Brand content marketing is quickly becoming the marketing jargon phrase du jour. Since The Coca-Cola Company’s public declaration of its brand content intent, marketing directors everywhere have been scrambling to include “content” into their 2013 vision statements and even into real plans. Louis Eksteen delivers an outline on how to start the process.
But for brands and companies not familiar with brand content it’s often difficult to get going.
They realise the importance of brand content and that they have to include it going forward. Reality bites though and many are unsure of what the first steps should be. After all, in the new world of marketing communication where all brands are content brands, a certain level of knowledge, experience and understanding of how owned media works is required.
Here are six specific and actionable ways to kickstart your brand content efforts, now!
1. Allocate budget
Without the line item “brand content marketing” in your marketing budget you’ll have to repurpose budget allocated for other activities. This usually results in uncoordinated and unofficial brand content creation and execution. It will not receive serious attention as an unlisted activity and will probably not be tracked with the same vigour as other line items such as publicity, activation and advertising.
The owners of these regular budget line items will also not be happy to “donate” some of their allocated spend to a new, rebel cause.
To get brand content listed in your new budget you’ll have to provide a thorough strategy and action plan plus, ideally, some real world examples of the best brand content practices around the world. (Oh, and possibly a brand content investment return forecast.)
For examples of spectacular brand content success, start by searching for “Burberry” and “Angela Ahrendts” via Google. You’ll also do well to investigate what Red Bull has been doing. There are other examples of excellence in brand content, but these two very different brands are the best.
2. Appoint a chief content officer
The American Content Marketing Institute’s magazine is not called Chief Content Officer for nothing. This title implies seniority, experience and that the company takes content marketing seriously. It’s advisable to have the CCO report to the marketing director, as all content efforts should have specific marketing objectives.
But what you’re looking for in a CCO is someone experienced in two critical areas combined; journalism and marketing. These two worlds existed completely separately previously, the church and state in Time Inc’s parlance. Grey areas abound today though and thorough knowledge of how both media and marketing work is essential to drive successful brand content.
3. Create a brand content strategy
The first task of the CCO is to establish an acceptable, real world strategy to delineate how brand content marketing fits in with overall company objectives. Content is a powerful driver of brand voice and thus would ideally fit into other marketing and publicity efforts.
In the past the only real brand content activity companies considered was customer magazines. The rationale was that to be influential on a content level, brands had to create “their own” magazines to play a bit in the media world.
Now, with owned media a realistic and practical possibility in a mobile, digitally connected world, brand content strategy means much more than “let’s do a magazine”. It’s also not as simple as using social, as proper brand content lives on various platforms including social, web, print, presentations and, a bit surprisingly, investor relations.
A well-developed brand content strategy gets buy-in from the members of the board. That’s essential for budget and resource allocation, so your investment in a professional strategy with actionable plans will pay dividends over the long term.
4. Use specialists to execute
Brand content is a culture thing. This means it will take time and effort to entrench throughout the company. But most companies are not media specialists and have little understanding of how to recognise content creation opportunities and then to execute as well as traditional media.
To start, use outside experts in this field to kickstart your own internal efforts. In practise it works pretty much in the same way advertising agencies operate. A pitching process allows you to get a realistic picture of what’s available, to test cultural and chemistry fit and affords your initial brand content efforts the value that specialist experts bring.
5. Start brand content efforts with the written word
This might sound a bit strange, but nothing is better than writing down, formally, what you want to communicate via your owned media as brand content. It’s hard and difficult to do, but essential to get right.
The best brand content is really a package of content delivered across owned media platforms. Starting with writing down content in written form provides opportunity to develop, structure, analyse and critique the content piece internally before it’s seen by your target audience. This piece of content can then more easily be interpreted for video, blog, print, presentation and other owned media platforms.
Part of the discipline of getting into writing down brand content pieces is the realisation of how long it takes to create and develop a content piece, which will help with your scheduling. One crucial thing experienced media people understand is deadline creep. Imagine working at a daily newspaper or weekly magazine. The printed product has to be available on newsstands, no matter what. This cultural realisation by brand content managers will be invaluable to you going forward.
6. Sharing is caring
If brand content cannot be found it’s meaningless. Think of interesting ways of delivering and then sharing your content on many platforms to link to. Pinterest, for example, can be a great exponent of your social responsibility efforts in album format. Google+ may be a bit of a ghost town, but it helps with search engine optimisation.
Create a sharing line item as part of your brand content schedule. In this way your brand content cannot be marked as “done” until all links have been shared properly.
Louis Eksteen is managing director of Twisted Toast.
PHOTO: Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts