7 Innovative and Effective Content Strategy Lessons Learned in 2021

Over the past year, through the 20/21 Vision Virtual Summit series, the PhotoShelter for Brands marketing team has had the opportunity to learn and share insights from more than 100 creative marketing professionals about how their organizations and brands have evolved and pivoted in the face of unforeseen challenges.

So, as we move into 2022 we naturally wanted to focus our year-end edition on understanding what Innovation meant to creative marketers — how they found, developed or applied innovative solutions to simplify and accelerate or sophisticate their visual storytelling-based marketing strategies.

Watch The Innovation Summit Sessions On Demand

View the Innovation Summit on-demand and learn how 10+ innovative brands, schools, and organizations simplify and streamline their workflows to produce impactful visual content year-round. Discover leading-edge tips and make innovation your creative team’s core agenda. Play it back and let the insights flow!

Dive in below to learn how leading creative marketers working across brands like Chick-Fil-A, Boston Red Sox, NASCAR, LPGA, World Surf League (and many more!) developed and executed innovative content marketing tactics and strategies that grew and strengthened their audience, partner, team and philanthropic relationships. Use these innovative lessons to optimize your 2022 content marketing plans and tell us all about your brand’s progress in the comments!

1. Explore different perspectives with virtual reality.

Aside from learning about Free Wheelchair Mission’s inspiring product innovation story and the transformative personal journeys of a few recipients, Brad Cooper, Director of Marketing at FWM shared how imperative interactive, real-time documentation is to keeping global philanthropic supporters, donors, media partners and nonprofit partners informed about the difference they’re making.

What can we expect to see the Free Wheelchair Mission team share in the near future?

A little bird named Brad told us to look out for more real-time humanitarian aid coverage, virtual reality-based movies and more synergy across their digital platforms.

Brad shared, “After [the August 2021 earthquake in] Haiti, within hours we had some content posted, so social media is a big one of our channels we’re trying to use more of…We’ve changed to virtual on many of our things including events, so like many organizations we had to do that and we’re kind of in a hybrid model right now…but expanding around the country through virtual, through digital communications is big for us, so the digital media that we use is going to be really important.”

Disabled and recently injured folks receiving wheelchairs from Free Wheelchair Mission after the August 2021 earthquake.

“We’ve really optimized the way we use our technology…and just creatively telling people stories in new ways. We actually have public VR movies. Again, we haven’t been able to do in-person things, but we’re doing something in Seattle later this month where we’ll have VR videos where you can look around and watch one of our recipients receive a wheelchair in a couple of different countries, so there’s definitely different technology things that we’re utilizing and obviously PhotoShelter is going to be a big part of that.”

Click here to read more about Free Wheelchair Mission’s approach to content marketing, fundraising and developing purpose-driven partnerships.

2. Upgrade your tech tools and let robots lend a hand.

If you’re a pro-sports lover or if you’ve seen Squid Game, you might agree with the following statement: Thank goodness robots haven’t yet replaced the seemingly-superhuman athletes who entertain millions game day after game day.

Some modern pro-sport media team members, however, may not be so fortunate. 

After all, iconic images are once-in-a-lifetime human moments documented by human professionals with laser-sharp, artistic eyes…but what if robots could start to lend a hand?

During a 25-minute packed session, Boston Red Sox’s Staff Photographer, Maddie Malhotra shared how her team’s innovative partnership with Nikon and Mark Roberts Motion Control has evolved over the past two years.

She started by sharing how the team initially experimented with technology in 2019. “It was a test to see how we could amplify the imagery we make at Fenway Park and especially given just how old this place is and how much time we spend here it’s imperative to our personal creative processes that we see the park differently…We spent the last series of the 2019 season just experimenting; creating these bold images and getting used to the technology which was so different. I think we were a little bit hesitant at first to work this into how we shoot because it just felt a little unhuman. It was weird to not hold a camera and it was weird to be making these kinds of images when we’re so used to being close to our players,” she said.

