“Rolling your own media brings with it a new set of challenges.”
IBM recently published research finding that about 80% of those who begin a corporate blog never post more than five entries. They stop. Give up. Leave it abandoned by the side of what was once called the information superhighway.
And that’s just blogging.
The Internet is littered with never-updated websites, neartweetless Twitter accounts, expressionless Facebook pages, and no-one-home YouTube channels. In the rush to adopt content marketing as a tactic, too many marketers forget that if you’re continually publishing, you have to think like…a publisher.
Increasingly, marketing is no longer about buying media (the advertising model). Media is cheap—or often even free. But rolling your own media brings with it a new set of challenges. Chief among those challenges is coming up with enough content to fill all those blank pages, blog posts, profiles, and such, and doing so on a regular basis, not just in a one-off burst of week one enthusiasm.
And hey, this is really nothing new. Coming up with new stuff to say has been an issue for content marketers since the days of the corporate newsletter. Only now, there are even more virtual pages to fill with even more information—and in more multimedia formats.
Who’s good at solving that dilemma? Publishers. If you want to win at the content game, it’s time you started thinking like one.
In short, brands are media. Marketers are editors, or at least need to start thinking like editors and producers if they don’t want to come up shorthanded. So herewith, steps toward publisher-think help marketers get beyond that accusatory blank white page and start thinking like a true content professional.
Here are 14 steps to get you there:
- Know your audience—This couldn’t be simpler or more self-evident, but the importance of knowing who you’re producing content for cannot be overstated. Customers? Prospects? Fans? Industry peers? Colleagues? The media? Some or all of the above? Selecting topics and tailoring messaging is a whole lot easier when you know who’s on the receiving end.
- Define key themes and messages—Now that you know who you’re addressing, what is it, broadly speaking, you want to communicate to them? Don’t just focus on your product, service, or business here, but do some thinking as to how it relates to an audience’s real-world concerns. If you’re a local business, you may want to weave broader local themes into your content. If you’re hawking something with a high consideration curve, education and learning may be part of your messaging. Use your knowledge of your audience, your tone of voice, and the broader informational environment in which you reside to inform themes and messaging.
- Establish a frequency framework—Half the journalists I know (and being one, I know quite a few) say they write for periodicals because they need deadlines to produce something. In the trade, it’s called feeding the beast. You may not need to blog, or write, or tweet, or statusupdate every day, but once per month is probably not adequate, and you risk the whole endeavor tipping off the cliff. Create a schedule for content updates, and adhere to it. Map out potential stories, features, or other content in advance so that when the deadline looms, you’ll have a sense of what’s due. Falling into a rhythm beats falling out of visibility altogether.
- Create a detailed editorial calendar—An editorial calendar plugs directly into the frequency framework. Just as your local newspaper has a food and dining feature on Wednesdays, an expanded entertainment section on Fridays, and home and gardening every Thursday, mapping a type of content to your frequency framework is a great step forward in terms of making relevant content happen on a reasonably frequent schedule.
- Develop regular features and rubrics—Creating a few regularly appearing content elements is one of the oldest editorial tricks in the book. Comics, horoscopes, weather, and film listings help round off a newspaper’s offerings and keep readers coming back for more. Moreover, when you have these regular features, they’re all but autopopulating. Highlights of the week, links to other relevant content, or a quote of the day are just a few down-and-dirty ideas to keep the flow of content constantly bubbling.
- Interview—Interviews probably belong in item #5, but they are notable enough to warrant discussion on their own. Are your own ideas drying up? Talk to others, whether they’re experts in your field, enthusiastic users, or people in your company. Make a list of potential interview subjects, and consider making interviews a regular content feature.
- Go multimedia—Content isn’t limited to text alone, of course. Images, photos, videos, and audio files expand and enhance your content offerings. Blogging? Posts accompanied by a graphic image draw attention to themselves and attract far more clickthroughs than naked-text posts. Don’t take my word for it—give it a shot. Your web metrics bear this one out.
- Enlist expert contributors, and provide them with guidelines—You don’t have to go it alone. Look around at your coworkers, colleagues, and professional network. There are lots of potential content contributors out there. Often, all you have to do is ask, either for one-off contributions or regular features. You’ll want to consider a budget item in this category to incentivize timely and authoritative contributions from really desirable commentators.
- Create User-Generated Content—User-generated content is, of course, a whole new route to ensuring content is created for you, be it comments, ratings and reviews, or contests. With clearly defined guidelines and expectations and a little bit of polite asking, you may be surprised at how much content is created for you rather than by you.
- Opine and editorialize—A frequent stumbling block to content creation is when the creators think they’re obligated to be first to break a piece of news. Unless it’s news about you, this is not a winning strategy.
It’s a big Internet out there, and news is traveling at the speed of fiber optic cable. News has become commoditized. It’s not easy to get the exclusive scoop on a revolution in the Middle East, or who just won the pennant. By the time you’ve typed it, it’s on the web wall-to-wall. Leave breaking news to the pros. Divest yourself of the notion that you’re a reporter and instead become an expert observer and interpreter of what news means to your audience. Establish yourself, your company, or your brand as a thought leader, not as a deadline reporter.
- Turn on comments and feedback—Whatever digital platform you’re creating content for, ensure comments and feedback mechanisms are in place, easy to use, and monitored. This not only creates a platform for participation, it’s a gauge of how well you’re doing, what excites and interests your audience, and will doubtless feed in ideas for shaping and improving future content. Communicate, but don’t lecture or preach.
- Listen—Listen to what others in your space are saying, and do so outside the parameters of your own comments section. Set up topic alerts for your relevant themes. Get out there and participate in what others are saying within your arena of expertise. It’s the editorial, not to mention the social media equivalent of leaving the house.
- Recycle—Once a piece of content is published, nurture and evolve it. Publishers follow up on news, track trends as they develop, and return to stories to examine long-term effects. They may cover a news item and then editorialize or voice an opinion about the development. They add video or graphics to embellish a point that was made in print. You get the idea: Create more opportunity for the content that you have to get out there.
- Capture—In a number of respects, publishing has always been a form of lead-generation. Consumer publishers use subscriber, viewership and newsstand information, and data to profile customers, and they market those numbers and demographics to their advertisers. Business-tobusiness (B2B) publishers capture leads for that purpose, and often also to market ancillary products and services to that audience, be it research reports, conferences, or other special offers.