I was catching up with a recruiter who specializes in brand publishing talent recently who said something interesting: One of the challenges she faces in her job is that people don’t consider their jobs to be in ”brand publishing.” People hiring for editorial roles at brands – rather than media organizations – also use a variety of terms to refer to the discipline, leading to a significant amount of confusion and challenges when it comes to finding people to staff their endeavors.
Some of this is a question of semantics, of course In many cases, people in content marketing and brand publishing are often found to be doing the same things, often part of the same departments. Editorial talent and marketing executives say it’s more important now to understand the differences between brand publishing and marketing, in order to structure teams correctly, put the right metrics in place and create an overarching editorial strategy. There is no consensus yet, but it seems some clear lines are beginning to emerge between the two.
- As I see it, content marketing is content related directly to the product(s) or services a company offers. It is largely a sales tool – and is therefore promotional. Content marketing focuses on product needs first and foremost, and the “marketing” part is the thrust of the discipline.
- Brand publishing, on the other hand, is focused on serving audiences and providing content that is valuable because it is educational or entertaining.
- While the end goal may always be the company’s bottom line, the biggest difference is that content marketing sells products and services. For brand publishers, the content itself is the end product.
Brand publishers are closer to traditional media companies in this regard. Media companies are focused on not only providing information, but also a meeting a wide variety of other “needs.” Working as an editor, one of the biggest part of organizing a publication’s output was to create different classes of content. A question we often asked reporters was what need this story would fulfill –what job, essentially, was the story going to be doing. While “information” was often one, there were also other needs – connecting audiences with each other, or making them laugh, for example.
Why does this matter? For companies just starting out with brand publishing or considering whether they should embark on a brand publishing journey, one of the major first decisions to make is one of ownership: Figuring out where exactly publishing will sit within the organization.
Being able to understand and articulate the differences between brand publishing and content marketing could be the answer to if the publishing operation lives within an existing content operation, within the context of a larger marketing team, or in certain cases, operates completely independently from both.
We are beginning to see some changes in this regard. Increasingly, some brands are separating “marketing” from the “communications” function, and placing publishing into a communications organization that reports directly up to a CEO. A new study from Edelman found that 43% of communications teams are now centralized under the CEO, away from reporting into marketing, legal or HR functions. As Axios reports, communications, not marketing, is the new center of power.
Other than structurally, having a clear and specific understanding of brand publishing and its relationship to content marketing — and ensuring that that understanding is communicated throughout an organization — will also mean the correct and appropriate amount of resources are earmarked for the team. It will also mean that appropriate goals are set so that correct KPIs are assigned. Because brand publishing is about audience needs, metrics might favor overall brand awareness and “influence,” for example. In the case of one editor at a tech company, creating a publishing team that is separate from the marketing team has enabled her to think more about the “long game,” and allocate resources appropriately.
And finally, of course, as the recruiter I mentioned at the top of this piece says, being able to articulate what brand publishing is, and why it’s different from other marketing endeavors, will also help to attract the right kind of editorial talent and put the right mindsets in place.