- For brands embarking on publishing initiatives, patience is key.
- Publishing is a long-term game: It can take time for publications to find a unique voice, for editorial teams to find their stride, and for audiences to discover and engage with content regularly.
- Brands that attempt to force the issue can risk undermining their efforts and hurting their overall goals.
Brands getting into publishing often fall into the trap of approaching editorial like they do marketing: They expect it to impact their businesses relatively quickly, or at least begin to show tangible results within a few weeks or months. But in reality, publishing is a long game, and brands serious about their publishing efforts should be prepared to practice patience.
It often takes months or even years for properly architected brand publishing initiatives to yield discernible results, and there can be significant downsides to rushing the process or forcing the issue. In publishing, consistency and patience is often a competitive advantage.
Finding their stride
For any new publishing initiative, it takes time to establish a strong voice and identity, to identify ways to consistently add unique and differentiated value, and for editorial teams to hit their stride.
Even with a solid editorial strategy in place, publishing remains largely trial-and-error. For example, a strategy may have started from a business need to speak to a certain type of target audience. But the reality may be that that type of content and crucially, how it’s presented, may not resonate. Teams will therefore have to experiment with story formats, methods and mediums to see what does work. While strategies may be set in stone, tactics can also change – and in fact, should. How people consume information depends on who they are and the frame of mind that they are in. Different types of stories can and should be told in different ways.
Editorial teams will inevitably need to experiment with story formats, content packaging and various mediums to establish what works for them. While strategies and goals may be set in stone, tactics must remain fluid. How people consume information depends on who they are, the frame of mind they’re in, and the dynamics of the broader landscape in which they’re operating.
Publishing also can be resource-intensive. It takes time to hire and train writers and editors, and unfortunately there’s no one-size-fits-all formula. Knowing what is “good” can take time. Engaging and effective content is an art as much as it is a science, and developing instincts for good storytelling – and adapting it to the needs of specific companies – takes time even for the most experienced writers and editors.
Process and efficiency are other factors. Figuring out the right daily or weekly cadence of stories, how long pieces may take to go from conception to publishing, finding the right graphics, illustrations or other visual pieces, all takes time to figure out. Meanwhile, editorial teams must establish effective ways to work with other teams inside their organizations. For non-editorial teams new to working with editors and writers, this can also be a steep learning curve. Building trust within an organization, identifying processes for unearthing trends and story ideas, and establishing clear ways to tie content operations to business goals all takes time. Newer teams must also build trust within the organizations in order to work with some degree of editorial independence.
Discovery and building an audience
In addition to internal factors, brand publishers must also be cognizant of the dynamics of their external audiences. Building distribution and audience takes time, and shortcuts to growth are often expensive and/or ineffective in the long-term.
Genuine audience awareness and engagement can only be built sustainably over the course of months, if not years. Piquing interest, establishing credibility, and ultimately building habit and repeated readership cannot be rushed, regardless of where and how a brand is publishing and distributing its content.
Meanwhile, driving meaningful inbound traffic through search and other channels – depending on the competitive landscape – may take years to come to fruition. The “build it and they will come” expectation is a risky one, particularly in the short-term.
And from a more macro perspective, quality and consistency go hand in hand in the eyes of audiences. Publishers of all stripes, including brand publishers, have to build a reputation for credible, engaging and valuable content – and do it repeatedly. Drive-by readership is often of little value to those brands hoping to forge connections with audiences that will ultimately enable them to move readers towards making purchases.
The risks of moving too fast
While it can be tempting for brand publishers to look for shortcuts to growth, impatience in brand publishing comes with risks and potential downsides, including:
- The wrong mindset. For most modern companies, the impetus is usually towards doing more – more products, more launches, more campaigns and even more stories. While it is true that traffic, for example, may increase if production increases, success is more closely correlated with quality than quantity. Regardless of what metrics brand publishing teams are optimizing to – whether it’s pageviews, conversions, email address, brand influence or others – patience and a willingness to just keep going can pay dividends. This can particularly be difficult for brands with strong marketing muscles, who operate in a launch-first mindset.
- Discouraged and frustrated editorial teams. Moving too fast or having expectations too early can inevitably affect morale and performance. Teams that feel the pressure to show results before they’ve fully settled into a way of working may not perform as well as they could. For brands new to publishing, many of these staffers are also feeling out the right stories, techniques and methods that will produce the most engaging content. Rushing them may cause them to feel discouraged.
- Undermining the broader strategy. Moving too fast also can result in quick changes in direction because something simply is not showing results quickly enough, which can make the overall product feel frenetic and inevitably dilute the overall effect. Audiences expect consistency when it comes to content before it can become a part of their lives. Changing what stories are told, how they’re told and the overall product can quickly frustrate and turn off readers.
- Difficulty gauging success. The inevitable effect of expecting results too quickly, then changing direction or product strategies in response, makes it very hard to tell what type of content is actually resonating and driving results. This may lead to potentially successful content being cut off before it has the chance to actually pay dividends.