The 3 Golden Rules for Creating Brand Content

goldenrules

Social media content only works if:

  • It’s on brand
  • It’s of interest to your customers
  • It’s high-quality

Otherwise why bother?

Let’s look at these three golden rules more closely.

1. It’s on brand

The key to a great content strategy is finding the intersection between your brand and the passions of your customers.

ESPN is about sports, but so is Nike. People use Nike apps for exercise. They read Nike tips on running. And, yes, they end up buying Nike sneakers to run in. Nike understands the passions of their customers. They provide it and customers eat it up. Why? Because it is what Nike’s customers expect Nike to be talking about.

This is the same for every brand – from back-end technology providers to pizza restaurants. So a clothing retailer can engage with their fans about fashion. A food company about barbecuing. An outfitter on climbing mountains. And so on.

Being on brand also means the content has the voice and appearance of the overall brand. No one expects a bank to write in slang with all capital letters on its Twitter account. In fact, it would be shockingly odd.

2. It’s of interest to your customers

Brands get in trouble when they wander off the reservation. Likely no one cares what a software company thinks about the latest baseball trade. Likewise few people want financial planning advice from a company that makes cleaning products. Brands should stick to their knitting. Focus on what they know and what their customers expect them to know.

Brands should also avoid being boring. Posting “Happy Fourth of July” isn’t content that many fans and followers want from a corporation. However, “Happy Fourth of July – here are our three favorite grilling recipes for the holiday” would be valuable from a brand that sells barbecue grills.

To be interesting you need to provide value.

3. It’s high-quality

Shooting a 10-minute Q&A video of your vice president of sales on your iPhone might provide value to him – but few people are going to want to watch it. Why would they?

Social media isn’t about adverting. It’s about building a stronger relationships with your customers.

So don’t short change your customers by giving them crap.

Links:

The Death of Content Marketing (via LinkedIn)

Six Golden Rules for Social Media Marketing for Business (via Business2Community)

Is It Really Important to be First with the News?

FirstJourno

It is to journalists.

They are obsessed with being first – with getting the “scoop.” It’s a badge of honor in the industry. When I was a newspaper reporter the most important thing was to beat the competition. To beat them to a story. If you got it first it didn’t matter if they got it better.

In fact getting beat by your competition was the fastest way to get in trouble. Fact errors? Not so much. But getting scooped by another newspaper? Trouble. Big trouble.

Ironically, the only people who care about being first are journalists.

Because guess what?

Readers could care less.

I’ve never heard anyone outside of the journalism industry talk about which news organization was the first to break a story.

So it was interest that I read Steve Buttry of Digital First’s blog post about live tweeting and using Twitter during news coverage. The post – which admittedly was aimed at journalists – was mostly concerned about the battle of being first with the news and whether by using Twitter a reporter was alerting his competition to what he was working on.

A big part of the debate was whether a tweet counted as breaking a news story.

There was little discussion about the readers. About how using Twitter to report news is a way to make a better and more interesting experience for them. The subsequent conversation about the post – on Twitter of course – even discussed the revenue implications of tweets vs. website.

Ugh.

A big problem with the news business today is that they too often write and report for their competition rather than for their readers. The audience that gets the focus and the most attention are their rivals. We beat you! We did it better! Are you gnashing your teeth yet?

That mentality further alienates readers. As does all the hand-wringing about views, SEO and revenue generation. That’s the job of the business end of journalism. Journalists should be focused on delivering quality news content to their readers.

And yes that means using Twitter and other social media networks. It’s where large blocks of their readers now find their news. By using Twitter they provide better coverage and a better experience for those readers.

End of story.

Links:

You Don’t Tip Competitors on Twitter, You Beat Them (via Steve Buttry)

MediaNation Storify curation of Twitter/Journalist discussion

All the Fake News That’s Fit to Print

FakeNews

Here’s how many people now get their news and information:

  • Google
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

In other words, through search and social media.

It works one of two ways:

  • People go to a search engine, enter a search term, and then click on a link within the top 10 search results
  • People scroll through their social media feeds and click on links shared by their friends and followers

In fact, 52 percent of Twitter users and 48% of Facebook users are using the sites as their primary news sources, according to Pew Research. That number is going to continue to climb.

What’s missing here are filters.

Because Google, Twitter and Facebook aren’t news sources. They are delivery systems. The actual source of a piece of news or information is still crucial, but many people are placing less emphasis on who wrote, researched and published the news because many times they don’t even know.

All they know is they read it on “Google” or on “Facebook.”

But news and information are not created equally. Journalists who work for the New York Times, for example, go through a rigorous process of reporting, fact-checking and having their news stories edited by professionals. This doesn’t hold true for bloggers and other online news sources.

We need trusted filters, but unfortunately even these filters are eroding at a rapid rate because of cutbacks and the speed of the Internet.