Then, just as Spring Training 2020 ramped up, the global COVID-19 shut down happened, limiting the media team’s ballpark and player access drastically. This forced the Red Sox media team to quickly pivot toward exploring regular use of the robotic cameras to get the action-packed, intimate shots they were used to capturing firsthand. But still, it wasn’t the same.  

Maddie explained in detail, “With the eventual return of baseball in July of 2020 we were faced with this eerie challenge of an empty ballpark with no fans and very much no access to our players or other humans for that matter, so our workflow really changed…We’re used to seeing our PhotoShelter archive full of imagery from fans and suddenly our ‘2020 Fans’ Gallery was empty and images of fans were replaced by hundreds of images of empty seats…it was almost haunting for us, so we wanted to return to that partnership with Nikon to capture the imagery that we used to.”

She started to highlight a few of the breathtaking images she and the robots captured of America’s favorite pastime, “By installing these cameras in the places that we were used to shooting—whether that was in our home dugout or the third base photopit, up on the roof or out on the center field bleachers where fans would usually be, we were able to install these cameras to emulate that human side of things. I think from the get-go these cameras, these robotic systems were never meant to replace us as humans, but we kind of saw that in the midst of the pandemic they very well might, so I personally spent the better part of the 2020 season from a radio booth up in Fenway park with a Surface Pro in my hands controlling these cameras…What we found with this is that we could really do our jobs again and that was really exciting when there was always the threat that we might not be able to actually physically be in the ballpark.”

Now in 2021 as stadiums fill up again, their relationship with the robots continues to evolve symbiotically. Maddie said, “While we’re sort of back to our usual positions, we’re able to have our camera in one hand and a Surface Pro in the other and essentially be in a thousand places at once.”

To get a breakdown of the Red Sox Photo Team’s creative campaign building process or to get a closer look inside a robotic camera, watch How The Boston Red Sox Connects Community Through Technology.

3. “Keywords are the hot sauce of content, they make everything better.”  — Scott Fedonchik, PhotoShelter SVP of Marketing

Around lunchtime we passed the mic over to Stanley Leary, Chick-Fil-A’s Visual Asset Manager to share some digital asset management strategy best practices. He broke down the benefits of developing organization-wide metadata best practices, conducted a mini-mid-session interactive keyword workshop and shared a few real-life examples where photo editors sharing keyword lists have actually helped content contributors conceptualize more diversified shot lists.

For many creative marketers, establishing metadata best practices is key to making content sharing and discovery as efficient as possible, but with a journalism background, Stanley learned how to innovate by iterating on the job.

He shared his first lesson: Train your eyes and mind to scan images and identify objects, settings, people and text instinctively. Now, what keyword would you use to get the return result for the image you’re seeing? That’s where you start.

He explains, “When I first got there [Chick-Fil-A] and implemented PhotoShelter, I was doing what every journalist does, writing captions and all that because that’s how we were searching for pictures, but it took a little while before we found out that it was a total flop. The reason it’s a flop is a majority of the people within Chick-Fil-A were not thinking of pulling pictures for the same reasons that journalists think. So, what we were needing was to really embrace the keyword fields that we weren’t using and that became very important…Writers especially forget that you have to learn how to take the visual and translate that to text, so your eyes are still working as visual recognition.”

Secondly, utilize all the IPTC metadata fields—including, but not limited to, the automatic settings that come with most cameras these days. Stanley says those fields are searchable too!

“Even Peter [Krogh] says we’ve evolved past that. If you’re still using the filename to find photos and putting things in folders, you are not using PhotoShelter nor your computer to its effectiveness…If you use the GPS and you’re taking pictures…then you can immediately know exactly where you were standing when you were taking the picture and that’s now searchable. It can be searchable by date, time and location…you didn’t even do anything and it’s automatically searchable.”

For more digital asset management nuggets of wisdom from Stanley Leary, tune in here.

4. Add subtle, customizable sophisticated branding elements to differentiate your content on social media.

These days it takes a committed, collaborative team of tenacious communicators to build an authentically engaged audience for a brand on social media.

Plus, as new platforms pop up and post types change faster than contributors can keep up, it takes a great deal of patience to test content and build strategic asset best practices that often need innovating.

