Over the past two days, we brought you posts on the intersection of brand journalism and social media (co-written by Tim Gray, content strategist at online marketing/web design firm Blue Fountain Media). Today we conclude the series by reviewing distribution issues and offering several more examples of “owned media” sites that get the new PR equation just right.
The final step in the three-part journey from traditional PR to brand journalism:
3. Achieve Maximum Participation
In order to succeed as a brand journalist, you must be an expert in your field—not just a producer/distributor of goods, services and press releases. Your best content will reach across social media by appealing to readers who’ve never heard of your brand but have a vested interest in the products you offer.
Create content that can be re-used and re-purposed as often as possible. Write multimedia stories that can simultaneously serve as tweets, Facebook updates, blog posts, and sharable video files. Hit all avenues at once for optimum exposure. And, again, facilitate interaction by explicitly encouraging followers to “tell us what you think in the comments.”
- Making the most of all social media channels will boost your traffic numbers while building your reputation as a trustworthy source of information. The larger “conversation” will ultimately revolve around those who create original, high-quality content—no matter which channels they use.
Social Key: You should encourage every member of your team to promote all your content across multiple social media channels—but you also need to make sure you don’t repeat yourself too often. Followers will quickly tire of a rep who just re-posts the same material in different venues. At the very least, you should learn to update, alter and re-frame your material to make sure it’s still fresh for your audience.
For example, if a follower tweets a story that you ran a couple of weeks ago, re-tweet his/her message and add a comment. This simple act may re-kindle interest in a post that no longer shows up in your followers’ feeds but remains relevant.
If you don’t have any original material at a given moment, share something from a source you follow that you believe your own audience would enjoy. Small touches are still touches.
Example: Qualcomm’s Spark, a site offering a variety of interactive tech and game-related content that stretches well beyond its parent company’s key product (wireless telecommunications). Topics like these can easily attract the eyes of readers who aren’t necessarily looking for Qualcomm products.
Example: American Express‘s Open Forum, a site filled with all sorts of content relevant to small business owners that regularly features guest posts by members of the business community–all sponsored by the AmEx line of business cards. Users can manage their accounts and read relevant listicles in the same place–it’s quite brilliant.
A final example that points toward the future of brand journalism for consumer products is Degree antiperspirant’s The Adrenalist. Looking over the page, you’ll see a ton of content about activities that make you sweat (extreme sports, endurance tests and outdoor adventures), much of it written by reality star Bear Grylls of Man vs. Wild. What you won’t see are any messages directly relating to antiperspirant (save for a banner ad on the right side of the page).
Herein lies the key to successful brand journalism via social media–the user should only reach a “buy here” message after consuming several rounds of original content, because the hard sell just doesn’t work in the world of e-commerce. We don’t know how many people actually buy Degree on this page, but it is a masterwork in terms of increasing brand awareness. Take note of the fact that The Adrenalist currently has 6,000 followers on Twitter and 781,000 on Facebook. Even if these followers dismiss Degree’s PR efforts, the site has served its purpose in making them much more aware of the brand–which is extremely important the next time they stop by the pharmacy to pick up some deodorant.