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A Q&A with Monica Hare
AW360 sat down with Monica Hare who is the Head of Gear Patrol Studios, the content marketing arm of Gear Patrol, a lifestyle publication focused on product enthusiast culture. Monica has spent time on both the agency and publisher side of the equation, and we asked her what the publishing world can offer advertisers and marketers, digging into everything from appealing to customers to approaching your niche base.
Q: Briefly talk us through the intersection between the publishing and marketing (agency) worlds—There’s some obvious overlap, but what else should we know?
On the surface, there is a lot of overlap between what’s thought of as traditional agency life and the new breed of publisher-based content creation teams such as Gear Patrol Studios. However, there are some key differences that really do create opportunities for learning. Some of those differences, in my experience, include timing and audience expertise.
When moving from the agency world to the publishing world, the first thing I noticed is that the pace is intensified. Pitches that would have taken weeks to prep for at an agency will have days on the publisher side, so you quickly get used to working with smaller teams and much less time, while still upholding smarts and creativity. When I moved from an agency to a publisher, I had to do more with less and faster.
I also learned that as a publisher, clients come to you based on your expertise in your audience. I felt that so much of the agency’s time was spent asking, “Will the client like this?” Now, on the publisher side, I find myself frequently asking, “Will my audience like this?” Which is precisely what the vast majority of our clients want us to ask, and why they came to us.
Q: Magazines, like Gear Patrol, focus all of their content toward attracting a key consumer base. Can you explain what this looks like in practice?
The real trick in working for a branded content studio at a publisher is striking that delicate balance between the publisher’s editorial voice and the voice of the brand you’re representing. We work incredibly hard here at Gear Patrol Studios walk that fine line and find the universal truth that ties it all together and makes the piece make sense for the brand, the audience and our publication’s core principles.
Q: What can agencies learn from a niche publisher’s approach?
In a lot of ways, the medium is the message… or at least a major chunk of it. Back in my agency life, I often heard that age old adage, “Concept is king.” Once I switched to publishing, I realized that a vast majority of what the audience takes away is directly tied to the how, the where and the when. I’ve learned that the more you can be native to that moment, the more the message will be accepted and internalized by the audience. These days, presenting the concept in a way that integrates seamlessly into your audience’s daily digital lifestyle seems to gain more traction than concepts that are presented in a manner that feels disruptive to their lifestyle.
Q: What advice would you offer advertisers seeking to hone in on key consumer bases?
Find ways to integrate seamlessly into the channels and publishers where key consumers reside, offer value and service. This is how you create advertising that ceases to feel like advertising and simply feels like useful, entertaining content. If this is done correctly, consumers won’t even care that it’s sponsored content—In fact I’ve found that they appreciate it because you’re speaking to them with a how, a where and a when which works. In fact, when you’ve earned the audience’s respect and attention this way, you can even begin to introduce lower funnel calls to action like “click to purchase,” so that it’s seen as service and not salesy.
Q: Any pitfalls they should avoid?
The number one trap I’ve fallen into over the years is getting distracted by shiny objects. Whether it was heavy Flash microsites, the latest AR craze, or how to be relevant to wearables… the flavor of the day approach is simply not sustainable. Focus on the fundamentals like authenticity, utility and accessibility. For example, I love seeing the resurgence of effective email marketing, which to me is an interesting response to the onslaught of disruptive digital tactics we’ve seen over the last decade.
Head of Gear Patrol Studios
Monica Hare is the Head of Gear Patrol Studios (GPS), the creative partnership and content marketing arm of Gear Patrol, an NYC-based lifestyle publication focused on the intersection of products and life’s pursuits. Monica came to GPS from Buzzfeed where she led media planning, account management and account strategy teams globally across three US regions and six countries. That was preceded by management, strategy and producer roles at organizations such as Publicis Groupe and Disney. Monica will be leading GPS’ continued growth and excellence with a focus on branded content and data capabilities. Outside of work, Monica spends time with her wife and two step kids traveling, reading and biking.