13th March 2015
I hate the term blog, especially when it comes to discussing an effective content marketing strategy. It belittles the notion that you are publishing content that your audience actually wants to read, share and comment on rather than what you want them to read about you or your company.
As brands continue to wake up to the incredible power of content marketing driving their inbound marketing strategy, they should also feel enthused that their own hosted content is far more than some old-school notion about blogging all about you, you, you.
This isn’t just semantics, this is about recognising the power of a brand hosted media channel vs what peoples’ perceptions of a blog is. I’m willing to accept that there are some incredible ‘blogs’ firing on all cylinders in terms of audience engagement, sign-ups and conversions to regular consumers of the posted content and in many cases the brand host’s products too. But trying to drag some peoples’ understanding of what a blog was and what it can be now as part of a content marketing strategy seems like a lot of unnecessary heavy lifting to me. Start with the premise that you are building a media channel to connect with and engage a new and regular audience set for a brand and you’re already diving into the heart of publishing tactics.
The irony is not lost on me when I refer to HubSpot Blogs posting a great article celebrating the art of good copywriting, which also highlighted some of the companies that (in their opinion) were doing it right.
“establish first why the audience is interested in the topic and then start to branch out into periphery areas and create your own trending conversations”
Of the four companies HubSpot highlighted to demonstrate the new age of branded content publishing, all endeavouring to earn brand intent from a new wave of potential customers, not one of these is producing a recognisable old-school blog of any sort. Content is mostly written by impartial contributors, for instance – in other words these are people not earning their main wage by the brand commissioning them to create the content. This enables them to have a more wholesome perspective of the target audience’s interests. Intel’s iQ site is held up as a great flag waver in this area with a content strategy delivered exactly as if it were a straight up media channel for a traditional publishing company. (It’s worth noting that HubSpot’s article is written from a US perspective as That Media Thing very proudly manages the main content stream for the UK arm of the iQ site with exactly the same publishing tactics in mind – iq.intel.co.uk)
The first thing that good content marketeers need to impress upon the commissioning brand is that their old target audience group is generally an exhausted funnel. Or at the very least it is so regularly bombarded by the competitor brands that within the noise there’s very little opportunity to make a stand out and lasting impression upon a potential customer. The values, interests and emotional buttons that reside in many brands’ customers are what you should be looking for so that you can find them wherever they may be – sometimes far beyond the traditional places that a brand is used to conversing within. This means the dialogue not only needs to be on their turf, it also needs to be speaking their language and about the stuff they are most passionate about.
Unlike brands, media publishers have a very wide remit as to what they can cover. But the very best publishers don’t just jump on a trending conversation about a new iPhone release or the death of Leonard Nimoy. No, the very best publishers establish first why the audience is interested in the topic and then start to branch out into periphery areas and create their own trending conversations. And in some cases clever on-site linking of all these threads builds SEO ranking for site usefulness along the way. Within the more constrained remits, dictated to some degree by a brand’s range of products, the opportunities to get into the hearts and minds of potential customers is still absolutely possible. If a brand wants to be recognised for placing high values in functional product design resulting in greater customer satisfaction, then those same values (and customers) can be found in readers of content as diverse as ecological architecture, smart cars and high-end sports gear. If a brand wants to be recognised for providing highly-useful business management tools resulting in greater company productivity and output, then the same need for those tools (and customers) can be found in readers of content as diverse as management training advice, personal life-hacking tips and expert analysis of valuable industry research.
“the very best publishers don’t just jump on a trending conversation about a new iPhone release or the death of Leonard Nimoy”
Becoming an expert voice for your potential customers’ interests needs to reach far beyond your traditional product set; recognising the associated benefits and values that your customers could place in your products exists in other areas of their lives. The brand then gains a personality and a reputation for true high-value, and at times, emotional engagement with its audience. No-one does this better than Red Bull which has, to be honest, taken itself to the extreme distance from its original beverage-centred marketing to predominantly serve an extreme active audience set. It’s doubtful that this revised target audience so brilliantly community engaged is that bothered about buying the Red Bull drink. But the impact on the rest of the buying public is now that Red Bull the brand has a persona that’s cool to be a part of – with or without the risks of snowboarding over a cliff.
Having created a content publishing strategy that serves up the values a brand wishes to be associated and known for, very often means the brands own products and services are hardly mentioned at all. Obviously the content’s home is on the brand’s own site, with recognition that the brand is the ‘sponsor’ and ‘provider’ of this content for a reason implicit. But you do also need to reach out to the target audience on their turf and bring them to the brand, whether this is by earned social media engagement, organic high indexing SEO, paid for content referral mechanisms or other methods. Thankfully, the content’s inherent distance from overt product promotion plays to the tune of true media publishing values in that it should now be both interesting and useful content to many. So much so that Google, and powerful content referral mechanisms such as Outbrain, will reward and promote the content willingly and with fervour rather than you having to resort to surreptitious methods.
Taking the content marketing strategy even further into the realms for embracing media channel publishing tactics allows a freedom for a much wider toolset and skills to be employed, traditionally reserved for the straight up media publishers. Here’s just a few adopted by the publishing team at That Media Thing:
That Media Thing delivers branded media channels, inbuilt with expert publishing tactics that will reach outside of your traditional customer set. We aim to deliver a brand identity that will resonate within the hearts and minds of your audience through a long-term relationship of incremental engagement.