The latest evidence of journalism demise happened last week when a story about North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un murdering his uncle by feeding him alive to 120 hungry dogs circled the globe. It appeared in major news outlets like USA Today and the New York Daily News.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t true. It was fake.

It was first “reported” on a Weibo, a social media site in China – as a piece of satire. It then got picked up and circulated. Finally, getting into a Chinese newspaper and later being picked up by western media.

Oops.

With the speed and convenience of the Internet, fewer people – and fewer “journalists” are paying attention to the actual source of the news.

Digital news sources have already surpassed newspapers and radio as the most common source for news (and it is gaining on TV news at an alarming rate). Already about 1 in 3 members of Generation Y use social media as their primary source for news and information.

So expect more “fake” news this year as filters continue to fray.

Links:

News Use Across Social Media Sites (via Pew Research)

How Do Americans Get Their News in 2013 (via Social Media Today)

Fake Story in USA Today

NPR story on “fake” Kim Jong-un story

Do You Have a Right to Pornography?

BritPorn

There’s a lot of porn on the Internet.

Maybe you’ve noticed by “accidentally” stumbling upon it.

Some of it is done tastefully, some of it is quite grotesque. Most of it leaves you feeling icky (or so I’ve heard). But the biggest problem with online pornography is that it is so accessible.

Without a filter just about any online search delivers back pornographic content. Just try to search on a woman’s name – any woman’s name – and see what you get back.

As a result, getting porn – even the grotesque kind – is only a few clicks away. And that means children can be exposed to it quite easily without really trying.

So this begs the question: Should filtering pornography be the responsibility of individuals or society?

Britain is about to try the latter. Prime Minister David Cameron has passed legislation that requires the four largest Internet providers to block pornographic content unless a customer specifically opts in for it. In other words, you can’t access pornography unless you make a formal written request to get it.

The new legislation will affect 20 million households in the UK.

The Guardian is vehemently opposed to it. The newspaper believes the government should not be determining what is pornography and what is not. It argues that a lot of legitimate health and gay lifestyle material is being blocked by the government filters.

According to the Guardian:

“Cameron’s porn filter looks less like an attempt to protect kids than a convenient way to block a lot of content the British government doesn’t want its citizens to see, with no public consultation whatsoever.”

However, the Huffington Post UK notes that 7 our of 10 children were exposed to “raw” sexual images on the Internet last year and that age limitation filters have proven to be a failure (for example, 38% of children under the age of 12 have social media profiles when most sites require users be at least 13 years old).

According to Suzi Godson, a sex columnist for the Huffington Post UK:

“Given the number of screens most kids now have access to, the only way to protect young people from the worst excesses of porn is to explain to them that an interest in sex is natural, and healthy, but porn is to normal sex, what Barbie and Ken are to normal humans.”

Do people have a right to unfiltered pornography on the Internet? Should governments help to block pornography from children? What do you think?

Links:

David Cameron’s Internet Porn Filter (via The Guardian)

10 Things You Need to Know Before You Filter Porn (via Huffington Post UK)

5 Social Media Predictions for 2014

Facebookexplosion

Happy 2014.

I’m still disappointed that we don’t have flying cars and robot servants yet, but I’m hoping we make strides this year. I’m also hoping we get smarter about the environment and how to remove big money from politics.

But I digress. Let’s talk social/digital media instead.

Here are three predictions for the social and digital media industry in 2014.

1. Content Distribution is Elevated to a Must-Have

2013 was the year of content creation. Brands still need to create powerful content, but more emphasis will be placed on distributing that content. It’s no longer effective to simply publish content on social channels and wait for an audience to arrive. Think about it like this. Book publishers don’t just publish books – they market them. Film producers don’t just create movies – they market them.

The same holds true for digital content. Brands need a sophisticated distribution plan to get their content noticed by the right audiences. This means developing a strategic social and digital strategy across paid, earned and owned channels. And remember, paid now includes both earned and owned.

Social channels have evolved and brands can no longer reach organic audiences effective without a paid plan.

Brands need to wake up to the fact that spending $25,000 for a cool video does little good if only 200 people watch it.

2. Facebook Continues to Blow It

I get it. Facebook is public now. They have to monetize and please shareholders. But they also need to realize that they are in the process of killing their own product.

Teens are fleeing at an uncanny speed. Advertising is clogging News Feeds.

But even worse Facebook is slowly eroding organic engagement between brands and their fans. Instead they want brands to pay for that engagement – per post. Yet many brands have not woken up fully to the fact that most of their postings on Facebook reach a paltry percentage of their fans.

When they do – look out for major backlash.

Facebook is truly becoming a leased property and less appealing as the rent increases and they nickel and dime brands. Facebook needs a better system for brands. How about a tiered partner program with features and options built into an annual or monthly subscription rate?

