- Data and research are a competitive advantage for brands as they seek to build their own publications.
- Brands have historically shared data, research and case studies with journalists and media companies, but are increasingly using them primarily to fuel their own content initiatives instead.
- It’s another example of an advantage brands have over traditional publishers and media companies.
Most companies have access to unique and interesting data, or the ability to tap their products and customer bases to obtain it. For years companies have used aggregated client information, surveys and case studies to fuel their PR initiatives, sharing information with data-hungry reporters and media companies to drive press coverage.
But as brands increasingly attempt to communicate directly with audiences with content and publishing initiatives of their own, a shift is underway: Instead of leveraging their data and assets to share with reporters and media outlets, they’re recognizing its potential to help build their own audiences instead.
Original research has become the cornerstone for many high-quality brand publishing initiatives. Recent examples include:
- McKinsey Insights conducted research to understand the experience of being transgender at work. It used both qualitative and quantitative data — including mining a previous, 2019 survey of nearly 2,000 employees that was sent to people in McKinsey’s network, as well as conducting a 2021 survey that queried 500 people in the U.S. These, alongside secondary data sources from the government, were used to develop a set of insights and reports on being transgender at work.
- Morning Consult has (obviously) leaned on what it does best — research — to develop insights and newsletters on everything from U.S. Consumer Spending to American attitudes towards the Ahmaud Arbery murder case.
- PR giant Edelman (a Toolkits client) has long had the Trust Barometer — a survey on trust and attitudes towards the media, government and business that this year went to over 33,000 global respondents. This year, it used the data to develop a series of Deep Dive newsletters and a podcast aimed at clients and prospective customers.
- Hubspot’s publishing team surveyed 500 marketers to figure out how what they were most preoccupied by and what challenges they expect to face next year, then added on their expertise on how marketers can best deal with them.
- National Research Group (also a Toolkits partner) has long used its extensive data chops to produce thought leadership content — and is now seeking an Editorial Director to create a newsroom to produce data-first brand journalism.
All of these endeavors have one thing in common: Brands are leveraging existing relationships with audiences (clients, customers, and the public) to research topics that are relevant to their businesses — and then turning that data into content they can disseminate themselves to build their brands and audiences, generate leads and ultimately drive revenue. Press coverage might be an added bonus, but it’s not the primary goal.
Creating effective data and research initiatives is not an easy task, but it’s an achievable one. In order to do so, brands must become adept at collecting, segmenting, interpreting, and presenting data in a methodologically defensible way. They will, of course, also need to hire writers and reporters who know how to translate data into compelling and engaging stories — not just whitepapers or reports — and are able to think creatively to ensure they are collecting the data necessary to underpin such efforts.
Building research and data arms is arguably harder — or at least more expensive — for publishers to do. Getting access to high-quality data is difficult, as is finding the expertise to cut and analyze it appropriately, and to ensure it’s interesting enough to serve as the foundation for engaging content.
During our time at Digiday, one product we built was Digiday Research, a fully-fledged research arm that used the company’s existing audience (including readers, subscribers, and event attendees) to build a research panel and segments that could be surveyed using robust methodology on all manner of questions. It was a challenging task and required building a whole new muscle and capability.
Building research capabilities has also been a top priority for many media companies and publishers we’ve worked with in recent months. But while it’s been a difficult and time-consuming task for publishers, it’s been far less of a headache for brands Who often have easy access to unique and valuable data, and are more adept at surfacing and utilizing it in interesting ways.
It’s yet another example of an area where brands often have a competitive advantage over traditional publishers and media companies. As more brand publishers realize the value of the existing assets they already have — be it a deep bench of expertise that can lend itself to creating content, or pools of data that can be easily leveraged to create compelling research — we’ll see more brands using data and research of the backbone of unique and differentiated editorial operations in a way that media companies will struggle to compete with.
Availability for Toolkits’ Brand Publishing Workshops is running out for the first quarter of 2022.
January is now fully booked, but there’s limited space available for February and March. Schedule an intro call now to hear more about our workshops and to book your slot.
Workshops are intensive half-day or full-day consultations based on proven strategies, tactics, best practices and real-world experience gleaned from our work with a wide range of companies building editorial and content operations to establish meaningful long-term relationships with audiences.