Someone recently asked me, "Who owns content creation for a brand: the advertising agency, PR agency, in-house brand team or someone else?" That question and my response reflect the fast changing content landscape.
There has been a lot of buzz about content strategies and styles. So, let's discuss what is old, what's new and why it matters.
In this issue of Marketing Coach we'll review the state of content, and share perspective on the approaches that may fit best with your marketing plan.
"PR approaches content as brand positioning, message strategy, thought leadership and story angles. We help our clients build the brand's value proposition, educate and engage audiences."
In this era that values authenticity, storytelling that reflects the brand and inspires customers, employees, and investors, is central to successful marketing and communications.
The percolating discussion of "storytelling" is also a refreshed way to think of content. Consumer communication continues to adapt to: changing lifestyles, the influx of technology to create an "always on" world and an increasingly fragmented media landscape. In this era of personalization, bringing brands to life with stories that create an emotional connection and engage with consumers when and where they are making purchasing decisions (i.e. social media, brand activity, location-based apps, etc.) -- as well as in between -- has become the holy grail in marketing and PR.
Best practices reveal that brands are sharing stories with consumers to bring their brands to life, as well as enabling consumers to share their experiences in their own voices to their own circle of friends.
Employees continue to have a bigger role to play as brand ambassadors, telling their own stories about their experience with the brand. Amplifying and complimenting formal marketing campaigns, these first-person accounts are key to bringing the brand to life internally and externally.
Paid editorial or "native content" as it is often called, has expanded its presence beyond print across media platforms. While it's received a lot of attention lately, "advertorial" has been around for a long time. It has been used historically for brands/advertisers to control a message or educate an audience, typically with in-depth information to demonstrate market leadership, set the record straight on a particular issue, introduce new ideas, products or services, or immerse readers in the brand's point of view. Often part of or tied to an advertising campaign, advertorial was used occasionally at most, and not as a part of all campaigns.
This is changing with content publishers struggling to find new revenue sources. Offering custom content tied to a company brand message presents a way to entice advertisers looking for new vehicles to offset the decreased effectiveness of traditional display, banner and television advertising.
The increased use of native content has brought with it added scrutiny from media industry pundits and watchdogs worried that editorial integrity is being lost, and that consumers are increasingly able to discern "native" and may be skeptical about its objectivity. It is important to keep the following issues in mind when planning your own native content strategy:
The role of "earned media" and news will become even more competitive as publishers and editors must decide how to divide the landscape.
Advertorial had been a long form print format that the industry, advertisers and consumers understood. Now it is popping up in more places in a publication, and must be clearly identified as distinct from editorial.
Consumers need to know the difference between editorial and "native" paid content. We'll need to monitor consumer perceptions and the role it plays over time.
As with many trends, new language sheds a spotlight on a known tactic. Currently, this elevation of "native" into the marketing conversation has created an opportunity to expand its presence.
The rise of blogs as an important news source and the reenergized dedication to build websites as significant content platforms gives rise to the desire to create more content to ensure your brand is participating in relevant conversations.
When developing native content you need to determine which part of your team is best suited to create this type of material. As with any team effort the fact is each member can potentially play a pivotal role. Looking through the lens of PR, your PR team plays a key role as a storyteller to a variety of your stakeholder audiences, including the media, consumers, business partners and investors; this means it can play a central role in developing native content. For instance, in the process of developing media pitches, a PR team may unearth in-depth, personal stories or brand experiences from consumers and employees. We can work with a brand team or advertisers to create editorial style content based on these stories. , as well as develop stories and events for the purpose of generating media coverage.
How do you decide which stories to tell? Ideas to share? Opinions to reveal?
Devise an editorial calendar that maps brand milestones, key lifestyle events and customer interests and plan a content message strategy that expresses your brand voice and point of view.
Do this with the understanding that the topics and approach must be meaningful to your key audiences: customers, investors, employees, etc.
Define your audience: Who are your customer segments? By what sector, demographic, behaviors/life style?
It is always best to know who you are communicating with before you dive into decisions about content substance, platform and method.
Tips and advice
Is at a query?
Do you ask for feedback?
Will there be a social/media conversation
Is there an offer associated to attract attention, i.e. redeem a gift, discount, access to exclusive content?
How about creating a game?
Produce or share a video and encourage viewers to pass it along
Who Owns It?
With the brand at the center, it's important to select effective talent that brings ideas and capabilities to express the brand essence strategically. The right resources understand the connection between audience channel and message and bring creativity to develop purposeful communications. It's wise to be cautious about those who lead with a list of tactics focused on distribution location, which should not be the content development driver.
Today there is a debate percolating as to whether the advertising agency, PR firm or in-house brand team owns content strategy and creation. Regardless of who contributes expertise to develop the strategy and execute it, the brand team needs to drive and own its content.
Historically, PR has approached content as brand positioning, message strategy, thought leadership and story angles. We help our clients build the brand's value proposition, educate about the brand, its benefits and features, and even engage audiences. The advertising agency has historically been charged with developing the creative strategy and campaign designed to build an emotional connection for the brand and often tie that to purchasing decisions.
Ultimately, it is up to the brand to determine which resources -- agency, agency type or individuals -- are best at grasping the brand essence and most effectively at communicating about it to target audiences and channels.
Marketing Coach is a publication of Ivy Cohen Corporate Communications, Inc. ICCC helps companies build reputations and differentiate in a competitive market through brand building, public relations and strategic communications.
To find out how ICCC can help you and your company build your reputation