Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with Tom Newcombe, global marketing content manager at CWT:

Shaheen Samavati 0:14
Hi everyone, I’m Shaheen from The Content Mix, and I’m excited to be here with Tom Newcombe, content manager of global marketing at CWT, a global travel management platform. Thanks so much for being with us today.

Tom Newcombe 0:25
No worries. Thank you for having me.

Shaheen Samavati 0:27
Yeah, so, could you start out just like telling us a bit about your background and how you broke into content marketing?

Tom Newcombe 0:34
Yeah, cool. So I currently work at CWT, which is a global travel management company. They, so they’re present in over 150 countries, huge global presence, about 16,000 employees. So I’ve been there for about three years now as the content manager, just moved into global marketing. And prior to that, I suppose my background was in journalism for about seven years. Start, like, you know, from magazine journalism to a bit of newspapers. And then I suppose it really kind of kicked off after doing like in a post-grad, and then, you know, working my way up through that. And the last job before I got this was for a business travel magazine, where I was online editor. So, you know, looking back on that it’s, you know, it was a great time, I was there for nearly four years. And you know, I don’t think I’ll have another job like it, where you are sort of paid to travel and paid to interview, you know, top people from like business and politics and you know, some really interesting subjects and going on press trips to, you know, really nice destinations and staying in places I could never afford, eating at restaurants I could never afford and all that kind of stuff. But I suppose like a lot of journalists, they look to make that move into, like corporate comms, on that kind of side of things. I think just money is obviously a big pull, or sort of job security, you know, things that… It’s tough in, you know, in these kind of industry where print was always the first. So I kinda, you know, got to a part of my life where I started looking at that. And then joined CWT as, yeah as their UK comms and PR manager, and then progressed into the marketing side of things and you know, now managing the content marketing for the global team. So, yeah, it’s been a good transition over sort of seven, eight years.

Shaheen Samavati 2:44
Yeah, cool. I think, like, people used to say—I worked in journalism, like I had a really similar trajectory. And I think people used to say when you, you know, went to corporate they called it going to the dark side. Do people say that in the UK too?

Tom Newcombe 3:01
Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. Yeah, I always got that from, you know, when they found out I was going.

Shaheen Samavati 3:08
But I think maybe the attitudes about that have changed a little bit, because I think the nature of corporate comms roles have definitely, like, evolved as like the whole industry has evolved. I don’t know what you think.

Tom Newcombe 3:21
100%, yeah. I think when I look back into journalism you, it was such a clear divide and it was always just like a PR and a journalist, and all it was was you had one side pushing a story and the other person trying to get ahead of it, like more deeper into it. And, but now I do feel that, you know, it’s the roles of sort of corporate comms has you know, blended quite well and I think mainly on, you know, on our side there’s now a better understanding really, of what a journalist might need for an article, for a piece, and the value I think in not just like pushing something, because the audience now is so aware, because we’re surrounded by so much content that you can spot something that’s, you know, been paid for or pushed or sold, you know, so easily. So, yeah, I think that yeah, you’re right, that the kind of, the boundaries are definitely blurred.

Shaheen Samavati 4:17
Yeah. And brands are doing a lot more of their own content creation, which is like borderlining on journalism itself, in a way.

Tom Newcombe 4:24
Exactly, yeah. And you know, you have things like, you know, at the minute you can’t move for webinars can you, with the current situation and, you know, so you’re getting people who would appeal to your audience, you know, subject matter experts or, you know, leaders within the industry. And you’re interviewing them in a corporate comms role, which is, you know, a journalism skill and something you would have done.

Shaheen Samavati 4:49
Absolutely. So can you tell us a bit about what your day-to-day is like in your role, like what you’re responsible for and what kind of content you’re creating?

Tom Newcombe 4:57
Yeah, so I suppose it’s split between, I mean, a caveat that’s with, at the minute it’s all upside down really with everything that’s going on, but I suppose we can come on to that. But before this, it was I suppose the content mark split between… and lead gen content. And that will cover anything from I suppose, big, like quarterly marketing campaigns, lead gen ones, to more like local stuff, we have a lot of events we’ll attend. So there’s always got to be content from that. So that’s, you know, writing presentation decks and scripts for speakers at the event, and to, you know, work on the press side of things as well. And then, you know, a lot of more sort of local initiatives we do. So I suppose in terms of what content we’re creating, I mean it changes quite a bit really. The… I mean, yeah, go on, sorry.

