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Discussion Point: What Does 'Brands as Publishers' Really Mean?

brands as publishers, content marketing, customer experience

Brands working as publishers may be a necessary digital marketing component for many businesses, but try explaining that to the hard headed executives sitting at the boardroom table. Well, we've got the solution. CMSWire recently gathered a group of experts and asked them how they explain the concept of "brands as publishers" to their organization/clients? Their answers will certainly help you effectively reach those at your own business.

The Question

How do you explain the concept of "brands as publishers" to your organization/clients?

The Responses

Joe Chernov - VP of Marketing at Kinvey

Joe_Chernov_1.pngJoe Chernov is the VP of Marketing for Kinvey, a mobile back end as a service start-up in Boston, MA. Joe joined Kinvey from Eloqua, where he served as VP of Content Marketing. The Content Marketing Institute named him “Content Marketer of the Year” in 2012. He serves on the board of advisors for Little Bird, a search engine for influencer discovery and engagement.

The rallying cry, “brands should act like publishers,” echoes throughout the halls of every digital marketing conference. And like most expressions that have been repeated too many times, it has lost all meaning. They are just hollow words, no longer symbols of a larger meaning. After all, the proof is in the pudding: I don't see many brands acting like publishers. At all.

Recently I visited a major marketing tech company’s blog and was disappointed — yet unsurprised — to discover that all former employees’ bylines were stripped from the blog, replaced with something benign, like “Contributor.” Even the former CEO’s posts were genericized. I was telling this story to a prominent CMO, who initially thought the decision seemed reasonable. Why, he thought aloud, would a company tout its former employees?

I asked him: Does the New York Times redact bylines from articles written by its former reporters? Of course not. If brands are truly publishers, then they should look to the media — not other vendors — for answers concerning unfamiliar questions like how to treat blog posts by former staffers.

The meta point here is simple: Acting like a publisher isn't code for “blogging often” or even adding someone with a j-school degree to the marketing team. Those are common tactics in support of the larger objective. If a brand truly wants to behave like a publisher, it needs to shift its thinking fundamentally. It needs to stop looking through its own lens, which distorts the world through the filter of self-interest), and begin seeing the world — itself included — through the public’s perspective. To do this requires the organization to experiment with uncomfortably light shades of transparency, commit to a real-time mindset (news doesn't necessarily break between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.), and be willing to admit, even tacitly, when you bungled something … like that ridiculous decision to retract bylines.

Jon Miller - VP Marketing and Co-Founder at Marketo

jon-miller.jpgJon leads strategy and execution for all aspects of Marketo's thought leadership and content marketing programs. Before co-founding Marketo, Jon was Vice President of Product Marketing at Epiphany. He is the author of the comprehensive handbook, The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation. In 2010, The CMO Institute named Jon a Top 10 CMO for companies with under US$ 250 million in revenue.

We live in a world of information abundance, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to cut through the noise and grab an individual's attention. That's why marketers need to think like publishers, and constantly evaluate and re-evaluate what consumers want to know about, and how they want to consume that information.

Rented Attention is Dead

For a long time marketers and advertisers lived in a world of rented attention, meaning they would latch on to something a consumer wanted to be doing — such as watching television — and interrupt them with a promotional message. But over the past years, consumers have gotten better and better at tuning out that noise across all channels.

This makes the solution for marketers obvious. If interrupting consumers is less effective, stop doing it. Instead, focus on producing content they want to watch, listen to, or read. Own your own attention and build your own audience.

Think Like a Publisher

In 2006, I created the Marketo blog before we wrote a single line of code for the product. Today, I have the capability to publish a blog post at any time that thousands of people then read and share. Because we consistently put out content that’s relevant for our audience, they come to us to learn more about industry trends.

By thinking like a publisher, you’re always keeping your target audience at the top of mind. What do they want to read about that’s informative? What do they want to watch that’s entertaining? How can I get them to share my content socially? These are the same conversations being had in newsrooms across the country and they should be taking place among your marketing team.

It’s also an opportunity to be creative. For example, when I wanted to discuss the benefits of marketing automation for keeping up with the demands of modern marketing, I drew a metaphor between my idea and the famous “I Love Lucy” chocolate factory scene. Because I owned the forum, I had the freedom to pair the idea I wanted to convey with an entertaining theme. My content was not an interruption in the core media’s flow. My content was the core media.

The other half of thinking like a publisher has to do with discipline — creating consistent, quality content demands it. For example, every Wednesday night at 9 p.m., I know I can turn on ABC and be one of the millions of people to watch Modern Family. They've built that audience with a quality show and a consistent calendar. If the writers aren't feeling particularly funny one week, they don’t have the luxury to pass on writing a script. Similarly, you can’t only put out content when you are struck with a spectacular idea. You can’t write and submit a column only when asked. Instead, you have to actively develop relevant content and make it a priority. The result is an engaged audience that looks to your brand for information and entertainment.

Mike Volpe - CMO at HupSpot

MikeVelope1.jpgMike Volpe joined HubSpot in early 2007 as the company's fifth employee and currently serves as chief marketing officer. He heads HubSpot's lead generation and branding strategy through inbound marketing, including blogging, search engine optimization, video marketing, and social media. Since Mike joined HubSpot, the company has grown from 10 to 9,000 customers, expanded from 5 to 500 employees, and raised $100 million in venture capital. Under Mike's leadership, HubSpot's marketing has won more than 30 marketing awards and has been featured in over 20 marketing and business books. Mike hosts a weekly marketing video podcast called Marketing Update, is one of the 100 most popular marketers on Twitter, consistently blogs on blog.hubspot.com, and appears as a marketing speaker at industry conferences. 

In the past, brands relied on third-party reviews and big PR wins to shine light on their product or service, and SMB companies didn't have much leverage because communication platforms were limited and expensive. Today, we have infinite media — infinite TV stations on YouTube and infinite newspapers as blogs or websites — and you can launch a new media outlet in seconds for free. It's never been easier to publish content.

 

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