Contrary to popular belief, whether brands will become publishers is not up for debate. They already are. The only question is how good they’ll be in the role.
When a brand creates a blog or sets up its own page on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest, it enters into an agreement with its audience that it's going to publish something. That something can be anything from 140-character updates, to thought leadership blog posts, to memes about cats riding goats that do the Harlem Shake. Once a brand enters into this agreement, it needs to figure out what its audience wants.
Most brands have already entered into this agreement, yet many are still wringing their hands about whether to become publishers. What they don't realize is they’ve already become publishers—inconsistent, unprovocative, self-promotional publishers.
Not every brand has to be Red Bull and become the world’s fastest-growing extreme sport publisher, or a Kaiser Health and become one of the most influential health news publishers on the planet. But every brand does need a way to deliver its content and story to a captivated audience, and there’s more competition to captivate that audience every day. Today, people are ready to listen to you if you hit the right note; a year from now, that opportunity might not be there.
Eliminate The Campaign Mindset
Brand publishing requires marketers to do something very difficult: Stop thinking in a campaign mindset. Most campaigns are heart-stopping one-night stands, and even the most successful campaigns aren’t more than summer flings. Brand publishing is a marriage you have to build for the long haul.
That means can’t throw all of your money and effort into brand publishing and then get bored and frustrated after three months. You need to commit, listen and adapt to your audience, and earn their respect and trust.
That’s where the brand newsroom comes into play. Even if you just want to update Facebook and Twitter daily and create a couple of pieces of blog content each week, you still need a small two- or three-person newsroom devoted to figuring out how to engage your audience, get your content in front of as many people as possible, and measure what’s working. That may require bringing people over from the publishing world to do the job, and brands shouldn’t be afraid of making that investment.
The Power Of Insourcing
When confronted with the idea of brand publishing, a lot of brands might think, “Isn’t that my agency’s job?”
It’s a logical question, but outsourcing brand publishing is a flawed model. Agencies often outsource content creation to vendors, and, before you know it, the writers actually creating your brand’s content are two or three agencies removed from your brand.How are they supposed to understand your brand’s vision, voice, and perspective? How are they supposed to update you on their efforts? How are your publishing efforts supposed to adjust on the fly? And why are you paying multiple agencies or vendors to outsource the work?
Insourcing your newsroom is key. Oreo didn’t enjoy its real-time Super Bowl success because it got lucky. It was because it strategy, newsroom, and legal teams were all in the same room.
Embrace The Budget
Not all brands are created equal; there’s a big difference between Pepsi and a two-man startup operation like Coffee Joulies and the marketing budget at their disposal. Embracing the limitations and possibilities of that brand publishing budget can go a long way toward crafting your content vision and processes.
If your budget is minuscule, then tap into the writing and video talents of your current staff; bring together the whole team to create content that will get your audience excited. Share social media responsibilities, and look to freelancers for part-time help. Just as publishers such as Mashable have risen from extremely humble beginnings, brand publishers can make a serious impact if they hit the right note.
On the flip side, if your brand has just transferred the allotment for an entire Super Bowl spot into the brand publishing budget, then embrace that like an entrepreneurial publisher with fresh funding. Plan your entire year down to the last detail, including clearly measured benchmarks you want to hit along the way.
When it comes to content creation—and most other things—it usually helps to have more money. But don't become overconfident. After all, if you’re not giving your audience what they want, then not even the biggest budget will save you.