This post originally appeared in our August issue of “Live Report from the Future of Marketing,” our monthly Post-Advertising newsletter. Subscribe for free here.
Most marketing agencies approach their content with the standard brush. They take a look at the latest tools and trends, and pull together a few tips here and there. That subtle approach is not necessarily a bad thing, but in this difficult economy, that’s no longer good enough. Desperate times call for bold strokes. That’s why we at Story Worldwide have decided to put our money where our mouth is — we’re not only outlining five key ideas for the future of content marketing, we’re currently investing in them.
1. Big brands need editorial councils
Content is the only thing that attracts and truly motivates consumers in this opt-in world. It’s required to start and sustain all conversations in social media. But managing ongoing multichannel content production is complex, combining best practices from traditional publishing companies, marketing consultancies and digital agencies. Not to mention, not everyone is truly a natural storyteller. Real storytelling requires different skills and experience than traditional advertising. It requires a mastery of narrative techniques. Metaphors. Archetypes. Character. Story arcs. It also requires a committing to being ‘always on,’ producing content and managing the resulting conversations on an ongoing continual basis.
Brands that truly strive for effective multichannel content, particularly if it spans borders, languages, and traditions, must establish what we call an Editorial Council. They produce an Editorial Strategy and an Editorial Calendar. All content proceeds from there. The brand feeds the Editorial Council; the Editorial Council creates the Editorial Strategy and the Editorial Calendar, which guide all executions. At Story we’ve seen this work to great success with Lexus, and as big brands begin to embrace content more wholeheartedly, we expect to see it become far more commonplace.
2. Make every employee a content producer
Often brands that create content, especially blogs, have dedicated authors. They’re usually a select few individuals, often in the marketing department (and strangely removed from much of the brand’s day-to-day operations), who gather and produce the content. But we’ve shifted to a place where valuable content lives in every nook and cranny of your brand and business. You’ve got talented team members churning out valuable and unique products, yet their expertise and knowledge is restricted to their cubicle or personal blog.
Leverage the most valuable assets within your company – your employees – and encourage and empower them to share their expertise, turning it into a truly unique piece of content. They don’t have to write the final version (that’s where the real writers come in), but they can be a source of content that no marketing department can ever unearth on their own.
Consider creating a blog post, a how-to series, an eBook, or simply interview them and upload it as a podcast or a Q&A on your blog. At Story, we not only help produce such content for companies like Toasted Head wines, but we’ve also begun producing a series of 16 eBooks (one is available now) written by our talented game developers, writers, designers, and more.
3. Feed your community with fresh content
Simply maintaining a stream of content for your community, whether it’s on a blog or on Facebook, is not enough. In order to effectively engage audiences, brands must constantly produce unique content to keep their audience’s attention piqued. Otherwise, like produce, your community will spoil.
We’re not just talking about the difference between infrequent and frequent content. Simply posting content frequently doesn’t mean it’s “fresh,” in this case. I can eat a fresh grapefruit every day for breakfast but after a while, no matter how juicy it is, I’m going to get sick of it. We’re suggesting that on top of frequently posting content, in order to properly cultivate a community, you MUST continually innovate – create many different types of content, including unique content (think games, live event coverage, innovating upon user-generated content) that can ONLY be found within your community. We go much more in depth here.
4. Be willing to leave your home base
A common strategy for most brands is to create individual pieces of content that pull the user back to the brand’s home base. This content spreads across paid and owned — from Google PPC to eBooks to social media accounts — with the basic idea that you should reach audiences where they are and bring them back to your brand site (home base) where they can learn more, print a coupon to purchase your product or fill out a contact form to inquire about your services.
It’s a standard strategy and we’re not suggesting you ditch your home base completely (particularly for SEO purposes), but moving forward your brand needs to have more respect for both your individual content pieces and the audiences you’re trying to reach. View each piece of content as a brand advocate in and of itself. Design them in a way that carries your brand objectives and brand values with links to the places you want to take consumers. It’s not reasonable to think that an advocate of your brand actually wants to spend time on your brand’s site. What’s reasonable is to think that your brand advocates will help a great piece of content spread. Experiences are now between the person and the useful content, so focusing more on creating that spreadable content and less on how to get them back to your site will pay dividends.
5. Allow digital content marketing to drive offline behavior
“Involve the fans” is the sine qua non of digital marketing today. But to date, these participation opportunities have been strictly limited. Bringing them into your community is always important, but what happens when they get there? Are your goals loftier than just engagement? Particularly if your product or service is tangible, can you really use digital to move the analog needle? And can generating productive online-to-offline behavior really lower traditional ad spending?
Yes, believe it or not, digital content marketing is not restricted to just driving online behavior (becoming a fan, signing up for a newsletter, sharing a post, or e-commerce). You can drive offline behavior through digital by involving advocates materially in the creation of content, and curating the digital communities that form around it. We’ve seen this happen first hand with our client WGNA and their How I Met Your Mother Superfan community. WGNA features “Superfans” in TV spots, tweeters show up in crawls during shows, and fans program the lineup for episode marathons (primarily achieved through Facebook and YouTube). In exchange, WGNA has been able to leverage the show’s existing online fan base to drive audience, positioning WGNA well for the long-term transition from lean-back-TV to online-interactive experience. Not to mention, it means they can continue to reduce their stake in budget-intensive traditional advertising and move a portion of it towards post-advertising while banking the rest.
(We believe in this last one so much that we’ll be hosting a session at Content Marketing World about this very topic.)
These are five of our big ideas that are brewing at Post-Advertising. Do you think we’re on-point or off-base? What big ideas do YOU have?