which is very useful when addressing Gen Z.

I think that during lockdown we all discovered a level of flexibility that we didn’t know we were capable of. Many of these changes will be with us for good, including the presence of Gen X on TikTok.

Also check out our podcast interview series with content marketers across Europe

What’s your biggest piece of advice for tapping into the content marketing industry? 

Never say or think, “I can’t do it.” Always be confident and go for it. Dive in and you’ll find yourself swimming better than you thought you could.

Quick-fire round:

Favorite app?

Instagram! But I’m testing Happiness Wizard, a personal guide to help you reach life goals and remind you to always be grateful for what you achieve and have in life. I like it.

Favorite book?

Netflix? I’m more of a binge watcher than a reader.

First thing you do in the morning?

I drink a cup of coffee… don’t talk to me before I finish it!

Your favorite influencer, role model or someone you admire?

I don’t have one single role model; I’ve been lucky enough to meet many people in my life who taught me something, or whose attitude toward life was inspirational for me. Whenever I admire something or somebody, I try to replicate it—while always trying to be the best version of myself.

An event, publication or group you’d recommend?

I follow a few private groups on Slack, and I read all the newsletters I receive from Ad Age, Campaign Asia, Facebook, Google, Kantar, Nielsen, etc. I organize my LinkedIn by following hashtags I’m interested in, and I watch TED Talks.

I find Career Leadhers on LinkedIn very inspiring. The content is in Italian, but with the “translate” feature you can read the posts in English. It’s about women’s empowerment, and every day they post stories of women who made it thanks to their passion, resilience and strength. I like it because I think women need to believe in themselves more, fight for what they’re trying to achieve and never be afraid to ask for what they want.

The best piece of career advice you’ve ever gotten?

Don’t let others manage your career. Be the driver of every single change in your path.

Life always puts roadblocks and difficulties along the way, but if we keep focusing on our goals and live every day with perseverance and resilience, we can overcome every obstacle.

More about Ilaria Santesso

Ilaria Santesso is a Milan-based consumer marketing specialist and mom-to-be who loves watching series and always has her passport at the ready. She’s passionate about marketing and communications and experienced in both ATL and BTL marketing. She’s worked at B2B and B2C companies in roles ranging from digital marketing and advertising to branding and media.

Recommended resources for content marketers:

For more insights into consumer marketing:

Changing consumer priorities – Debora Mondella, head of global marketing at Aztec Events

Forget the fluff – Sara Lesina, global marketing lead at Lonza

This post was edited by Melissa Haun, a freelance content creator based in Lisbon.