3. Digital and Social Media Gets Grayer 

Brands continue to rely on agencies for digital and social know-how. But internally they continue to hire junior level executives to be their digital and social leads. This isn’t working and they finally realize this in 2014.

Digital content is now at the center of most brand marketing and brands need senior leadership to run these operations – everything from strategy and to content channel optimization. Digital content can’t be bolted on to marketing or communications. It needs to be its own department with a smart leader running it.

4. Live Content Explodes

Social and digital channels were built for live engagement – especially video. This year brands will realize that “live” programming from streaming events and panels to original programming is a way to grab attention, increase engagement and build stronger relationships with customers and influencers.

It also adds sizzle and excitement to every campaign.

5. Media Relations Transforms into Media Partnerships

Pitching the media your brand story is becoming a thing of the past. While it will continue to hold ground (like fax machines and writing a letter), it will no longer be the center of a PR campaign.

Public relations efforts will be more focused on media partnerships, pitching digital content, media integrations and paid sponsorships.

Even the mighty New York Times is preparing a new website to handle sponsored stories from advertisers.

——————

Do you have any predictions for 2014 you care to share?

Links:

Teenagers migrate from Facebook (via the Guardian)

The Worst Social Media Marketing Advice You Will Ever Hear (via Jeff Bullas)

Facebook Saturation (via Social Media Explorer)

Marketers are Forced to Buy Facebook Ads (via Social Times)

New York Times Gets Ready for Native Advertising (via Mashable)

3 Ways to Make Your Content Awesome

AwesomeContent

Here are three ways to think differently about brand content that can help you reach your audiences better.

1. Your content is only as good as its distribution

You may have written the greatest e-book of all time. You may have produced the funniest video ever made. Your blog post may be the most informative ever penned.

But none of that matters if you content isn’t discovered.

Getting your content in front of the right audiences is just as important as your content. If you don’t have a plan – a strategy – for distributing it then your content will likely languish in obscurity.

2. Engagement isn’t a catch phrase but a powerful incentive for people to consume your content

Posting isn’t good enough. You can post articles, post pictures, post, well, just about anything. And some people will consume your content that way.

But making the content engaging will attract for people.

What does that mean?

Make it interactive. Ask for comments. Ask for feedback. Allow people to shape, change and customize the content. Reward people for interacting with it and sharing it. This makes your content more personal and more worthy of your audience’s attention.

3. Content shouldn’t be self-serving, but audience serving

Stop singing about yourself. Stop praising your self.

If brands want to engage audiences with content then they need create content for the audience. What content does your audience want? They probably don’t want sales pitches. As Tracey Parsons notes in a recent post on Social Media Explorer: “Stop trying to sell me stuff on social!” Amen!

Produce brand content that is helpful, informative, insightful, interesting and even funny.  that kind of content.

———-

What tips do you have for making brand content work harder?

Links:

The Publisher of the Future Looks Like an Agency (via Digiday)

All I want for Christmas is… (via Social Media Explorer)

Q: Why did Patch Fail? A: Quality

Patch

It takes people and resources to create quality journalism.

Patch wanted quality journalism with neither.

So it got what it paid for.

As a result, AOL is pulling the plug on Patch, the company’s grand experiment creating a network of local news hubs. It’s hard to believe that at one time Patch had about 900 sites and more than 1,400 employees. But they may have been the root of the problem.

Having so little people trying to create ALL the content and buy ALL the advertising for such a large enterprise proved to be next to impossible.

And as a result, the experiment is over. AOL announced this week that AOL will be dumping Patch and hopes to find a sucker buyer for the flagging network.

The root of Patch’s problem has always been quality. The sites were run by notoriously under-compensated and overworked editors, who were often responsible for multiple sites. This was not  recipe for success when going up against locally entrenched news operations – while admittedly suffering from their own cutbacks – but still better staffed, better funded and with an institutional knowledge of their respective communities.

The latter point – institutional knowledge – should not be minimized. Having a long history of covering a community and being able to contextualize and frame ongoing news is very underrated.

My own local Patch is a perfect case study for what’s wrong with Patch’s model. The editor is only five years out of college. He was a freelance writer before taking over as editor of my local Patch, but unfortunately he also the editor of the patch for a neighboring town as well.

So my editor is responsible for filling two Patch websites – every single day.

When big news broke in my town several weeks ago, it was the established media outlets like the Boston Globe, Boston Herald and the TV news stations moving the needle. The Patch was doing mop up work and getting everything last. They weren’t even able to provide local angles.

Why?

Limited resources. Inexperienced staff. Overworked staff.

In the end that was the real Patch story.

Links:

New York Times Media Critic David Carr on the End of Patch

Goodbye, Patch: Good Idea, Bad Execution (via Gawker)

Content Distribution is the New PR

ContentDistribution

 

Here’s a lesson I never forgot.