Shaheen Samavati 6:10
No no, I was gonna say maybe we could just address the big topic right now, which is, I mean, how you’re being impacted by COVID-19. Obviously, being in the travel industry, I’m sure very, very impacted. I noticed all of your content seems to be related at the moment.

Tom Newcombe 6:26
Yeah, obviously being in the travel business is not great at the minute, like any other company, like any other industry, you know, it’s going to be impacted, but travel especially hard. You know, when you’re a company that you make, that you know, your majority of revenues come when people travel, when they’re not it’s obviously, you know, you’re gonna have issues. So we’ve, the teams had, I mean, we have like an internal message of sort of working without borders, which kind of means that, I mean, the company’s not very hierarchical as it is anyway, the culture of it, but literally just no, you know, there’s no kind of hierarchy at all, you’ve got to work across teams, because like many you know, there’s a lot of sort of leave programs in place and furlough schemes, etc. So, you know, your traditional team or way of working is different. And I suppose our messaging has had to change from right at the start, and we’ve just constantly had to adapt it as we’ve moved forward. So at the start, you know, February, March, it was all that kind of staying connected and, you know, working together, that kind of stuff, but now we’re at a stage where our customers are looking to, like, travel again and getting those, you know, travel programs back in place. So it’s, it’s almost just like we’ve had to be, position ourselves, you know, as an industry leader, like giving advice, and that kind of stuff. But I mean, the hardest thing at the minute is, as an industry you don’t know, as a travel industry, you don’t know exactly how and when that demand is going to pick up. So it’s difficult to know really how to position your content, because every company’s so different as well. You know, I suppose if you’re a business like, I don’t know, you’re a hairdresser or a mechanic or whatever, that sort of stuff’s just going to come back overnight, but for us, it could be end of the year, it could be two, three years’ time.

Shaheen Samavati 8:21
Can you maybe explain a bit for context like the, who your audience is and what kind of travelers you’re appealing to?

Tom Newcombe 8:29
Yeah, cool. So we, main audience are travel managers. So they’re people at a company, obviously, that would manage and help book the travel. So in its most basic form, they will book a flight from London to New York and the hotel either side. But you know, there’s so many more complexities within that. And so, we manage from anything, from you know, small companies that might have a dozen salespeople to some of the largest businesses that you can imagine in a certain sector, whether that’s tech or pharmaceutical, or, you know, whatever. One or many of those will probably be our clients. So yeah, so they’re our main audience, are the travel managers. But then, you know, we’ve also appealed to the actual travelers, the employees themselves, which has also been a big kind of push in, you know, within our market.

Shaheen Samavati 9:29
So a very B2B audience, so what kind of, what’s been your approach? What kind of content are you creating that appeals to that audience?

Tom Newcombe 9:37
So I mean, one of the—yeah you’re right, we’re a B2B audience—so, one of the biggest pieces of content we have that, I suppose creates the most traction and we see the most back off it is a price forecast. Which, I know it’s tough when you talk about B2B because I see some B2C consumer marketers, and you almost get a bit jealous with, you know, oh my god you work in this like, fantastic well-known brand, you’ve got like, budgets to work with influencers and celebrity campaigns and paid-for stuff and everything. So it’s harder in that respect on the B2B side. So we have this travel price forecast, which, you know, is obvious as it sounds, you know, it predicts air and hotel and car rental prices for next year. So if you’re a travel manager, you can budget for next year, because you could say, you know, right, international travel’s going up 2%, I know how much to, you know, alter my budgets with. So that’s a really good piece of content, that it’s worked for a number of months, and then given to the marketing team. And I think it does so well, it sounds obvious, but it does so well because it is this, a great piece of content. And I think that’s one of the things our team focus on, where it’s got to be on what your main bit of content is. You know, we could have, you could have the best social media campaign and the fantastically written 140 characters, or the best video or, you know, throw a load of money at an influencer or whatever, but if the piece of content you actually want, trying to push, is not strong, then, you know, it’s not going to go as well. So we, that’s one piece that we we do globally, sort of translated across many markets. And you know, and we push a lot through press as well. It’s, you know, you also get sort of national coverage, that kind of stuff. So, yeah, that’s one thing we use and, you know, across, you know, multiple parts of the company.

