Channeling Anna Wintour: When Creating Branded Content, Think Like An Editor-In-Chief

Now that everybody's in the media business, smart companies need to know how to make their content stand out.

The executive editor of a popular online news site recently uploaded a photo of a poster to Instagram that read, “I’ll be interested, if you’ll be interesting.” The photo caption explained that this sentiment echoes her “operating policy.” There you have it--a simple, yet impactful peek into the mind of an editor-in-chief.

Nowadays anyone can publish, but not everyone is interesting. As the proverbial cloud gets cloudier, companies are challenged to emerge above the turbulent noise of online chatter to the sunny calm where brands, media, influencers, and consumers work together to create meaning, value, and connection. These days, developing a successful online presence requires approaching traditional digital efforts like link-building, web traffic, lead generation, and sales from a decidedly more editorial, content-rich approach: a hybrid marketing and storytelling strategy that drives customer actions by creating, documenting, distributing, and optimizing content. Some companies have created their own internal content development departments or are working with agencies to create everything from infographics to documentaries that highlight where the values, interests, and personality of brand and customer overlap. Coca Cola believes so strongly in the power of content that they are relying on this approach to help them double the size of their business by 2020.

While your office probably looks a lot different than a newsroom, approaching content strategy by thinking like a magazine publisher or a television producer is an effective way to approach content development and promotion. Utilizing influential voices to develop and promote content can help ensure that you meet the first requirement of securing readership and viewers--be interesting.

This is absolutely where a journey into the content sphere begins. No matter what you do, do this first: 

  • Designate a leader: Content naturally comes from multiple departments and can work in service of a multitude of business goals, but you need a content captain, a creative champion within the organization to provide overarching strategy, work with internal and external teams, and, if needed, be the brand voice when it comes to social media conversation. This leader and his/her support staff will help to train your organization to capture content, and to help them promote and place the latest great story. As the only acting conduit and connector between your brand and the masses, it’s critical that he/she is a skilled editor, a trusted communicator who loves language and who appreciates the fun of a well-placed pun (a little rhyming doesn’t hurt either). 

While the thought of adding on tactics like video or even Pinterest may seem like daunting tasks, and difficult to prioritize, the good news is that there is already a powerful ecosystem of influencers connected to your brand that can help support your efforts. Here are some behind the scenes considerations when determining who can help be your voice:

  • The people who already create for you: We often hear “write about what you know” because it comes easiest. Identify the talented storytellers within your own walls. Those with an intimate knowledge of company activities are primed to create impactful content, even on a tight deadline. Identify employees who are weekend filmmakers, amateur photographers, poets, and guitar players and invite them to bring these talents to the table.
  • The people who use your product or service: The voice of the customer is the most influential of all. Provide loyal consumers with an opportunity to get involved by sharing their stories. Identify digital influencers that fit your brand aesthetic and explore partnership opportunities. This approach is heavily evident in the fashion industry, where brands routinely work with fashion bloggers on everything from Twitter chats to advertising campaigns.
  • The people who support you: Why not collaborate on content development with partners or vendors? By working together, budgets become more manageable and both parties can benefit from the potential PR story. By working together, you can deliver deeper impact and cast a wider net. 
  • The people who create content for a living: Quite simply, many businesses just don’t have the in-house resources for content generation. Empower your content leader to work with a digital marketing agency or freelance writers, videographers, and designers to help support content goals.

With more brands developing more and more content, we will naturally reach a point of over-saturation where only the very best stories will make an impact. As such, it is absolutely crucial to begin to refine and optimize current content marketing practices. Also, with the line blurring between marketing or brand managers and content developers, it’s worth noting that those best suited for positions in content marketing have a rare combination of business and marketing acumen, digital savvy, as well as journalism, public relations, film, and even creative writing. For those with this mega-mix, employment opportunities abound.

Crosby Noricks is the Director of Social Media at Red Door Interactive and founder of PR Couture. With offices in San Diego, Carlsbad, and Denver, Red Door Interactive, Inc. is a strategic partner dedicated to ensuring businesses acquire, convert, retain, and engage their customers wherever they are. The firm holds more than a decade of expertise in successfully developing and executing communications initiatives across all touch points to deliver real, measurable results. Clients include Cricket Communications, CND (Shellac), Smith+Noble, Rubio’s Restaurants, Inc., and Charlotte Russe. For more insights from Crosby, email her or follow her @PR_Couture.

[Image: Flickr user Emanuele D'Angelo]

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