Publish like a publisher

Here are some tips on how to create content that people want to consume- from hiring experts to having a clear objective.

There can scarcely be a business function as plagued by clichés as marketing. ‘Content is king’; ‘Mad Men to math men’; ‘SEO is dead’ to name a few…

The problem with platitudes is that they obscure the complex and nuanced realities. Content, for example, is only king if it is relevant and timely. Data-driven marketing only works if you are measuring the right metrics in the correct timeframes. And SEO isn’t dead. It just isn’t.

But now there is a new cliché in town and this time it’s different. This time, oddly enough, it’s spot on. Enter: ‘every brand is a publisher’. The truth is that in the current environment, with our insatiable appetite for digital and social content, every brand really is a publisher. The problem is that many of them are very bad publishers.

Even marketers themselves admit this fact. Why else would 52% believe that ‘most people who claim to do content marketing aren’t’? Producing ‘publisher grade’ content requires changing attitudes, raising expectations and delivering better outputs. It isn’t easy but, in this brave new world, it is essential. Here are three rules you must abide when publishing your content.

Have only one objective

Businesses produce content for a number of reasons. To build relationships, to develop brand awareness, to be thought leaders. Publishers don’t think like this, they only have one objective: to produce content which people are desperate to read, watch and consume. So if your aspiration is to be The Economist of B2B whitepapers (and it should be), be singular in your determination. Focus on only creating must-read content.

Understand your audience

The first thing any editor asks themselves is “who is my audience?”. They are aspirational but realistic. Tony Gallagher of The Sun knows, for example, that his readership is not C-suite decision makers. He knows his audience is more C2DE than it is ABC1, and that it is skewed towards men. Does he try to adapt his content to attract more wealthy female readers? Of course not. Instead his determination is on retaining and building his core audience and he tailors the content accordingly.
The lesson for marketers is simple: know who you speak to, and focus on delivering them exactly what they want. It doesn’t matter who your audience is so long as they are obsessed with your content.

Hire experts

Producing content which actively competes with The Financial Times or Forbes is going to require highly skilled resources. At a minimum you need a keen eye for narrative development, first-class writing capabilities and the ability to design creatively.

Audit your in house skills

The first step is to conduct a brutal assessment of your current capabilities. List out your requirements and grade your current skillset against them. Having mapped your ‘as is’ you can then go through each one asking:

Can this skill be enhanced by changing responsibilities within the team?

If not, do we need to hire a full time resource?

If that is unrealistic, could we partner with an agency to plug the gap?

You wouldn’t embark on an email campaign without investing in a proper CRM system, and content marketing is no different. 

Have an opinion

Marketing communications is not a zero sum game. As well as potentially gaining new customers, there is also a real danger of losing some too.

There are many reasons why your marcomms could turn prospects off, but overwhelmingly brands live in fear of turning away customers by having too strong an opinion. “If our view conflicts with our prospects’ they are unlikely to buy from us”, the thinking goes, “Better keep it bland”.

Publishers don’t think like this. Publishers understand that you cannot agree with all the people all of the time. Publishers know that what is important is their engagement. The real danger is in producing content which no one cares about.

If there really is no convincing your PR or leadership team that having an opinion is a central tenet of marketing communications, here are three ways to sneak one in without raising alarm bells:

Borrow one

A great alternative to taking a stance is to publish unchallenged the opinions of others. Some useful sources include academics, industry experts or current clients.

Ask questions

The purpose of having an opinion is to jolt the reader into having one of their own. Linguistically, asking questions is the most direct and succinct way of achieving this. Don’t you agree?

Use an anecdote

Brands tend to become particularly tetchy when it comes to having opinions about the future. And it’s easy to understand why – what seemed like a sure thing at the start of the year can quickly become a “our position was what?” moment in August. A clever way to avoid this is to borrow from history and again leave it unchallenged. “What happened when a similar thing happened” lends a sense of authority, but runs less of risk of being embarrassed further down the line.