Simon’s journey to content marketing domination has been eclectic, spanning journalism, branded content, data and tech. But his current role leading HCF’s digital content play coalesces his very distinct skill set.
A storyteller at heart, Simon has always loved the creative process of producing something that informs and entertains, regardless of whether it’s via words, graphics, videos or another format.
He’s equally fascinated by content’s dual role of driving salience – integrated with paid activity – and helping nurture people through a complex customer journey.
One of Simon’s first jobs was in IT. And this sojourn was the catalyst for him to see the light and realise he needed a creative outlet. This led to his career-shaping moment when he left the IT world for greener pastures, securing a role as a technology writer for the Australian PC World magazine.
During his first two years, he won back-to-back national business publishing awards. His subsequent journo highlight reel includes stints managing Fairfax’s Icon and Next (technology) and Drive Life sections, and editing News Corp’s digital app and the digital section of Escape.
However, he really found his calling when he moved in-house to become content marketing editor for Jetstar ANZ & Singapore. In his first two years at the helm, his team won five industry awards for the Jetstar inflight magazine, including two top prizes at the International Content Marketing Awards 2020, as well as Custom Publication of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards 2019.
He helped establish an integrated content strategy and relaunched the magazine to become an international award-winning travel publication.
When COVID-19 pressed pause on overseas travel – and the magazine along with it – he had a ‘sliding doors moment’. However, this enabled him to move into another of his passions: the health sector.
And a fun fact: Simon is a dumplings connoisseur. If you want a tour of the best yum cha joints Melbourne has to offer, you know who to call.
What do you do?
I’m the digital content marketing manager at HCF, and I partner with myriad teams on content strategy to achieve interdependent member and commercial outcomes.
I love the diversity of my role, which ranges from reviewing business-wide content and communications to creating messaging on channels including our website and EDMs for new products and programs.
My other passion – which probably harks back to my IT days – is digging into our analytics platforms to work out what’s happening with our traffic, why it’s happening and what we can do to improve it.
I work with an amazing content team that’s dedicated to ensuring the messaging in all our touchpoints is consistent, on-brand and kept to a high standard.
And just as importantly, we present a lens informed by the JTBD framework that helps brands and their partners tune what they deliver at important moments along their customer journeys.
What mantra are you living by this year?
If there’s a bit of downtime, use it to learn new skills. It doesn’t have to be a big, life-changing thing. Start small and build from there. It can be amazing how much further a little extra knowledge or a new skill set can take you. Also, look after your health.
What’s the most important thing that marketers can do to drive commercial outcomes?
You hear businesses talk about being customer-led a lot, but it often gets lost or forgotten in the process because it isn’t core to the company culture.
It can’t be an afterthought or simply something you pay lip-service to. We talk about it a lot at HCF, and we’re always considering how everything we do impacts the member experience.
It’s nice to see staff truly living and breathing that throughout the company. It’s remembering there’s a human on the other end and not just a sea of customers.
As a result, your marketing and content will be more authentic and engaging.
Equally, pay attention to what your data is telling you. Analyse it, interpret it, and use it to inform your strategy.
What’s a cracking book you’d recommend or podcast you swear by?
I really loved Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open. He was one of my favourite players to watch when I was growing up, and it was surprising to see what he went through to achieve his success, and the fact that he hated tennis throughout his career.
I read this many years ago, but his experience has stuck with me. He’s refreshingly candid and honest about his personal struggles, and it makes you admire the guy even more.
Who are your go-to thought leaders, and why?
Both in life and career, there are a few trusted people I go to who’ve been reliable and spot-on with advice.
Sometimes you just need a sounding board, and other times, you need a completely different perspective on things.
It’s great to have famous people who you admire and draw inspiration from, but they don’t know you and they can’t give you personalised advice. It’s also important to have people close to you who you know aren’t going to steer you in the wrong direction.
Our favourite qu: what’s your top beer or wine recommendation?
I love a good Spanish tempranillo. I read about it years ago while editing some wine pages and thought I’d give it a try, and it quickly became my favourite.
For beers, I’m pretty mainstream and Corona is still my go-to, despite the unfortunate associations with the pandemic.
I really feel for the brand, but I reckon if anyone is really stupid enough to avoid the beer because of that, they deserve to drink something lesser.
We think our eDM Story Lab is pretty cool – hopefully you do too.