To succeed at social media and content marketing brands are always being told that they need to think more like publishers in order to capture the hearts and minds of their audience. But what does that actually mean? And how can B2B brands learn be good at it?
Publishers are, of course, in the content business. Their stock in trade is editorial material that is so good that people will happily pay for it, or at least good enough to attract such a large audience that selling adverts to support it is a viable business model.
Most B2B brands are not in the business of selling content or trying to make advertising revenue. For them the purpose of publishing content is to capture the attention of an audience which might also be interested in doing business with them. It’s a simple enough proposition – this blog post itself is a piece of content marketing. My goal is to write an article that is relevant and interesting to my target audience (in this case marketing professionals at B2B companies) and hopefully, if enough of them find it and read it, at some point in the future a small number of those people might think about me when they’re looking for an agency.
But one blog post won’t cut it, I can’t expect a single piece of content to generate many leads, if any at all. I need to create a lot of content and I need to keep doing it consistently over a long period of time in order to increase my chances of attracting the attention of, and building a relationship with, potential future clients.
And that’s what publishers are traditionally good at – consistently and regularly creating great content. So that’s what we mean when we say brands need to think like publishers. But how?
Publishing is a business like any other and consequently has well-worn processes and best practices for doing what it does. Great content doesn’t just happen, it takes work.
1) Planning is everything
The most common mistake made by brands in content marketing is failure to plan. You can’t expect to come up with a great idea for a blog post or a video off the cuff every week. You need to build an editorial calendar so you know what content you’re going to produce this week, next week, and every week for the next three months at least.
Use an editorial calendar template, like this one, and spend some time with your team filling in as many content ideas as you can come up with. Work out when would be the best time to publish them, who needs to write them, which subject matter experts should be consulted and how the content should be shared on your social channels. Set deadlines and assign responsibilities.
Keep the calendar up to date. Every month have a brainstorm session to come up with another month’s worth of content ideas to add to your calendar.
2) Respect the process
Don’t expect content development to just happen by itself. Make people responsible and accountable for it, make it part of their job. All of the content should have hard deadlines, and people should understand how long it takes to create the content and when they need to get started. If there isn’t a clear process in place, your content development programme will fall by the wayside and get ignored.
If you are serious about content marketing, put your money where your mouth is and dedicate resources to it, don’t expect people to do it as a sideline to their main job. Creating great content that people want to read and share takes time and talent, if you don’t respect that you won’t succeed at it.
3) Exercise quality control
Publishers invest a lot of resources into quality control, and so should you. Firstly, pay a lot of attention to the actual content, regardless of what format it takes (blog post, bylined article, video) – does it stack up, is it something you’d be proud for people to see? Or is it just a piece of tat that’s been hastily cobbled together under a looming deadline. Content is only content if it’s something that people would willing spend time consuming and recommend to their peers, otherwise it’s just marketing guff.
Once you’re happy with the actual content, then make sure it’s properly checked for spelling errors, typos, and factual inaccuracies. Again, implement a process for quality control. Nothing should be published unless it’s been rigorously sense checked and proof-read.
4) Make your content work hard for you
Publishers know that content is their main asset, so they find as many different ways to get value from it as possible. Running a round-table event? Think about how you can get as much content out of it as possible – can you write up a white paper from the event, spin that out into a few blog posts, create different versions of those posts to use as contributed articles for the trade media? Is there any opportunity to create video content at the event? How can you use Twitter and your other social channels?
Every original content idea can be extended into different formats and used in different ways across your channels. Once you’ve got a strong topic, think about how to get the most value from it. Even a simply blog post can easily be made into a piece of video content by asking the author to talk around a few key bullet points in front of a camera.