Marketing executives are bracing themselves for an oncoming recession. One common refrain is that marketing departments must be more efficient and justify their worth during these uncertain times.
Brand publishing isn’t immune. As a newer discipline, it will be scrutinized particularly closely, particularly at companies where the impact of publishing operations isn’t being measured right, and where investment doesn’t yet feel justified. The bottom line is: Brand publishing initiatives will have to demonstrate efficiency – or they can expect to be cut.
Brand publishers might take some cues from journalism organizations, which are no strangers to doing a lot with less. During times of economic crisis, there is no room for wastage. For many marketers who have taken advantage of boom times by diverting money towards efforts that are more about looking good during a conference stump speech and less about the company’s bottom line, the tide is going out. We’ve seen over the past few months that brand publishers that hadn’t found audience-product fit, or had hired quickly and expensively, were doomed to fail. Just like in other marketing sectors, executives will look to slash costs and make publishing teams run efficiently. What that looks like can vary.
As we’ve covered before, there are operational efficiencies to be gained by ensuring a clear editorial value proposition and organizational processes that squeeze the most value as possible out of writers and reporters. That means ensuring that there are multiple content formats put to work that enable teams to “squeeze” as much as they can out of content. Often, information can be packaged in new and varied ways, designed for consumption across different mediums, which in turn can mean a more consistent stream of content.
One move I’ve been watching is how some tech companies are using current market conditions to snap up laid off talent they didn’t have access to before. The same is possible for brand publishers, who may be able to rein in labor costs and hire talent at more affordable rates than before.
Already, most brand publishing teams do double duty in helping out with other marketing functions while also creating original content. For marketers looking to justify publishing costs, they may consider asking publishing teams to also help with other content efforts. At services firms, there may also be an opportunity to have content leaders help with billable, client work.
Turn publishing into a revenue stream
Another defensive tactic is a little more aggressive: turn publishing itself into a revenue stream, transforming it from a “cost center” to a revenue generator. In most cases, brand publishing and other similar types of efforts can run the risk of being seen as expendable because they typically don’t directly impact companies’ bottom lines, even though they may be contributing directionally.
Based on conversations with Toolkits’ advisory clients, brand publishers are increasingly evaluating whether they can stand up paid content initiatives.
This might take a few forms, from a monthly subscription fee that readers have to pay to access specific content, to a metered approach that gives audiences “unlimited access” in exchange for a fee, to other more nuanced approaches, such as one off research reports or analysis that are sold on demand. Examples of this approach in action remain relatively few so far, however.
Regardless of what approaches (and what combination of approaches) are employed, marketers looking to defend publishing budgets against the oncoming axe will need to ensure that they’re working as effectively and efficiently as possible. Recessions aren’t always bad – they can be opportunities for innovation and new, agile ways of working and force discipline on wayward initiatives.