Shaheen Samavati 11:46
Yeah, it makes sense. Like, I mean, how did you guys come up with that idea?

Tom Newcombe 11:50
I suppose, I mean, it was driven from, we’ve done it for a number of years like way before my time, but it was driven by what the customer wants, you know, and I think that’s always what comes back to it as the heart of everything we put out within marketing: does the customer get it, do they want this? And, you know, there was a clear need for it. Because, you know, if you’ve got, you’re managing a travel program, about 500 million pound spend for 12 months, just like half a percent, one or two percent on, you know, airline contracts can save your company, you know, hundreds of thousands. So it’s so important that the customer gets that kind of data. And as we’ve got, obviously, competitors, they’ll be pushing out the similar sort of thing. And so you have to, just to make sure you keep up with them as well.

Shaheen Samavati 12:53
Yeah, and I guess–

Tom Newcombe 12:54
–or they’ll go somewhere else.

Shaheen Samavati 12:57
The best content is often like the most difficult to create, so I guess putting that extra effort and investment into making something excellent and being kind of like, the best possible information available… right?

Tom Newcombe 13:11
Yeah. And then that piece of work’s like, it is a really kind of, like a sort of collaborative approach. Like I said, we have, you know, a lot of stuff goes through it. There’s so many different pieces in it that you can reuse and repurpose, you know, as a company, like anything, you know, you work within a tight team, you know, it’s not as if you have, we have huge budgets or anything like that. So any piece of really good content, we can reuse and repurpose across other stuff throughout the year is good as well. And we’re sort of quite strong on that.

Shaheen Samavati 13:46
I also noticed you guys do some stuff with video, like above average, I would say, and you’re also like, highlighting personalities within your company. Is that like part of a concerted strategy?

Tom Newcombe 13:57
Yeah, I mean it’s good that you say that. ‘Cause I mean video’s one area that, you know, we’re looking to push more of, I think. And we’ve, yeah, we’ve used it on the last couple of campaigns. I mean, we’re fortunate we’ve got an in-house creative team with some excellent people in, who are, you know, you can work really well with and create some good content. So yeah, I mean, and on that personality thing, that was just a fun bit of work where we knew that so many travelers were different. And people were just, traditionally, you were bucketing them in, you know, maybe by age, gender, job title. Whereas someone’s got so many different preferences and desires or whatever when they travel, everyone’s different. So it was about using, looking at different personality traits across that, you know, to determine how you sort of plan your travel program. But yeah, we have tried to really push the video. I mean it’s tough, to be honest, we’ve found the video is hard I think, because so much, it’s quite time consuming to, you know, there’s a lot of sort of logistics you’ve got to make sure… We’ve got people all around the world so, for one video we had to, this guy flew in from, I think it was Norway or it could have been Sweden, to our London office. You’ve gotta time that up, book flights, you know, make sure it can align with the filming guys. You know, you’ve got your one or two weeks editing back and forth, for essentially like a one-minute video that you don’t know how much value it’s going to get. And when you can, you know, how easy is it just to put to an everyone email. So yeah, it is, we are trying to push more video, but it’s a harder thing to do, I think.

Shaheen Samavati 16:04
Yeah, definitely. And for B2B, finding where’s the right, like, where does video fit into the mix? It’s a little more challenging I suppose.

Tom Newcombe 16:13
Exactly, yeah.

Shaheen Samavati 16:15
So you were mentioning that you switched roles recently to a global role. What does that mean exactly? Like you’re doing, you were doing content for certain markets, and now you’re kind of coordinating across more markets?

Tom Newcombe 16:29
Yeah, basically. So started out, so when it was like the UK PR and comms role, but still sat under marketing then. And then it kind of split, which were the offer of the content marketing for, so it was the EMEA region, so mainly across Europe. And so, yeah, that was working literally just with countries within Europe. So you, a lot of messages comes down from the global team. And then you’ll either, you know, tweak it, repurpose it to fit that audience. You know, because a travel manager in Germany probably has different needs from a travel manager in Spain, for example. So it was working, you know, across that, and there was different things, like a European, we’ve got a European travel publication we put out. But with the, and then into the global team. So one, you’re working, you know, a lot with the sort of, you know, the bigger, larger global clients as well. So there’s that, and you’re almost sort of dictating the strategy that’s going to filter down for the rest of the company. So yeah, and then just the scope’s massive, obviously, you know, getting used to having calls at odd times with people in Australia or Brazil or North America, that’s always a challenge.

