As companies realise they are in fact media companies and brands themselves, whatever their primary endeavours, the more they need to think about and execute content like media professionals. Technology allows for easy creation and dissemination of great brand content these days, so it’s simple to do, right?
Well… maybe. It’s very simple to create a Facebook Page, Twitter identity, YouTube channel or Pinterest board. But it takes a bit more skill to run professional brand content channels across multiple platforms, continuously. This is the reason why many companies and brands either do a shoddy job of brand content channel development, or they often adopt a campaign-like approach, treating content like advertising.
One reason for this could be that the company or brand does not quite understand how to maximise content creation opportunities. Advertising has essentially little to do with content creation and is by definition limited due to being experienced on media external to the company.
By contrast, brand content lives on a company or brand’s owned media and everything is entirely controlled by the company or brand directly. This also means the responsibility for creating brand content rests internally, with outside assistance from professional brand content agencies.
The great news is that companies and brands are, by their very nature, excellent sources of brand content. One just needs to recognise these brand content creation opportunities and then develop the appropriate brand content packages.
Here are five aspects to consider when trying to maximise content creation opportunities.
1. A culture of content
Once a company embarks on brand content marketing, it needs to develop a culture of content throughout the organisation. This means all employees and stakeholders need to be aware of the necessity to create content around the company’s activities. A great way to encourage a culture of content is to inculcate a sense of “if it’s not recorded, it didn’t happen”. This requires someone to record in writing and with pictures and video the interesting and noteworthy things the company does.
Importantly, this does not imply a free-for-all content creation avalanche. An important part of a content culture should include a well-communicated process and system for brand content creation to follow.
2. Brand content is not complete without editing and design
Brand content created on the fly is well and fine, but a critical editorial eye in the loop prevents low quality brand content to slip through. Style guides, keyword lists and other tools can assist greatly in ensuring brand content is created on-message, but a real-world editor/fact checker for brand content is as important as it is for professional media. This includes appropriate design.
Great content, well presented engages audiences much better than content that doesn’t look good. With the current rise in visual brand content, this has become even more important.
One of the reasons why digital content in general is often really bad is that it was created without a clear goal in mind and then no one with experience in professional media creation and design reviewed and edited the content package before dissemination.
Maximising content creation opportunities means planning, execution, editing, design and review before it’s placed on owned media channels. This doesn’t need to take a long time; it must simply be part of the process and culture.
3. Content channels are hungry beasts, feed them on a schedule
Without the experience of having worked to deadlines at daily newspapers or weekly magazines, brand content marketers will find out quickly how hungry brand content channels can be. If left unmanaged, owned media channels can quickly devour as much content as can possibly be produced.
To make sense of the available content through the process of content creation opportunities, brand content marketers need to deliver content packages on a pre-defined schedule. One of the reasons traditional media skill is in demand amongst content marketers is because it implies a disciplined approach, delivering content to expected deadlines, including creation, editing and design.
Running brand content channels like professional media, delivering on specific schedules and sifting through content and placing only the best, will ensure the channels are fed regularly, but in a manageable fashion. It also assists with placing only the best and not necessarily all available content.
4. Differentiate between features and news
Long-form, indulgent content plays an enormously important role in brand content as one has the luxury to tell your brand story completely and thoroughly. These features usually deal with brand stories of great value, but quick-breaking news about the company should also be disseminated across your owned media channels when appropriate.
These days a brand and company should tell its own brand stories across its owned channels first before giving it out via press releases and media invitations to external media. Journalists follow companies that do this well, as they know that’s where they’ll hear the news first.
Setting brand content up and delivering like this all the time requires real media skill and experience.
5. Sponsorships provide fabulous content creation opportunities
one of the most specifically neglected areas of brand content creation is sponsorships. Companies and brands shell out to be associated with a defined activity, but then often do nothing on their owned media channels to maximise exposure to the event sponsored. They often leave it all to the sponsored party to deliver on “media exposure”.
This is short-sighted, as the company and brand can benefit greatly from running its brand content itself on owned channels. Depending on the nature of the sponsorship, specific channels can even be dedicated to the sponsorship and so extend its productive life over a much longer period pre- and post the actual event sponsored. If it’s a long-term sponsorship over time, brand content owned media can play a crucial role to keep interest going.
Sponsorship activation that does not include brand content creation is thus an opportunity missed.
Louis Eksteen is MD of Twisted Toast.