When I departed journalism to become a PR consultant, I carved out a specialty at media relations. I excelled at getting the business media – Businessweek, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company and many others – to write about my clients.

I can remember one client getting frustrated with my account team. We weren’t getting any traction pitching his company’s story to the media. We groused about the usual: terrible spokespeople, weak storylines and underwhelming products. Basically, excuses.

“We’ve pitched everyone,” I told him. “We’re working on it day and night.”

“That’s great,” he said. “But I’m not paying you to pitch. I’m paying you to get stories in the press.”

That really stuck with me (after the sting wore off). But he was right. He wanted an audience. He wanted eyeballs on stories about his company to build awareness, help sell product and to strengthen his company’s reputation and standing in the market.

Flash forward to now.

I’m in digital communications and my teams create content. All kinds of content: videos, images, infographics, applications, blog posts and tons of other social content.

But guess what?

Creating content is yesterday’s media pitching.

The content has to be great. Just like the pitch had to be great. But at the end of the day, the content and the pitch are just vehicles to get a brand’s messages to an audience.

What matters today is getting the content noticed. Getting it distributed to the right audiences. Getting eyeballs on the content. Because getting the content distributed is what builds awareness, helps sell product and what strengthens a company’s reputation and standing in the market.

Distribution today equals what getting the story published was yesterday.

You can have the best pitch in the world. But if it doesn’t succeed in getting a story published in the press then what good is it? It’s the same with content. You can make the best video in the world, but if no one sees it? Well, it doesn’t do much good.

That’s why content creation and content distribution must go hand-in-hand.

That’s why content distribution is the new PR.

Links:

The Rise of the Content Distribution Space (via Forrester)

12 Tips for Better Content Distribution (via Shareaholic)

The Holidays are Better When They are Live

Holiday GoLive

GoLive Holiday Concert from Weber Shandwick Boston

This year Weber Shandwick rolled out a new offering: GoLive.

GoLive is creating a TV-quality “live” broadcast online. We have done cooking shows, gadget shows, thought leadership broadcasts – you name it. All of them broadcast on digital and social media channels: from Facebook to Twitter.

It’s a great way to build excitement, partner with media, and reach new audiences.

Last month it won the Best New Product of the year by PR News.

Yesterday, Weber Shandwick Boston showcased GoLive for our clients, friends and colleagues in the form of a “live” holiday card. For those that missed it please click the link up on the top of this post.

(A big thanks to our friends and partners at UStream).

Enjoy the show! I hope it sets the mood for a wonderful holiday season.

Links:

Weber Shandwick Seattle’s Holiday Video

Weber Shandwick Southwest Holiday Card

A Distribution Manifesto

Let’s talk Ron Burgandy.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the spot on ESPN where Will Ferrell interviews Peyton Manning. It was broadcast on-air and the video now has 3M+ views on YouTube. People have been sharing it everywhere and bloggers and media are talking and writing about it.

So was that a paid spot? Or was it earned? Or Owned? Or all of the above?

And even bigger question: Does it even matter?

Because the content was so good – so funny – that most people could care less where it came from or how they got it.

This is example of how the way marketers and communicators have traditionally thought about distribution has been turned on its head. This is the traditional way of thinking about distribution:

First

Separate and distinct distribution buckets that have their own unique types of content. For example, we think of earned as pitching stories to influencers and think of paid as buying an ad. Brands also segment distribution as well. They use their advertising agencies to do paid and think of it as media buying. The PR folks handle earned media and the social media people do owned via tweets, blog posts and Facebook posts.

But I’d argue that PAID, EARNED and OWNED is no longer applicable. The Internet and social media has destroyed that construct.

Because the fact of the matter is paid now runs across all distribution.

Kind of like this:

New Distribution Model

Paid no longer means advertising. It means amplifying and spreading digital content.

At the heart of all this, of course, is content. But not advertising content. Because audiences don’t want that type of content. They would rather have the content like Ron Burgandy interviewing Peyton Manning rather than the 30-second ad spot for the movie. This is brand content, but has editorial or entertainment value.

Distributing content is what communications is becoming. It’s the new PR.

And that means PR consultants need understand how to build distribution campaigns that have paid as a central part of it all the time.

In the current environment, media companies are ripe for partnerships, integrations and sponsorships – and most of these are paid. Yes, PR consultants can still pitch the media, but part of the relationship with influencers is now paid. Owned channels now require paid to be fully effective. And there are the new paid distribution platforms like OutBrain and Viral Gains that are rooted in media partnerships.

Whether we like it or not distribution is becoming the new media relations.

Brands and agencies have to adapt to this new environment. They need to focus less on creating ads and media buying and more on creating valuable content and spreading it.

What do you think?

Links:

Ron Burgandy interviews Peyton Manning on ESPN

Begging is NOT a distribution strategy

3 Primary Ways People Discover New Content

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