Saturday, June 27, 2015

6 Rules of Thumb for Successful Brand Publishing

The Internet has made brand publishing ubiquitous. Gone are the days when brands required an intermediary to reach their target audience. Now, they have the luxury of reaching out to their audiences directly… through content storytelling

But how do they do this effectively?

In order to be effective, brand content must be mapped to business objectives and be appealing. Content storytelling is all about creating attractive, valuable and interesting information your customers are passionate about, so they actually pay attention and engage with the brand.

In the words of Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications, “If we tell our stories the right way, we have the ability to become legitimate publishers in our own right.”
People respond to content that is:

  • Sharable
  • Visually appealing
  • Engaging, and
  • Of good quality
Building a visually appealing and engaging website, writing regular blogs, e-mail marketing, use of multi-media (videos/photos/ Info graphics) and using social networks to target the audience are various ways to share a brand story. We know this. And in today’s hyper connected world, everyone’s a publisher.

So what could possibly go wrong with brand publishing?

In my opinion, quite a few things. And if your brand wants to publish successfully, it needs to keep these in mind.

1. Know your audience: Who is your target audience? Are you regularly listening to your buyers and potential buyers? Identifying your target audience and listening to their needs and wants can help a brand tailor its content across various platforms to maximize its reach.

Check out Dell’s Idea Storm website. Through this website, the company doesn’t just listen to its audience to address complaints, but also gives them a chance to solve the problems the company faces. They also post StormSessions, where they pose questions and challenges to customers and partners who then offer ideas/solutions on the issue at hand. This is a company which listens, and is actively interested in improving and investing in what their customers want. As of this writing, Dell has implemented over 549 ideas provided by its fans!

2. Content smarts: Do not focus on volume, but on consistency and quality of content. It is imperative to have a content plan in place in order to have meaningful, personalized interactions across platforms.

Example: Zomato helps discover great places to eat around you, and currently serves 22 countries worldwide. It believes in quality over quantity. And thus, it uses multiple channels for content marketing efficiently and effectively by following this principle.
Instead of overloading your blogs/Facebook/Twitter, quality and consistent content makes for a more meaningful and personalized audience experience.

3. Searchable: Search engines reward sites that deliver good quality content. So as you’re working on your content, keep in mind that it should be fresh, and of high quality, for it to be searchable. Nothing beats WUL when it comes to SEO! Agree?

4. Use of multi-media platforms (videos/photos/ infographics): Often, images and videos are easier for consumers to absorb than just text. In fact videos/photos help engage a wider audience. According to Facebook, users view more than 4 billion videos a day!

Amul, one of India’s oldest and most well-known food brands, itself a product of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (and the largest milk producer in the world), uses images in a very effective way.

Be it a cause or social issue, Amul is quick to jump into the story, often introducing the Amul girl into the landscape. This has made the brand iconic. Check out a few examples here; I’ll include a screen grab of one of their latest “Amul Topical” posts from Twitter to get you started.

5. Build a community: An audience might read your blog, consume and share your information, easily recognize your brand from rest of the crowd. However, a community is a set of people who are passionate about the brand, actively seeking out the content, and willing to share the content further.

I believe Buffer does an excellent job of community building, and I’m glad to be a part of its community. As someone passionate about “all things digital,” I always look forward to its content whether it is via e-mail or a tweet, and I invariably share the content with my network.

6. Be human: The once-regarded best practices for telling a brand’s story are now relatively ineffective in generating consumer trust. Thanks to social networks, today the audience’s trust is built via continuous brand engagement and direct conversations.

It is important for brands to build an emotional connection with their community and audience over time.

Especially if you have any connection to South Asia or the sub-continent, you will remember this beautiful video by Google, which made a huge emotional connection with that audience. It’s a story about two friends who were separated during the partition of India, and how they are reunited after decades.

If you haven’t watched it yet, please do, and then come back here. I’ll wait.

Did the video leave you in tears, or at least with a lump in your throat? That is exactly what I mean by being human and building an emotional connection.

Follow these six principles and, over time, you might have an Amul girl of your own.

What do you think are the golden rules of successful brand publishing? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.

Image: <DigitalRalph> via Flickr, CC 4.0

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