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Social Influencer Series | Jonno Turner, Head of Digital Content Volvo Ocean Race

Social Influencer Series | Jonno Turner, Head of Digital Content Volvo Ocean Race

It is summertime in my hometown of Marblehead, Massachusetts and that can mean only one thing - it is regatta season and some of the fastest and most beautiful boats will sail into port. One of the most interesting people I have met is Jonno Turner - the award winning and world traveling Head of Digital Content for the Volvo Ocean Race.

He has been literally sailing around the globe producing some of the most compelling and incredible content you'll see on social.

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If his current job and travel schedule aren't impressive enough consider that prior to joining the Volvo Ocean Race, Jonno was the "Moments Curator" for the 2016 Rio Olympics Project.

I caught up with Jonno recently over a Dark and Stormy. Here is a snapshot of what he had to say:

There was a interview featured and the journalist asked you what the most important aspect of producing engaging, creative content for a global audience. You replied - "Humour." First part, let's talk about that - your approach to content. And, two let's talk about how you integrate social media into all aspects of what you do? 

I think it just comes down to being relatable and self-aware as a brand. That’s easy to say and harder to achieve – it’s a challenge to develop a consistent tone of voice and personality that’s relatable to a varied global audience spanning languages and cultures.

Everyone talks about engagement, and ultimately that’s just about causing reaction in the audience – that could be a laugh, surprise, a smile, a feeling of awe or inspiration, or even just a ‘yuck!’. Ultimately, they all translate to likes, comments and shares.

Humour’s a really useful vehicle in sport content because so much of what we see tends to be geeky, technical or inspirational – yet a meme or a joke really cuts through the noise. Germany’s Bundesliga, who I’ve worked with in the past, totally nails this concept. They don’t have the biggest clubs in the world (bar Bayern Munich) but they’ve carved out a niche in a very saturated market, and really set the standard for fresh, engaging and surprising social content.

Working in sailing brings unique challenges, like any other sport which can be tricky to understand and follow, but also has a loyal and fanatical core audience.

Sailing has never had the social community of motorsport, tennis or surfing, and using humour as a way to unite cultures but also show that we don’t take ourselves too seriously has played a big role in helping us to really expand the overall reach and drive conversation not just around the event but the sport as a whole.

Video is obviously an important part of what you do socially. How are you using Periscope and Facebook Live? 

That’s right – video is huge for us, and live content is a key part of our strategy. We work in partnership with Facebook and Twitter to push live and exclusive video content such as 360° and we’ve had excellent results from both. We’ve even recently been broadcasting in live 360° from multiple boats racing at the same time, which is a huge technical feat and a first in the sport.

We use Snappy TV to cut live clips during events and we’ve worked hard to reach a place where we’re no longer just packaging the TV content for social, but we’re creating bespoke content for each social platform, based on what works best, whether that’s vertical video, adding subtitles, creating animations. Luckily the raw video content we get back from the boats is some of the best I’ve ever seen – real wow stuff, especially with the introduction of drones this edition– so we have an excellent starting point to work from.

What’s worked really well for us, not just in video, but across all content on our digital channels, is creating defined streams of content, pitched at different audiences. I think that, especially in sport, that’s extremely important. Take sailing as an example. You could have a complete newbie to the sport, and a five-time Olympic gold medallist, both watching the same content, and it’s almost impossible to adequately cater to both audiences without compromising the product. We’ve tried to create more educational content to bring new followers along on the journey, without alienating our existing audience.

In terms of style, we’ve pushed really hard to create ‘raw’ content – with a behind-the-scenes and exclusive feel. That’s partly driven by timings, we don’t want to sit on content while we edit it, so we endeavor to turn it around as quickly as possible. I think that in an event where more traditional products such as TV and news are also being produced, this ‘raw-ness’ is a great way to differentiate the social-first content.

In our weekly show ‘Gybe Talking’, we actively keep production elements such as booms and cameras in shot so it feels authentic, real and raw, shooting on mobile and a variety of social-friendly formats, and keeping in bloopers (needless to say, when I’m presenting the show, there are a lot of them!).

You were the "Moments Curator" for the Rio 2016 Olympics Project which sounds like the coolest job on the planet. What did that entail? 

It was very cool! Basically I worked with Twitter during the Olympics to tell the story of the games through their Moments feature, which at that point (summer 2016) had only recently launched.

It was the first real roll out and test of Moments and all eyes were on the team to create a stir – it was an amazing experience. Twitter put together an international team of some amazing creatives around to work 24/7 during the event, curating the best tweets from fans, athletes and media over in Rio.

I get a real buzz from the challenge of creative short-form storytelling across new formats, so Moments is right up my street. I still go there every morning to check up on what’s happening.

Crossing over to the ‘dark side’ and working directly for the platform was extremely valuable and I’d recommend it to anyone currently working in digital, if the opportunity arises. I’ve also worked with Snapchat creating live content for BBC One around global events like the BAFTAs and Coachella, and you really get to know the quirks of the platform, and learn how to master them. Plus, you get the inside scoop on what’s on the horizon!

What advice would you give to a CMO of a legacy company that is trying to reimagine their brand in the age of mobile and social? 

Firstly, I really believe that it’s key to fully commit – there aren’t any half measures when it comes to digital transformation. You need to build a good in-house team that’s right for the job, and don’t be afraid to experiment with the way you do things. Nothing against agencies, but I feel that having an internal presence (or team) that knows your brand inside out is really important. Digital isn’t a 9-5 job, and as the front line of the company, it’s really important that the social team, for instance, is aligned with overall company objectives and values – and that only comes from being truly integrated and working alongside different departments.

To any companies looking to reimagine their brand in the social age, I’d say, be real about your identity. You need to be authentic, and that’s not always easy – not every brand could (or should) be the cool kid in the playground. Fans and followers value authenticity and they’ll be quick to call bullshit if they don’t get it.

Once you’ve found your identity and committed to the course, work hard on the storytelling and narrative, stay consistent, and brace yourself!

Speed Round:

Celebratory Cocktail - Given that I currently spend most of my time in the best sailing hotspots on the planet, I guess it’s only right that I say a Dark and Stormy!

Somewhere cool I’ve been - Pappy and Harriet’s. It’s a honky tonk saloon bar on an old spaghetti western set in the middle of the Yucca Valley, where they hold secret gigs and concerts with some of the world’s biggest bands. Very nice spot for a sandy sundowner!

Proudest Accomplishment - I always said I wanted to write a book before turning 30 – and I had my first book – ‘So You Think You Know All About Football’ – published on my 29th birthday! Oh, and I once did a funny tweet which went viral and ended up being used as a feature on BBC’s ‘Have I Got News For You’!

Favorite Destination - It’s sounds cliché, but as I’m coming to the end of almost nine months of constant travel, I’ll say home …for now.

Go to Social Channel - I’m a massive fan of Instagram. It’s my favourite platform to use, and I’m really interested to see the direction it goes in – I’ve heard they’re bringing in long-form video some time in the summer.

Inspirational #Hashtag  #turnthetideonplastic.

About the interviewer:

Mark Keaney is a Husband, Dad, Coach, Mentor and Leader. With over 20 years of experience in the media industry and a wild ride in the world of tech start-up & social - Mark is helping brands deliver world class CX at Lithium Technologies, where he is the Regional Vice President of Sales for the East and Central. His mantra is - Brand Globally. Market Locally. 

e: markkeaney8@gmail.com or t: @markkeaney2pt0

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