Shaheen Samavati 17:55
Yeah, because you guys are literally in every region in the world, right? I think I saw 100 and some countries.

Tom Newcombe 17:59
That’s right, yeah. Present in like 150, I think it is. And that’s been one of, like a thing to get used to, you know, the fact that most of the people I speak to on a regular basis, I’ve never actually met in person. Like, I have, you know, a manager in Spain, colleagues in Netherlands, in Chicago, in Minneapolis, Australia is a regular one at the minute. So yeah, it’s fun, but it can be tough.

Yeah I know, I was gonna say now working from home I guess then hasn’t changed that much for you, your dynamic with your team, if you’re all over the world anyway.

That’s right, yeah. The home working thing for me at the minute, it hasn’t, to be honest, with the whole lockdown, it hasn’t changed my day-to-day too much because we’re very, the company itself promotes remote working and flexible working, probably better than most I know of. You know, and I’m not just saying that, it’s, you know, they’re really great with that. And because we’re based all around the world, yeah, like the, I’ve got a London office that I go into. But it’s not necessary, really, it’s a lot of times you’re going in and then you’re just locking yourself in a room and doing video calls. So I was working from home anyway, sort of three, four days a week. So that side of things doesn’t get too much used to, but yeah, it can be hard… I think the great, what I find with content marking, a bit like I did with journalism, you need that when you’re thinking of ideas and generating stuff. It works so much easier when you’re with people around you, where stuff could be a bit more spontaneous. You know it can be harder, right? We’ve got an hour call or an hour meeting to come up with some ideas. So it’s always very forced, whereas if you’re just sitting next to someone, you know, day after day, you just bounce around ideas and you just talk and you go for lunch or drinks after work or whatever. And I find that the ideas come from that. So that is the hardest thing of a job that’s very creative, to have that creative mindset when you’re still quite like structured in the conversations you have to create that stuff.

Shaheen Samavati 20:28
Yeah, yeah, I can totally relate to that. I’m in the same boat for sure. Let’s go into the rapid-fire recommendations, we call it. This is just asking you a few questions about your recommendations. Doesn’t have to be that rapid, but yeah, what’s an app or a tool that you can’t work without?

Tom Newcombe 20:50
Recently it’s been, it’s like a piece of software, it’s called Crayon, which is a competitive intelligence tool. So it essentially just gives me daily updates for what our competitors are putting out. So whether that’s just an email, they’ve sent a product update, a social media post, everything. And at the, you know, we’re all talking about the same thing, we’re probably all having the same sort of tone of voice, using the same you know, webinar, podcasts, ebooks, etc. So that at the minute is invaluable. It like, you know, ensures we’re not kind of, not talking about stuff that our competitor put out about a month ago. And so that is something…

Shaheen Samavati 21:35
That’s really cool. It’s called Crayon, you said?

Tom Newcombe 21:37
Yeah, I mean I’m sure there’s others, but that’s the kind of company one we use.

Shaheen Samavati 21:42
Yeah, very cool. And then any marketing influencer that you follow or recommend?

Tom Newcombe 21:50
Yeah, so there’s a… I’ve forgotten her name.

Shaheen Samavati 21:56
I think you mentioned Ann Handley right?

Tom Newcombe 21:59
She’s called Ann Handley, that’s it. Yeah, sorry.

Shaheen Samavati 22:02
You mentioned it earlier.

Tom Newcombe 22:03
Yeah, Ann Handley. So these sort of people are quite important for me. I mean, when you sent the question, and I was thinking about it, it did resonate. Because I’ve only been in this marketing role, and I suppose in quite a senior position, even though I’ve only been in marketing for a few years. So just I think, because there’s so many transferable skills, as we talked about in journalism. But there’s a lot of like basic fundamental marketing things I’m still learning, so having people like her is great, and she has this blog that is called something like “Son of Annarchy” or some pun on anarchy, the word. And that’s just good, she writes in such plain English, which resonates so much for me, because that’s all I got drilled home for a decade of work in journalism. You know, no fancy words, no business… the important stuff at the top, less important stuff at the bottom, all this kind of stuff. And I was amazed when I came into the business world how, you know, how little that kind of meant, and so she really pushes that. And the way she writes her blogs and everything like that, she just has some great tips and stuff. So I’d recommend following her, I just follow her on Twitter and she just often pops up and…

Shaheen Samavati 23:26
Yeah, I’ve definitely, I’ve followed some of her stuff and actually, I have one of her books on my Kindle and I haven’t read it yet, so it’s a reminder to finally read it. But yeah, I mean yeah, really relevant. I think she has like a something institute online for marketing. I forget exactly what it’s called, actually. I’ll put it in a link in the blog. But anyway, and then, any valuable event in Europe or anywhere?

