How This FORTUNE Model Studio Exec Constructed a Content material Enterprise

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From a younger age, a kernel of creativity germinated inside Megan Gilbert’s mind.

She beloved to devour books, magazines, and TV – and welcomed even the industrial messages in and round them. “I used to be obsessive about advert messaging in addition to editorial storytelling,” she says.

Nevertheless it wasn’t till 2009 that the kernel totally popped right into a content material advertising and marketing alternative. That’s when Gawker Media employed her as a freelancer to jot down weblog posts for a branded content material undertaking.

Megan wrote 92 articles for HBO’s True Blood content material marketing campaign in three weeks. “I believed, ‘That is the loss of life knell in my profession, or that is going to make me have a profession,’” she says.

It ended up being the latter. She spent 6.5 years at Gawker, rising to content material director of Studio@Gawker. Later, she did a stint at VICE as its director of branded editorial and initiatives, which finally led to her becoming a member of FORTUNE Model Studio in 2019. This yr, her work for the studio earned her a spot on the 2023 Content material Marketer of the 12 months finalist listing.

Constructing a mega-successful content material advertising and marketing studio

When Megan arrived at FORTUNE, the content material studio didn’t exist. It was a real startup enterprise. “We got here up with a reputation, created a emblem, constructed the group, and managed to construct income,” Megan says.

4 years later, FORTUNE Model Studio has seen income go from $400,000 to $16 million, and its content material has earned trade honors, together with the 2023 Content material Advertising and marketing Undertaking of the 12 months for Ecopreneurs, a content material partnership with Salesforce. And Megan, who joined as director of editorial, is now vice chairman of FORTUNE Model Studio.

FORTUNE Model Studio operates equally to a conventional content material studio or company. The total-time and freelance group of 20 handles design, undertaking administration, technique, manufacturing, and editorial. However, not like content material creators at conventional FORTUNE media properties, they don’t simply execute the content material.

Some group members work intently with the gross sales aspect. They assist with pitches and proposals, however in addition they assume proactively. “We recurrently maintain brainstorms … What are our new choices as FORTUNE Model Studio? What can we convey our present shoppers? How can we renew companies?” Megan explains.

The holistic method additionally means the FORTUNE Model Studio group works with the broader firm’s account administration, built-in advertising and marketing, and analysis departments.

Much like an company construction, the studio dedicates work groups to shoppers. Smaller shoppers, for instance, have a devoted strategist and editor and a few designers engaged on the property. If the shopper program entails audio-visual content material, the group additionally contains manufacturing of us. Shoppers with bigger packages, equivalent to Salesforce’s The Ecopreneurs collection, work with virtually everybody within the studio.

However they’re all handled equally. “A shopper that has one piece of content material with us will get white-glove service similar to someone who’s a five-year multimillion-dollar service,” Megan says.

Dreaming up shopper alternatives, not checklists

How do they supply that distinctive service? Properly, they don’t observe a check-the-box, assembly-line technique. “It’s extra nuanced than that, extra collaborative than that,” Megan says, noting they work intently with shoppers to grasp their targets and work collectively on modern concepts to attain them.

The FORTUNE Model Studio group seems at what they’ve produced for the shopper in previous packages and discusses what extra they may do sooner or later. They focus on contemporary concepts that they may convey to the shopper’s desk. In fact, in addition they take note the finances parameters as a result of no matter packages they suggest should work financially for each the shopper and the studio.

“We actually perceive the enterprise and know methods to be environment friendly. And we like to not nickel-and-dime shoppers. We are likely to overdeliver and attempt to make their lives simpler,” Megan says.

That’s probably one of many causes Salesforce employed FORTUNE Model Studio to supply a brand new program for its Salesforce+ streaming product.

What would develop into The Ecopreneur collection began with a fast dialog between the CEOs of Fortune and Salesforce concerning the want for media companions for exhibits on the yet-to-debut Salesforce+.  

Salesforce already had a robust relationship with Fortune, working collectively on sponsorships, conferences, and different packages throughout the corporate. The studio group had achieved just a few branded campaigns with completely different enterprise models at Salesforce.

FORTUNE Model Studio had an almost-ready-to-go thought to pitch Salesforce. It advanced from Sustainability Inc., a 13-episode podcast it partnered with Boston Consulting Group to create. That collection talked about pillars of sustainability and enterprise on the earth, challenges, and potential options. Nevertheless it was audio-only content material as a result of they needed to do all of the interviews remotely in the course of the pandemic. When that undertaking was in post-production, the studio group had mentioned how nice it will have been to movie the locations and the folks.

“We’re very enthusiastic about telling a majority of these tales. It’s a captivating subject,” Megan says. So that they pitched their Sustainability Inc.-inspired video collection thought – displaying a number of the studio’s documentary-style filmmaking shot simply earlier than the pandemic – and obtained a fast sure from Salesforce.

Hitting the manufacturing water in 43 days

Salesforce and FORTUNE Model Studio labored collectively shortly. They arrived on the first shoot simply six weeks after that first dialog. Collectively, they traveled the world to shoot all 11 episodes with a small touring crew, native manufacturing assistants, and sound techs.

However the FORTUNE Model Studio thought didn’t keep only a video collection. They turned The Ecopreneurs right into a content material powerhouse – creating content material hubs for every episode that includes the ecopreneur that went far past the 10-minute movies. They did long-form question-and-answer and behind-the-scenes content material. They used animated explainers to debate the local weather impacts and distinctive attributes of the ecopreneur and their work.

At each shoot, the Salesforce and FORTUNE Model Studio groups collaborated on the chances. However getting all that content material from each video shoot took numerous planning and preparation. They usually needed to juggle a number of phases of a number of episodes on the identical time. “If we didn’t have a FORTUNE Model Studio producer and our program supervisor preserving us on monitor, I don’t know the way we might’ve achieved it,” Megan says.

For each content material initiative, this system group retains the FORTUNE Model Studio group on monitor and works intently with the shopper on deliverables, approvals, asset administration, supply, and so forth. In addition they make sure the shopper’s suggestions and technique get included into the brand new content material. “This is among the finest program administration groups I’ve ever labored with,” Megan says.

Lesson for all content material entrepreneurs

The FORTUNE Model Studio group mannequin could be a lesson to model groups in addition to particular person content material entrepreneurs.

Megan encourages entrepreneurs to carve out a distinct segment – one thing you’re good at and like doing – but additionally have a generalist background. You may convey your experience to the place and assist different areas of the group as wanted.

To search out your content material inspiration, keep contemporary and deal with the story. Take into consideration how folks make tales, and don’t restrict your exploration to branded content material. Encompass your self with storytellers, artists, and individuals who have a imaginative and prescient with out parameters.

That outdoors affect will allow you to pop the sting of that proverbial field to your model or shoppers. As Megan says, “You probably have that infectious inspiration and need to inform tales, it’s going to take you a great distance.”

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Cowl picture by Joseph Kalinowski/Content material Advertising and marketing Institute