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Think like a publisher to win at content marketing

17th August 2015

“Think like a publisher, not a marketer.”

– David Meerman Scott.

We agree that this is top advice for brands. Traditionally audiences have relied on broadcasters and publishers for information and entertainment, whilst advertisers have pushed into this space to sell. But mobile and social media are changing this for good. Brands are increasingly the source of the content, and if they think like a publisher, the target audience will give them attention and time.

Whilst distrusting brands which push overt sales messages, 84% of millennials will engage with brand content that enthralls and entertains. When we start to think like a publisher we can build trust in consumers, bringing with it advocacy and loyalty. 11 years at the BBC have given me an understanding of the mindset of a successful publisher, and this blog sets out to help you harness that thinking to develop your brand.

Get into a publisher’s mindset

Publishers are interested in engaging their audience and bringing them back for more. They are not thinking “how do I convey the cost benefits of my service?” or “where can I squeeze in all the features that I think are important?” As author Rebecca Lieb says:

“Using content to sell isn’t selling, or sales-ey. It isn’t advertising….it’s the marketing of attraction. It’s being there when consumers need you and seek you out with relevant, educational, helpful, compelling, engaging, and sometimes entertaining information.”

We advise brands to think about content not just as a brand marketing tool but as something valuable in its own right. If brands want to cut through in the world of content, that’s something they have to get used to.

It doesn’t have to be all out branded content (great content with little more than a sponsor’s logo at the end) but it must still be interesting, useful, timely, helpful, interesting or just plain odd.  Here are two very different examples of brands – one B2C and one B2B – which are making a content strategy work.

Firstly L’Oreal’s Makeup.com is a magazine style site which offers their target audience beauty tips without pushing their own products. They have articles and beauty tutorials from experts on their site and YouTube channel.

In a completely different sector, Amex have created Open Forum and sponsor Small Business Saturday. It is more heavily branded than the L’Oreal example but it offers genuinely useful advice from external experts including mentor videos and hits their target audience.

Planning with an editorial calendar

Publishers plan their content months ahead and for brands it is equally important to develop content marketing plans in advance using an editorial calendar. This helps you create seasonal and timely content as well as your trusty evergreen ideas. It also gives you the flexibility to react to events with content if necessary.

Maximise the value of your content 

Entertainment channels are more likely to make a cost-effective series than one offs. Serialised content can keep your audience coming back for more. Starbucks is currently creating a series of documentaries on its channels which lead on from each other rather than standing alone. You may also be able to repurpose your content. Can your white paper also be a podcast? Can you turn a successful video tutorial into a series?

Brand identity

As a brand publisher it is important to create content which matches your brand identity. Red Bull for instance doesn’t ‘sell’ drinks but publishes stories and content which embody its brand values – adventure and energy.

Let’s look at a content marketing project that we delivered for them that saw them think exactly like a publisher, not an advertiser. We created a film for Red Bull based around Bristol’s Street Art festival “See no Evil” that firmly aligned them with street culture. With the simple aim of associating the brand with street art all that was needed was a few well timed shots of the drink in the background and a logo at the start and end.

Engage with your audience

Brands need to create stories that engage the audience.  As author Joe Pulizzi puts it:

“Your customers don’t care about you, your products, your services…they care about themselves, their wants and their needs.  Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you.”

GoPro is an interesting example of a brand which has moved to a publishing model successfully. Its approach combines user-generated, sponsored and professional content across existing channels such as YouTube and Facebook. It very successfully mixes sports star footage with user generated content.

In the omniscreening environment you need to have content designed to meet your audience’s needs where and when they are whether that’s a Vine on Twitter, a vlog or a video marketing film.

Quality control

It is important to have a steady flow of content but it is also crucial to send out quality every time – otherwise you are just adding to the large bowl of content soup out there. Publishers have to create content which consumers or advertisers are prepared to pay for so they have to get it right and so do brands.

Quality content is great for SEO as search engines love relevant, engaging content. It should also encourage inbound links and social sharing. However if you are producing too much low quality content your whole site could lose page ranking.

Ensure that there are people in your team who have an understanding of publishing and content creation, or an external company you can commission to help. Whether your content is delivered in blogs, white papers or videos, you need to be creating not just good content… but great content.

How to create winning content

If you are interested in reading more about how to create compelling content which cuts through, sign up to our free white paper.

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