Modern companies increasingly understand that brand publishing can provide an authentic and cost-effective vehicle for reaching and engaging potential customers, establishing and cementing their brands and, ultimately, driving sales and business growth.
But executing brand publishing to a high standard isn’t easy. It requires forgoing traditional marketing approaches, and instead adopting the mindset and habits of journalists and professional content creators to prioritize the needs and interests of an audience first and foremost.
Strategies and intended outcomes for brand publishing initiatives vary from one company to the next, but effective brand publishers often share a handful of critical qualities that enable them to drive deep, meaningful, and ongoing connections with their target audiences. These include:
- Valuable content: The publication and its content succeeds in delivering interesting, practical and/or educational value for its target audience.
- Quality and differentiation: The publication’s writing and reporting is notably superior to or differentiated from other sources.
- Originality and sourcing: The publication does its due diligence to make sure the information it presents is newsworthy, accurate, unbiased and sourced effectively via original interviews, data or research.
- X-factor: The publication possesses extra-special, extraordinary, unique qualities that sets it apart from alternative sources or competitors.
Acorns + Grow
Automated investing platform Acorns operates Grow, a personal finance publication focused on educating consumers — particularly millennials — on how to create successful money habits and secure their financial futures. It focuses on five key topics: Saving, investing, earning, spending and borrowing, and covers everything from side hustles to service-y news on new tax breaks.
- Valuable content: Grow provides relevant, easy-to-understand financial tips, insights and news, as well as interviews about the financial approaches of celebrities and public figures. The publication discusses saving, investing, earning, spending and borrowing, making its content highly applicable and useful for its target audience.
- Quality and differentiation: What sets Grow apart from some of its contemporaries is its focus on journalistic practices to give its content an authoritative and trustworthy feel. Many of its articles incorporate interviews with third-parties that aren’t directly tied to Acorns, and data from trusted and vetted sources as opposed to spurious statistics and research reports from unknown entities. It’s use of interactive charts and graphics also adds to the premium feel of the site and befits a company that asks consumers to trust it with decisions on how their hard-earned cash might best be invested.
- Originality and sourcing: While its content is not always particularly original in the topics and themes it covers, Grow articles often feature or are based on original and varied sources as outlined above. A plethora of external financial experts are brought in to provide commentary and expertise, and valid and trustworthy data sources like the U.S. government are used.
- X-Factor: Unlike many branded publications Grow does carry banner advertisements, but only for Acorns’s services. This approach makes the site look and feel much like news sites and other editorial-driven properties users will be familiar with. It’s content also relates closely to the core value proposition of Acorns’ products and services, meaning readers can — in many instances — use Acorns products to tackle challenges or drive the outcomes they’re researching.
GE + GE Reports
First established way back in 2008, GE Reports has taken on many guises over the years, but has been considered along the way as an innovator in brand publishing. Aimed at professionals with an interest in technology, energy, healthcare and aviation, it uses journalistic content to tell stories about the company’s activities and involvement in a wide array of industries and projects.
- Valuable content: GE Reports focuses on areas and industries on which consumers may not be aware GE operates, such aviation, energy, healthcare, performance and research. The idea is to demonstrate GE’s involvement in these sectors, while exposing more general interest business readers to them in a more accessible and relatable way. For example, news of a power plant in Australia is examined through the lens of the country’s changing hydrogen economy.
- Quality and differentiation: GE Reports largely taps its own staffers, partners and internal resources to provide technical, yet digestible insight into the future of medicine, tech, aeronautics and energy. It’s ability to easily access a wide and varied pool of expertise and experience — in addition to its exposure to a wide range of industries — positions it uniquely to add valuable and unique context and viewpoints.
- Originality and sourcing: GE does a good job of extracting value from the deep bench of expertise that exists within its own four walls, in addition to those of its partners. Content is often based on proprietary information, data and insights, and regularly includes interviews and expertise from its own executives, engineers, scientists and more.
- X-Factor: GE does a great job of explaining very technical and complex subjects in a way that is intelligent, human and digestible for readers. Their content is heavy on infographics, charts, photos and other visuals that help translate industry jargon in a palatable format for a wide variety of people. GE also provides an ad-free experience.
Away + Here
With its travel-focused lifestyle site Here Magazine, luggage company Away provides a good example of how content can be used to attract attention from a target audience more organically and naturally than paid advertising might allow.
- Valuable content: Here’s content skews extremely practical, offering a selection of search-engine friendly guides to the best places to eat, drink and visit in specific cities, in addition to a wide range of tips on topics such as how and what to pack, and how to get the most out of specific types of trips. The site generates much of its traffic from organic searches as a result.
- Quality and differentiation: The key point of differentiation for Here is its focus on travel-related considerations and requirements for people and groups often overlooked by more mainstream sites and online travel guides. White the concept of travel guides is hardly a unique one, the site sets itself apart with pieces like “4 Tips for Traveling as an LGBTQ+ Family”, “5 Tips for Single Parents Traveling With Kids”, “Traveling with a New Partner Post-Covid” and a general focus on serving more niche travel-related requirements and interests.
- Originality and sourcing: To fuel the types of content outlined above, some of Here’s most successful content focuses on partnering with writers and sources who can offer unique perspectives on travel. Examples include partnering with a contestant from the Hell’s Kitchen TV cooking competition for a vegan road trip guide, featuring a photo essay of America as seen through the eyes of a long-haul truck driver, and working with local celebrities, chefs and personalities to put together guides of their favorite things to see and do in their favorite cities.
- X-Factor: Beyond its website, Here also packages up its content as a print magazine. Print can be a useful mechanism for brand publishers to elevate their content through more robust visuals, express their brands and perspectives more completely, and to drive partnerships with a wider range of sources than a website alone might allow. Away also includes a copy of the magazine with every luggage purchase, tying its content more directly to its products as a result.
For detailed practical guidance on how to operate successful brand publishing initiatives, see the Brand Publishing Toolkit.