Collaboration in the Present: Adapting to a New World of Digital Content

In the everything-virtual world of this past year, digital content creators have worked to find some sense of normal by learning to collaborate in a productive way without ever setting foot in a studio or office.

Why did we need to continue making? Because consumers never paused their conversations. Whether with brands or our extended personal networks, social media has been the connective tissue that bonds us all. Having relevant conversations with consumers has never been more important, and that relevance is defined by content that acknowledges our shared challenges in an honest way.

One of the topics that best reflected our collective lockdown experience was food—quarantine led to a deeper, more sustained focus on both what and how we eat. So without easy access to professional studios and in-person talent, how did the digital content creators at Ketchum bring these conversations to life? By virtually gathering notable chefs and strategists to transform our apartment kitchens into something Grant Achatz would be proud of (or, we hope, at least pleasantly surprised by).

In a typical year, we plan six weeks ahead for any in-depth content production. During this time we take into consideration hot topics, fresh ingredients, client messages and priority products to create timely recipes. We scout for and rent a full production studio kitchen, bring a full Ketchum crew, and hire a professional chef to create and execute recipes for our clients’ seasonal content menus.

While our team has spent countless hours in these tight spaces absorbing all the culinary knowledge (maybe even learning how to cook a favorite dessert or two), by no means would we consider ourselves even sous chefs. Once it became clear that remote working would be the new norm, we developed an approach dubbed AgileLITE to keep our content cooking and colleagues safe.

Instead of our fancy kitchen studios, IRL client edits, prop crew and lighting kits, we made our work at home—in the same place we felt comfortable making instant oatmeal.

To keep things safe we had to collaborate from across Chicago and the country—with fellow makers Chris and Tori on duty from their homes in the Windy City and support from our production lead Elyse in New York. Through a partnership with Chef Daniel John from Whatever Lola Wants, we have learned to flex a different type of creative muscle with one-on-one cooking lessons! Not only are we creating shot lists, propping seasonal plateware and ensuring our content is right for our brands’ audience, we are cooking the food too.

Recently we ran an engagement report to see if our AgileLITE production was working the same or better than a studio-produced content series.

The good news: Our fans loved the evolution in our honest approach, and our client was equally impressed with the deeper performance of everything we produced.

And we can finally vouch for the product benefits firsthand! From the T-Fal Thermo-spot to the durable construction of everything All-Clad—we now more intuitively understand how our clients’ cookware exists in the professional culinary world.

While our team became more comfortable with dual roles in the kitchen, the second hurdle was ensuring our client felt the same level of communication and support compared to live on set. Through calendar syncing, FaceTime, group chats and sample shots, we have been able to successfully navigate client feedback “live” without being in the same high-end studio.

Even though we have reduced the number of people on set to one, orchestrating content production remotely is no small task. It takes monumental collaboration from a team of strategists, copywriters, creatives and producers from across the country to ensure a smooth execution. Online shipment tracking deserves a shoutout here, too.

Creativity and collaboration can truly save the day year.

Want to talk more about our AgileLITE capabilities, and how they can help your brand? Let us know!

Chris Magura is an associate creative director at Ketchum specializing in the craft of content and relatable storytelling in the digital space.

Elyse Richter is associate director of Digital Production at Ketchum, managing the creatives and the projects and quality of content they produce for global brands.