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Companies are increasingly turning to brand publishing in an effort to build their brands and forge direct relationships with audiences and potential customers. But as competition for attention online intensifies, standing out is getting harder by the minute.
For progressive companies, content creation now goes far beyond a simple marketing or public relations tactic. The days of throwing together content to generate easy search traffic and lightly sugarcoat marketing copy are long gone. Content is now woven into their fabric and has become a foundational part of how they operate their businesses and express their brands and identities to the world.
As a result, any company hoping to generate tangible and sustainable value through content generation must take a far more deliberate and strategic approach than ever before. They must commit to thinking, acting and operating like media companies.
What is brand publishing?
Brand publishing is a marketing strategy with which companies seek to inform, educate, engage or entertain audiences via content published on and distributed through their own properties, platforms and channels.
Companies invest in brand publishing for a variety of reasons, dependent on their businesses, products, goals and more. It can be used to promote awareness of companies’ products and services, position companies and their staffers as authorities on certain topics and issues, generate traffic to drive product awareness and sales, gain information from and about current and prospective customers, and even be used to help hire and retain talent. As they increasingly see success with the strategy, examples of companies doing brand publishing well are becoming increasingly common.
Although often conflated (and used interchangeably) with terms such as content marketing and branded content, brand publishing typically goes far beyond those more tactical approaches. Companies that build successful and progressive brand publishing operations tend to think far more strategically about the role content plays for their brands and organizations. Brand publishers must:
- Commit to thinking and acting like a media company: This requires more than just approaching specific projects “like a media company,” or having the marketing team cobble together some content in the style of their favorite publication. Brand publishing operations must commit to adopting a media company mindset and applying it to their day-to-day operations, tactical decisions they make, and even the language they use.
- Cater to the audience first: Like all successful media companies, brand publishing operations should always think audience-first and approach everything they do through the lens of how best to serve the interests of their readers, viewers and listeners. The publisher’s commercial interests should always be considered, of course, but savvy brand publishers work backward from their audiences’ interests, needs and goals, and find ways to connect them with those of their own companies as opposed to the other way around.
- Take content cues from journalism, not marketing: Content is going through a drastic shift in how it’s created and consumed, who it’s created and consumed by, and why. Companies now have the ability to “go direct” to audiences with their content and need no longer rely on third parties to tell the stories they believe are important. At the same time, audiences are also becoming far savvier about the content they consume and its origins. In most instances, people are happy to engage with content produced by “non-traditional” media companies, but they’re also far more capable of identifying bias and self-serving interests than ever before. Repackaging marketing material as content now risks alienating audiences and drastically undermining credibility. As a result, companies that wish to forge long-term connections and relationships with audiences must forego their marketing impulses and instead take cues from journalists and newsrooms in order to engage them effectively.
- Model their operations and processes around those of media companies: Taking cues from newsrooms and other journalistic operations, successful brand publishers hire managing editors and editors-in-chief, speak in terms of stories, sourcing, ledes, nut grafs and angles, and organize their daily workflows around pitch and source meetings, publishing deadlines, and robust editing processes.
- Focus on owned properties and channels: Where possible, brand publishers should strive to own their publishing platforms and relationships with their audiences. In most instances, this means owning and operating their own publication websites, newsletters, company blogs, podcasts and video series rather than simply creating content to be published or distributed via third-party platforms and channels. Drawing lines can be tricky, and there’s no hard and fast rule, but generally speaking, brand publishers should avoid publishing content directly to platforms, sites and services they don’t own and control and instead attempt to figure out ways to leverage those entities to drive traffic and audience back to their own properties.
How to build a brand publishing operation
Standing up a brand publishing operation from scratch can seem like a daunting task, but the process can be broken down into a handful of key steps and requirements. Successful brand publishers must ensure they:
- Develop a brand publishing strategy: As a first step, companies should clearly identify and articulate what their goals and objectives are, how they’ll define and measure success, what their target audience is and what value they intend to provide it.
- Hire brand publishing writers and editors: The ability to find, identify and hire great writers, editors and content creators is crucial to the long-term success of any brand publishing operation. This can be achieved by ensuring roles are precisely defined and articulated, conducting effective and efficient interview processes, testing candidates abilities and mindsets with practical exercises and ensuring systems are in place to effectively evaluate candidates.
- Structure a brand publishing team effectively: Brand publishing teams should carefully consider what organizational structure best suits their needs and will be most effective in helping to reach their goals and desired outcomes.
- Install robust editorial processes and pitching systems: Robust editorial systems and processes are essential for enabling teams to produce a steady stream of high-quality content. Key considerations include setting a pitching process for content ideas, running effective content planning meetings, and maintaining work-in-progress lists and content calendars.
- Create compelling brand publishing content consistently: Key principles, habits and best practices gleaned from newsrooms and media companies can be used to ensure quality and consistency of a brand publishing operation’s output. These include understanding what constitutes compelling content for a specific target audience, employing smart tactics and good habits to generate a steady stream of content ideas and carefully selecting content formats that can help aid the creation of great content on a regular and repeatable basis.
- Adopt writing and reporting best practices from journalism and apply them to brand publishing: Staffers should understand the mechanics of great content, including how to structure and write effectively, how to present information optimally, and how to attribute information accurately and responsibly.
- Ensure content is edited and reviewed thoroughly and effectively Most brand publishing operations should adopt three key editing steps and processes to help ensure high-quality output, including content editing, structural and stylistic editing and, finally, careful copy editing and proofreading.
- Create content across various mediums: Advanced brand publishing operations often extend their efforts and express their brands across various mediums, including branded live events content, branded podcast content and more.
For help and direction implementing the steps and requirements outlined above, see the Brand Publishing Toolkit for comprehensive and actionable guides, strategic insights and practical resources.