Five ways to make brand publishing work

by: on 02 December 2014

Pete Wood from 360i outlines 5 steps brands need to think about before embarking on content creation

From bacon to carbonated energy drinks, a host of products are finding ways to make brand publishing strategies work harder than traditional paid media. Pete Wood explains how they’ve done it.

"If the dwell time on a 1200 word article is 20 seconds, don’t assume that’s because the content is weak, maybe it doesn’t render in mobile properly, or the headline driving to the article was misleading."

Branded publishing isn’t an easy gig, but when you get it right, the results can be incredible. Increased sales, market share improvement, deeper consumer connection are all results that we’ve seen from client activity.

The best operations, like Mr Porter, Enterprise Rent-A-Car or British Airways, are executing at such a high level, it’s almost impossible to tell that you’re not actually sifting through an established digital magazine.

So what do you need to do to make sure your publishing venture succeeds and connects with the consumer in a meaningful way?

There are five things that brand publishers need to take on board before they are likely to win at brand publishing.

The competition is intense

Brands aren’t just competing with competitor brands but with everyone who has ever produced content, ever. If you want to cut through the noise, you need to lift yourself above the dearth of average, untargeted content. We constantly tell our clients, 'you're not competing with your vertical rivals, you're competing with The Guardian, Buzzfeed and Mashable’. The key priority should always be investing in the best possible content.

Know your target

Marketers can find themselves caught up in the pressure to drive content that works well for the board, but not well for the people they're looking to connect with. That's why it's integral to have a plan, a reason to exist and a strategy of how you're going to connect and deliver on your business objectives.

You need research into your consumers and their digital behaviours. If you're a fizzy drinks brands that wants to talk to millennials, that long-form digital magazine you have in mind probably won't fly. Pinpoint your target audience, look at how they behave online and track their habits; what do they share, what do they talk about, where do they hang out? Only then can you make a strategic decision on your digital architecture.

Specific is good

Content needs to be built for purpose. You need to know who you're talking to, how to creep into their conversations and how to make sure that your article means something. 

Buzzfeed does this really well. They create simple, niche, identity-based content. '10 things you have to eat this autumn’ falls flat but '10 things you'll want to eat this autumn if you're Jewish/a foodie/on a break-up' taps into the 'me' of content. Give your content the personal touch.

Prioritise distribution

Without distribution you’re basically relying on people finding something they don’t know exists. Set aside a proportion of budget to ensure you can bring eyeballs to your work.

Distribution doesn’t have to be paid, organic avenues can often yield exceptional results. Some of the biggest global media outlets insist their writers spend a proportion of their day seeding their content to influencers and people who may be interested in sharing with their communities. Irn-Bru famously launched their TV advert with one super fan and achieved over a million views in just over a month.

Test and learn

Both your content strategy and your paid distribution need to be constantly monitored and tweaked. Make sure you open yourself a Google analytics account. Be curious about everything. If the dwell time on a 1200 word article is 20 seconds, don’t assume that’s because the content is weak, maybe it doesn’t render in mobile properly, or the headline driving to the article was misleading. With your paid media, make sure your targeting is related to the article. Test content against multiple audiences and learn from those tests. There’s a rule in brand publishing, you never have it sussed. Don’t get down beat about a bad week or month, just learn and improve.

Brand publishing is a fantastic way to connect with a whole variety of consumers. However, you need to make sure you take the above steps before you dive in, because it’s an investment. Get it right and you’ll be telling your board that your content is achieving more minutes with consumers than your TV advertising, get it wrong and you’ll have an expensive embarrassment on your hands.

By Pete Wood, social media director, 360i