Enter Slate teams and PhotoShelter’s new integration.

During a panel discussion moderated by Eric Stark, Slate’s Co-Founder and COO, we heard from Elise Crigar, Social Media Director for The World Surf League, Jennifer Fisher, Senior Coordinator of Social Strategy at NASCAR and Brianne Wigley, Senior Manager of Integrated Content at LPGA. They discussed their flexible roles, predictions and insights on best performing types of content and the innovative ways they present branded visual stories across social media platforms.

What were some of the takeaways from this insightful crew?

  • For The World Surf League social team, social listening is key for innovating your content marketing strategy in the direction of where your audience is growing on each platform. By experimenting on new platforms and with new content formats, they’re able to have fun and watch and track how content performs with different audiences. Elise said, “We’re learning that we have a whole different audience there. Our audience on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook—they’re core, they know surf, they know our athletes, but our audience on TikTok is totally different. It’s really exciting to get to know them and deliver content they’re interested in and teach them why we love surfing and introduce all of those things to them, so that’s been really fun.”
  • For Jennifer, she keeps the NASCAR audience engaged with real time content on Instagram Stories by sharing authentic race day content and utilizing Slate’s filter, text-treatments and customizable graphics tools to add a layer of brand consistency. Keep things consistent, but fresh.
  • When we discussed top performing content, Brianne shared how beneficial LPGA’s new partnership with KPMG Performance Insights has been for providing deeper golf game statistics to players, coaches, media and fans. Brianne said, “It’s been really cool to see the [audience’s] reaction to some of those stats that we can now produce that we haven’t been able to in the past. I think everyone knows that they’re the best female golfers in the world, but we haven’t really had the stats to back up those claims up until just a few months ago; so we started to roll out some of that in the form of highlights and graphics which have performed really well for us.”

Tune in to the full session for more social media and content creation wisdom.

5. Spark deeper team collaboration by providing organization-wide tech training.

Eden Seiferheld recently joined the PhotoShelter team as the Office Manager and Executive Assistant to our CEO in July of 2021, and as a former Slack employee who’s been newly tasked with helping to foster company culture in this new, hybrid work world, it was only a matter of time until she taught us all of the fun and functional ways Slack can be used to communicate across teams.

She shared lots of tips about how to best utilize the platform to build community and collaborate, but two of the most innovative takeaways we learned about using the platform individually were:

  1. You can set reminders so you don’t forget to answer an important message once you’re done writing that email.
  2. You can schedule messages so when a whiff of genius hits you in the middle of the night, you can still send the epiphany, but at a more appropriate time.

Read more of Eden’s helpful Slack tips to optimize the way you digitally socialize at work.

6. Capture all the angles and purposefully repurpose content.

As a freelance photographer for clients like MLB, NFL, PGA golf and now Intersport, Carl Jones II emphasized the importance of innovating as a solo pro-photographer without corporate access to helpful tech and tools.

When he was invited to photograph The John Shippen National Invitational & Business Summit, he pivoted away from the workflow he was used to and tried using Nikon Snapbridge to transfer photos and videos from his phone and camera to his PhotoShelter account. Then he gave the client access to FileFlow so they could browse and use the assets immediately.

He would capture video clips of players teeing off or players walking the course or interacting with each other, and “like I said these assets can be used next year to flood social media and provide a recap of what happened the year prior,” Carl shared.

True that! For more insights on how Carl maps out a strategic assignment plan and to see more of his work, watch the full session on-demand

7. Secure a reliable mobile workstation to help deliver content and feedback in real time.

For Kyle Zedaker, he helps the Tampa Bay Buccaneers deliver real time fan-favorite content by relying heavily on a ‘beastly hot spot’ to transfer the files and our file-sharing app, FileFlow to quickly edit and deliver photos from the field, game days, travel days and even practice.

Read more: [VIDEO] Game-Winning Visuals with The Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dive deeper into trending predictions and actionable advice from 15+ creative marketers by watching the full Innovation Summit on demand.

7 Innovative and Effective Content Strategy Lessons Learned in 2021 is written by Larissa D Green for

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