Contently: Not Content Marketing, but Brand Publishing

Really like this write up from Contently’s Sam Slaughter (@samslaughter215) at Adweek. Focused on the distinction between content marketing and brand publishing. 

When brands make the decision to use content (and really, social media’s already made that decision for them), they need to forget about being marketers and worry about being publishers.

But this is harder than it should be for brands because of this: 

Like publishers, brands need to make sure that each piece of content—Facebook update, tweet, sponsored story, Pinterest board and microsite—is valuable to their customers, and maps back to a greater narrative.

Ads and ad messages aren’t all that valuable in the day to day life of anyone. And, most brands have no clue what a “greater narrative” means when they’re just focused on selling soap or widgets right now. 

 

Brands *Should* Be Publishers

With so much discussion about “content marketing“, brands are learning that they need to think and act like publishers if they want to thrive in social media. But, while brands may aspire to be like RedBull (the most well know example of Brand as publisher), there are still some real questions about whether most brands will actually be able to do it. My answer is a definitive “yes”, brands can do it. More to the point, i think the best brands *have* to adopt the mindset of publishers to win in a socially connected consumer landscape. But, brands will have to get over philosophical, business and operational barriers if they want to do what great publishers do.

At the most basic, great publishers do the following:

  • Make useful stuff: Publishers deliver useful – interesting, helpful, inspiring, entertaining – material to people who can use it. Whether it’s a magazine or a radio show, a TV network or a website, the exchange between publisher and end user has to be based on a certain level of utility
  • Build an Audience: Publishers build a reachable audience – consistent, identifiable, unique, engaged – over time around that material.

Seems pretty straightforward. Why would this be hard for brands? First, most brands today don’t have the basic service orientation. It’s just a philosophical disconnect. Brands are inherently interruptive and self-centered (“Buy me!”). They are all about using annoying TV ads and banners to deliver their own message in order to drive short term results for themselves. In order to make the transition, and build an audience that cares, brands will have to adopt “service first, message later” as a core philosophy.

Great publishers see their audience as a core asset that can be translated into revenue opportunities. An active, engaged audience that’s growing takes investment, time, and careful support. That long-term business perspective runs counter to the short term urgency most companies bring to their brand building. Brands typically see advertising media as a painful expense to minimize in the short term. To fully adopt a publisher mindset, brands will need to embrace a long-term business orientation, and see the investment in audience building as a modern way to create a valuable business asset.

Operationally, the vast majority of brands will struggle with the content production process. But, it’s going to be even more important for brands to develop a consistent and unique editorial lens. Great publishing ventures need great editors, someone who can discern what’s great for the audience and pushes the editorial agenda. Brands will struggle with any message that isn’t pushing their campaign message or product features. When faced with a decision about whether to invest scarce resources into an article that’s useful vs. one that delivers their campaign message, 99% of marketers will go with the one that “sells” more. To truly deliver on “brand as publisher”, brands will have to put their audience needs before their own.

Brands can overcome these challenges and the potential upside is significant for those willing to work at it.   But what happens to brands that don’t adapt? They won’t evolve their spending mix and will remain reliant on paid adverting too long. They won’t adapt their brand, and instead of connecting with people on a higher emotional or aspirational level, they’ll simply blast out their features and benefits, losing relevance :15 at a time. They’ll miss the chance to build assets, and keep throwing money at ads. While it may require brands to work against their long grooved instincts, those that commit will end up with a built in audience, content that drives interaction and, eventually, a valuable marketing asset.

Social Media is Going to be Everyone’s Job

Good overview of the changes happening in the social media job space. Key point is that, just like “digital” before it, social media is blending into just about everyone’s role. But, companies aren’t really ready for that (Surprise, surprise):

Whether everyone is adequately trained for that job, however, is another question. Just as it took years to fully onboard email, integrating social media into the workplace is frustrated by a skills gap.

But, the biggest transformation is still just beginning. And functional skills won’t be the problem. Businesses are going to have to remake their cultures. As more and more of the core functions of business take on social, realtime dimensions, businesses are having to become truly social business. That’s a culture problem. Companies are still in the mode of adding social as another tool to do what they’ve always done. But, real innovation comes when businesses realize they can solve problems in new ways and pursue completely transformational opportunities that come when brands work in new ways.

So, lets do away with the job title. Let’s make social media part of all of our roles. But, great leaders will have to both understand the practical/skill aspects AND have a deep curiosity about how the culture of their businesses can evolve quickly.

A Couple Good Updates on Recent Google Search Changes

Google has been making a number of changes recently to it’s search algorythms. From Penguin 2.1 (to do a deeper analysis of sites to reduce spam) to Hummingbird (to improve consumer search results, especially for longer more complex searches). Here’s a couple useful overviews on what’s going on.

Most users shouldn’t notice much change. And, assuming your SEO strategies are focused on high quality, legitimate, long term objectives, most marketers won’t notice a TON of difference and won’t need to make many changes right away. If your team has you doing some sketchy linking approaches, you could be in trouble.

Key questions to ask your SEO/SEM team:

  • How will Penguin affect our site
  • Do we need to review our linking strategy or content strategy in the short term?
  • What changes will we need to make to our content and linking strategies over the long haul?

Lean Start-Up Lesson from MyTime

Nice lean start up example of “faking it until you make it”, or, in other words, using the people-power before you code it with software:

Anderson’s growth strategy is pretty clever. He has three overseas workers (in India) who will take any bookings made on the app and physically call the salon or restaurant on the user’s behalf, then email the user back to say if their appointment has been successful. This can be a little time consuming – I tried booking a hair appointment on the MyTime website and had to go back and forth to find a good time.

The overseas worker essentially plays two roles: a one-time personal assistant for me, and a sales person for MyTime. Once they have the salon on the phone to book an appointment, they mention that it came through MyTime, before adding, “Would you like us to create a free profile for our app, so we can connect to you calendar?”

It’s not only a good growth strategy, but it’s also a great way to understand the mindset of the businesses you’re working with, the eventual buyers of your software.

Fallon: What we Can Learn From Butch Vig & Rick Rubin

Great post from Chad Koehnen (Planner at Fallon) about "Smart" vs. inspiring. He comes down in favor of inspiring, not surprisingly. It's a great read, and especially helpful for brands trying to understand how to get the kind of creativity they need today. Good quote: 

Here’s a little secret that Planners would be advantaged to learn: Nobody (real people) truly cares about smart. That’s not to say it isn’t important, but it’s an input, not an output. Therefore, the only evaluation of smart should be through the work it inspires. People don’t care about what Producer Butch Vig told Nirvana during the making of Nevermind. People just care about how “Smells Like Teen Spirit” sounds like the perfect angsty, balls out, cymbal-crashing soundtrack to their life.

Whether it be Music Producing or Account Planning, smart is only as good as the interesting, hilarious, touching, persuasive, rocking, and beautiful product it inspires.

I also like this one (which i might put on a T-shirt): 

 Or more specifically, it’s a Planner’s job to fight on the side of people who love to consume amazing shit.