Red Bull have famously become the publishing house who happen to sell a drink. The innovative brand recognised the importance of the emotional connection, of being part of the community and engaging their consumers with their product by bringing it to life in a multidimensional way.
The brand not only produce online publications and viral video, they’re the masters of story-telling, and have taken the story off-line running huge events such as running and music events, where of course you can also buy your Red Bull drink.
Why do it?
Almost three-quarters of marketers – 72 per cent – believe that branded content is significantly more effective than traditional magazine advertisements. (Custom Content Council). On average, conversion rates are six times higher for companies and brands using content marketing than those that aren’t, at 2.9 per cent versus 0.5 per cent, respectively. (Aberdeen Group). We know content works, but do you know how to make it work for your brand?
As the traditional publishing industry which was reliant on advertising and cover-price fails to cut it, brands are taking centre stage, using content to engage consumers, as well as earn their loyalty. People still want to consume quality content and at the same time they expect brands to reflect their values and tell great stories. As a journalist now running a boutique content agency, I help to give brands the ‘Red Bull effect’. Whether you hire an agency, a freelancer or use in-house teams, these simple seven steps will help you to master your content marketing and give yourself wings to get your message out there.
7-Step Guide to Being a Publisher Brand
1. Define your business objectives
It’s vital to think about what your business objectives are before creating content. As enjoyable as it is, make sure it’s not just a vanity project. Clearly define your objectives: Do you want to sell more of your product and service, do you want to reach more people, are you launching a campaign to target and engage new audience, for example, a triathlon company who wants to reach women? Are you using content to retain existing customers and cement their loyalty? It’s obvious but knowing what your objectives are mean you can measure results.
2. Your audience
If you don’t take time to understand your customer, you won’t be able to reach them through content marketing. Whether you’re writing an article, vlogging, or podcasting – check in to see if you are reaching the person you want to reach. People buy from people who are like them, who know them, and who provide solutions to their problems. It’s important to research your user; great resources include Sports England’s Pen Portraits and Gov.uk Profiles. Create a social listening strategy (this can be as simple as selecting hashtags on Instagram to monitor) and meet your customer on and off-line.
3. See the bigger picture
Defining the bigger picture often ends up on the ‘should’ list. Small and medium businesses often fail to document their mission, vision and values, it’s something they ‘should’ do but it ends up at the bottom of the list of priorities. Without a clear understanding of the bigger picture, the impact you want your business to make and the underlying values that hold your business together, it’s very hard to shape and create meaningful messages and content that will engage your customer. The need for brands to adhere to a purpose, and to be doing something bigger than themselves, for example, promoting sustainability, working with women, or finding ways to put mental health on the agenda, is firmly entrenched and expected by many consumers.
4. Your voice
Your content needs to be true to who and what you are and it’s vital everyone in your organisation uses the same language – and understands your ‘why’. Creating a system to govern all the content you publish, including a tone of voice document and a style sheet, where you’ll write down how you say things and set out some guidelines on the sort of words and images you use and the ones you don’t. Getting all this right will save you work in the long run will unify your team when it comes to brand messaging and representation. These brand documents can be a resource to refer back to when there are product decisions to be made.
To be a publisher you need to create content. But remember you may already have it? Create an inventory of all your existing content. An inventory will contain a breakdown of all documents and content belonging to your brand. What content do you own right now? Can you re-purpose that marketing leaflet in a blog? Did you create a video that you shared on You Tube that can be edited and atomised for social media? Is it time to get rid of content that’s out of date, or is it time to re-categorise your assets? Once you’ve done this it’s important to do an SEO and relevance check (you may need an agency to help here).
Creating, shaping, and delivering a good story are key to ‘hooking’ in your customer. Not surprisingly, Nike is the sporting brand that leads the way with story-telling in sport. The brand launches a product with a story not a press release. And their stories, like many brands, are campaigning and powerful stories, for example, the Equality campaign, has a goal of, ‘celebrating differences and inspiring change through the power of sport.’
For smaller brands with smaller budgets, it’s vital to refer back to your bigger picture and be imaginative in how you create content and shape your story. Authenticity as any brand will know is the key to being heard, so get your tribe to tell and share your story. This can be followers on social media, or members of your team. Tap into your resources, the social media savvy elite runner working on the shop floor, the graduate trainee playing football for a league-winning team.
Share your own company story – if you live, breathe, sleep your brand – share the story. And finally, get off line at events, organised runs, for example, at this year’s London Marathon, running underwear specialists, Runderwear organised a run that uncovered Secret London, the history we don’t see.
This was a clever tie-in for a brand creating clothing we wear under our running clothes, and as the team of runners ran in their product it gave them great visual content to share online – and be shared by their community.
7. Plan it, publish it, measure it
To deliver content effectively think like a national newspaper editor, or TV production company. Plan your content to align with your business objective and make sure you measure feedback at every touchpoint. Anyone with an online presence should install Google Analytics, and make use of other Google free tools, for tracking the technical health of your web page. Metrics for metrics sake are no use, remember to go back to point one and identify your business goals, and then measure accordingly.
When planning your content always ask yourself ‘What’s the story?’ and check in with seasonal trends, and events, for example a sporting brand may want to tap in to the Cricket World Cup. When it comes to social media, be reactive and responsive, and think like a newsroom - always keep an eye on the big stories and see how they can work with your brand’s story.
Finally, a good content strategy will include details of how and when the content should be updated and maintained, a clear set of metrics to assess its success and a plan to review it through analytics and on-page feedback. There should also be a timeline, is it ‘evergreen’ content or should it be archived after a period of time.