Companies as Innovators AND Content Creators
By Jim Goldman
It’s a lot more complicated today being — and becoming — a meaningful, successful brand. No longer do companies just need to build that better mousetrap; it’s also as much about communications, content creation, relationship building, customer connection. Taken together, that’s a powerful, one-two punch that’s catapulting smart companies further, and making them into innovators as well.
While I’ve been at Zeno these past five years, I’ve noticed some tectonic shifts in media and storytelling. And certainly over the past year, we’ve seen the value of authenticity, honesty, credibility and data-driven narratives that can not only be justified but validated. And this has significantly changed the way Zeno counsels our clients as they communicate and connect with their key audiences.
The companies that do this well have a cohesive, captivating, coordinated narrative — and an always-on approach to getting that message out. The corporate newsroom can be as big as a major metropolitan daily or network news operation, or it can be as small as a community weekly or local news outlet. When it comes to content creation, even a little can go a long way. But the more you do, the more coordination and integration you have, the more successful you’ll be in sharing and controlling the narrative. We know this not by theory but in practice, and this is what we set out to build as we engage with clients, certainly on an earned basis, but shared and paid, too.
Today’s effective corporate content creators are as much about their own brands as they are about the trends and issues affecting their industries. They provide information about their company; they provide vision about the industry; and they contribute to a wide range of coverage, whether it’s brand specific or more broadly industry focused. In all cases, corporations today need to be nimble, available, candid, informative, data-specific and credible. The focus can’t always be brand-specific, either. Broad perspective on industry trends bolster executive value, and of course the brand value for the companies they run.
Taken to the next level, companies ought to establish thought leadership platforms and simultaneously amplify those narratives through blogs, op-eds, white papers and corporate videos across a few key executives rather than just the CEO. Putting a face on the content strengthens the authenticity factor.
And when it comes to earned media, reporters want to know what’s next. A visionary CEO, or team of C-suite representatives who can talk about trends and issues, without having to always insert their own brands to do it, play very well with reporters who need perspective and context, and indirectly transform a CEO into a thought leader. This approach simultaneously creates thought leadership and seizes on hot topics to insert the brand into conversations already happening, deepening relevance, providing context, increasing value and strengthening connection.
And a word about authenticity, which is so critically important. As far as content is concerned, companies must also connect more deeply with their audiences. Press releases can be replaced by more authentic and informal blogs. Voice and tone matter. Audiences don’t want to be passive; they want to feel a part of something, they want to engage and be engaged with. Companies can no longer just sell to; they must now communicate with.
A subtle nuance? A fundamental shift? I certainly think the latter.
Coordination and integration across narrative, content, thought leadership and data, then blending it all with paid, earned, owned and shared has never been more important, and done well, has never had this much opportunity to drive business results and transform perception. Compelling content that begins with earned media, is then amplified and extended through paid and owned, is only truly successful when it is shared. This beefs up authenticity as well as credibility. Every news appearance should be its own news cycle, complemented by an op-ed, or study, or survey/white paper, corporate video. The days of “one and done” for corporate news are over.
I’d also say that successful companies don’t go it alone. A robust analyst and influencer program is highly effective, and again, speaks to the authenticity factor. Third party advocates today are more important than ever before, along with supporting data for any corporate claim. Media want to validate all claims with industry or proprietary internal data. Numbers and the context around them matter. A lot.
More tactically, we are in a seeing-is-believing climate. All media has become visual. Even print reporters are augmenting coverage with video elements when their stories are online. Video, produced as news would produce it, not slick marketing productions, can be incredibly valuable, and highly recommended.
All this circles back to the new corporate newsroom. Content is king! Long live content! Always on, always interesting, opportunistic and always relevant.