Tom Newcombe 23:56
Yeah. So one I had, I went to last year, and I assume it’s obviously not going to be on this year, but it’s called Festival of Marketing. So that was in London, and I just found it so valuable. There was, as I mentioned before, just trying to pick up as much knowledge as I can. And there were some great speakers there. But I was more interested in, because of the B2B angle. I mean, I think there was a head of marketing from, you know, really great, cool brands like LADbible, or some like cool tech startup, or this kind of stuff. But it was more the, you know, content manager for some tech software firm, or… there was a guy there and he was the content manager for a company that designed like, tools for hospitals and medical tools and stuff. And so he had to, that was his job to like, market to, you know, the medical world about medical instruments. And I thought how tough is that, you know, and he went into talking about, you know, you don’t have some celebrity on Instagram, you know, promoting that kind of stuff. So just learning the skills he did in the speeches from that, I found it invaluable. And then there were some really good keynotes and yeah, if it was on, I think it was meant to be on in October, but like I said, I assume it’s not. So next year, I’d recommend that highly. I don’t know if it’s a global thing. But for me, I just took so much from it.

Shaheen Samavati 25:29
Yeah, awesome. Yeah, I’ll definitely check that out. And yeah, we’ll put links to all these things in the, on the blog version—we do a blog summary of all the podcasts. Well yeah, to end the interview, do you have any parting advice for other content marketers in Europe?

Tom Newcombe 25:45
I suppose the main advice that I’d give would… make sure the piece—it sounds obvious—make sure the piece of content you’re pushing is really strong, and it’s something your customers or prospects really want. Don’t just rely on a budget, you know, kind of push yourself as if you didn’t have that budget, if you didn’t, weren’t able to do an amazing paid campaign on social or some great ebook. And sort of really focus on the piece of content you’ve got, and then the other stuff that surrounds it, you know, the tools you might push it on, the podcasts you might promote it on… that kind of stuff comes second. And I think don’t get hung up too much on the little things. Because if you’ve got a great piece of content, suppose your audience will forgive you for the odd you know, headline that doesn’t sound quite right. Or, you know, do I say “dear client,” do I say “dear customer,” do I say “to whatever”? All that kind of little stuff that you spend all your time doing. If the content is strong, then they’ll forgive you for that. So yeah, that that would be my main bit of advice.

Shaheen Samavati 26:59
Yeah, I think that definitely speaks to this bigger trend we’re seeing of like, quality over quantity. I think it used to be a few years ago, or a decade ago maybe, that it was all about SEO and putting out as much content as possible. And definitely recently, there’s been a move to—well, Google’s gotten smarter, that doesn’t really work so well anymore. And it’s about getting traction and people sharing what you’re doing and actually engaging with it, right?

Tom Newcombe 27:22
Exactly, yeah. And yeah, you’re right. And don’t rely on… yeah, that’s correct, yeah.

Shaheen Samavati 27:30
Yeah, so a few really good pieces of content are better than a hundred bad ones, I suppose.

Tom Newcombe 27:36
Yeah, of course.

Shaheen Samavati 27:38
Yeah. Or mediocre, maybe we should say. Anyway. Well, yeah, our time is about up. So thank you so much for joining us on the podcast.

Tom Newcombe 27:48
No worries, thank you.

Shaheen Samavati 27:49
Yeah, it was great. Really enjoyed hearing your perspective.

Tom Newcombe 27:51
Yeah, thank you for your time.

Shaheen Samavati 27:52
And thanks everyone else for listening in. For more perspectives on the content marketing industry in Europe, check out, and keep tuning in for interviews like this one every weekday on the podcast. See you next time. Bye.

Tom Newcombe 28:03
Thank you.

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