Brands as Online Publishers – How to Go About It

I recently attended an informal industry meet-up themed ‘Brands as Online Publishers’. The conversation was around some of the considerations for brands that want to enter into the fairly well-trodden space of content marketing.

From the outset, it’s important that businesses decide what role they want the brand to play in the creation and delivery of content. Based on various factors – the structure and capability of the organisation, budget, time, objectives, audience, the nature of the content – brands need to decide whether they want to be content creators, commissioners or curators of entertaining and engaging content for their audience. 

They have the option to work either independently or in association with a content producer or publisher, choosing to develop and create or co-create original content. They might alternatively choose to naturally integrate the brand into existing properties, partnering with a publisher or media partner. They need to consider who the retail or distribution partners for their content will be.

Brands need to acknowledge that all of these are significantly different approaches, with both practical and brand-related implications. 

How To Deliver

Another important consideration will be whether to use a single media channel or multiple platforms to deliver content to audiences across a variety of channels: radio, magazines, events, gaming, video, music, mobile, books, social media, blogs, events and so on. What’s most important, however, is that there is synergy and consistency in the message across paid, owned and earned media, that it supports the overall brand objectives, and that it is born from genuine consumer insight.

People are driven by passions – so brands as online publishers must develop and package their content around those passions. As with any form of brand communication, it’s essential to research and understand your audience. In the world of brands as content platforms, it’s also enormously important to show your audience a healthy level of respect. Trust is very easy to lose when brands get it wrong. They need to take very seriously their obligation to behave in an honest and open way in the realm of branded content.

Finally, it’s important for brands to grasp the need to build an audience for their content, through focussed work and drivers. This can, to some degree at least and then be used to predict ROI.

In summary, the five key points to takeaway were:

  1. All brands are now content publishers.
  2. Brands are turning into media companies – for example, is Red Bull a product or media company?
  3. People care about their passions – it’s essential to package content around these passions.
  4. Brands must decide whether they want to create, co-create, curate or integrate into content.
  5. Content should be liquid (shared) + linked (to the overall brand strategy).

One final note: 2012 sees communication industry stalwarts, the Cannes Lions, recognise the importance of branded content by the introduction of a new awards category for creativity in ‘Branded Content and Entertainment’. We’re waiting with bated breath to see who will shine in this year’s judging.

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