We looked at the Toolkits content that resonated most with brand publishing professionals. Here are the 10 highlights:
Editorial and content teams need structure in order to thrive. A well-structured content group is far more likely to operate efficiently, generate better ideas and create consistent systems to produce expert-level content. Clear roles and responsibilities and reporting structures mean content teams that are self-sufficient and feedback systems that are robust.
The biggest challenge for content teams is figuring out how to balance efficiency with creating good stories. The way this generally shows up in these kinds of organizations is in the balance of content “creators” to managers. In publishing parlance, that means the ratio of writers to editors.
Global consulting firm McKinsey has emerged as a frontrunner in brand publishing in recent years.
Its Global Publishing team is now more than 70 people, including 25+ editors, and works with consultants and domain experts from across the company to turn out content across a variety of mediums and formats including articles, newsletters, reports, podcasts, video interviews and even a print publication. Coverage areas range from industry sectors like energy or healthcare, to job functions such as marketing.
A growing number of companies are now building publishing and content operations in-house, and many are hiring journalists to spearhead them. But as editorial roles within brands become more common, fundamental differences between editorial functions at “traditional” media outlets and those at brand publishing operations are becoming increasingly clear.
Brand publishing initiatives have become an attractive career option for journalists and editors in recent years, with many leaving media companies in search of better compensation and greater stability at brands. But while editorial roles within brands are often functionally similar to those at media companies, they come with their own set of demands and challenges.
The needlessly adversarial narrative around brand publishers vs. traditional publishers is moving on to a more interesting discussion on how the consumption and creation of content has become more complex and “media” is changing dramatically.
Like it or loathe it, one result of the brand publishing movement has been an increase in the availability of information. One sector that’s been particularly active building “media companies” within their walls recently is investment banking.
For Resy, content isn’t a new focus. Since 2018, it has used editorial content in an attempt to differentiate itself from other reservations platforms. Content is front and center on its homepage, and editorial franchises include Interviews, Guides and spotlights on specific topics, such as “Chinatowns in the United States.” It also puts out a handful of newsletters, including The Hit List and New on Resy, as well as data-driven reports such as a 2023 “Future of Dining in the U.K.” project.
In 2019, it hired former San Francisco Chronicle food-and-wine editor and Eater SF founding editor Paolo Lucchesi its first-ever editorial director. We spoke with Lucchesi about how he structures his editorial team and why Resy is attempting to create a new kind of “food media.”
It seems that in brand publishing, instead of a market correction, a maturation is underway. In Gartner hype cycle terms, we are somewhere in between the trough of disillusionment and the slope of enlightenment. And as brand publishing grows up, it’ll lead to a much-needed shakeout that can only be good for the discipline at large.
Now more than ever, brands will need to establish clear value propositions, editorial strategies and expectations in place in order to build successful publications.
The ‘Future of Work’ is the editorial topic du jour, but software company Atlassian – makers of Jira – have been covering it for nearly five years, via a service-y publication about productivity, teamwork and leadership called Work Life.
Work Life was launched in 2018, and includes a website and twice-monthly newsletter. It also hosted its first conference earlier this year, which sought to bring its coverage to the physical realm. The publication has seen 160% growth in unique visitors year-over-year, and newsletter signups are up 70% year-over-year, Atlassian says. It’s powered by a small team of four editors and a stable of freelance writers – plus an original design style that’s set it apart in this crowded space.
A recruiter who specializes in brand publishing said recently that 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.
Saying, “create compelling content,” is simple, but it certainly isn’t easy to do. No two pieces of content are alike, no two readers are the same, and there’s no guaranteed formula or process that can be employed. To a large degree, it’s a muscle that must be built over years of repetition, both at an individual and organizational level.
There are some key principles, habits and best practices gleaned from newsrooms, media companies and professional “storytellers” that can be used to set brand publishing operations up for success and drastically improve the quality and consistency of their output.
Establishing and documenting a strategy is a crucial, early step in creating a successful brand publishing operation. But despite that, companies often skip this step in their enthusiasm for getting started, especially as brainstorming and creating content is often more exciting than the initial strategy work might seem.
Brand publishing needs a well-defined strategy precisely because its borders are relatively flexible. Publishing, while certainly a cousin of other marketing vehicles, has to have its own goals and mission so it becomes a foundational part of how companies operate and express brands and identities to the world. Because content is published on and distributed through company channels, properties and platforms, it’s important to ensure the strategy is detailed and overarching to cover all bases.