Richard Edelman, CEO of global PR firm Edelman, said his firm is increasingly recommending to brands that they invest in publishing as a core part of their communications strategies. Edelman said there’s growing interest from chief communications officers in “going direct” to audiences by investing in high-quality brand publishing operations designed to talk directly to customers and audiences.
“Go direct to the end user. Provide a platform for discussion and feedback. Get the facts out on all platforms, including through influencers who have their own channels. The mainstream media will always be the ultimate arbiter of truth, but we need to make our case as an adjacent source of quality information,” he wrote in a post.
One of the findings of Edelman’s Trust Barometer this year was that people trust “company newsletters” more than they do mainstream media, search or social media. Edelman wrote that this is one of the outgrowths of the pandemic – “with media seen as increasingly politicized” as well as one of the effects of the culling of staff and resources at newsrooms. “We are recommending to clients that they go direct to the end user with important information, to supplement that which they can get in other forms of media,” he wrote.
Edelman points to the launch of “Hear from Eric,” a month-old initiative from Mayor Eric Adams of New York that aims to communicate directly with New Yorkers as one proof point of the increasing interest in brand publishing. As we reported earlier, Adams’ move stems allegedly from the mayor’s feeling that the local press isn’t covering adequately the issues he deems most important. The City also plans to create more publishing content targeted to neighborhoods and has begun sending Axios-style updates to local influencers with updates and quick statistics about facets of life in New York like crime and composting.
Robinhood Snacks on top
Perhaps evidencing Edelman’s argument above: The Brunswick Group published last week its digital investor survey, which explores how institutional investors get the information they use to evaluate companies. It found that Robinhood Snacks is the No. 1 most-subscribed-to newsletter among the investors it surveyed. (The most popular social platform, meanwhile, was Reddit.)
Robinhood Snacks is the popular newsletter owned by stock trading company Robinhood, borne out of the 2019 acquisition of MarketSnacks, then a financial newsletter. Since Robinhood acquired the newsletter it’s grown to reach an audience of 40 million subscribers. In January, Robinhood announced that Snacks would move under a new subsidiary it’s launching. Sherwood Media, led by veteran editor Joshua Topolsky. will now house Robinhood’s brand publishing operation and plans to launch more newsletters on other topics.
Snacks is now looking actively for advertisers and sponsorships – a new effort from Topolsky to make the publication a potential revenue stream for the company, which has been struggling amid a tighter market environment that’s been particularly unkind to fintech.
Meanwhile, the Robinhood Snacks Podcast, which was spun out from Robinhood last year as “The Best One Yet,” has signed with UTA and plans to create new opportunities for the venture.
HubSpot’s content assistant seeks to simplify content workflows
Hubspot launched a set of artificial intelligence tools designed to help add efficiency to marketing workflows. The tools include Content Assistant, which will help marketing groups create content including blog posts and website articles, and help them streamline their workflows.
It’s likely that brands will be open to using AI for content generation purposes as they strive to cut marketing costs – more open than journalism or media organizations, at least.
The arms race for AI tools is now on: Last week, Typeface came out of stealth. The tool lets brands upload existing content such as their brand logos, assets and articles in order to train Typeface’s AI model, which is built on OpenAI’s GPT 3.5. The platform will then “learn” based on the data that was inputted and create text and image content tailored specifically to individual brands. Elsewhere, startups like Jasper are developing brand voice capabilities that they say will help brands ensure that AI-generated content is aligned with the company’s tone and voice. (If you’re using any of these tools, let me know!)
‘An immediate and concerning threat’
The rise of artificial intelligence chatbots and search tools threatens to undermine the content strategies and publishing approaches being employed by brand publishers.
While most public chatter has focused on generative AI’s ability to ease content production and creation, behind closed doors, marketers who have invested significant resources in content operations and branded publications worry that generative AI could significantly impact their ability to attract and engage with audiences, as tech giants such as Google and Microsoft strive to answer users’ queries directly rather than directing them to brands’ sites.
In recent weeks it’s become clear that AI chatbots draw on publicly available web content to train their models and to inform their responses, but it remains to be seen what appetite they have for directing traffic to third-party websites or other source material. For brand publishers – many of which rely on their ability to attract an audience via search engines – generative AI therefore presents an “immediate and concerning threat,” as one executive put it.
Also worth noting:
- Thanks to Marketing Brew for quoting me and referencing Toolkits pieces in this story about why brand publishing seems to be having a moment.
- Brand publishing doesn’t always have to mean written stories. Productivity software company ClickUp’s marketing team released a full-length debut album, called Work Flows, which features 21 original songs by artists including Clever and Michael Minelli. The company also recently hired former a16z executive editor Maggie Leung to head up its content efforts.