Brands publishing news content isn't a question anymore, it's a way of life in the digital marketing world. Whether it's a weekly post on a corporate blog, a news release published in the company newsroom or a series of daily news articles as part of a brand's online publication.
Welcome to the era of brand publishing and content marketing, where quantity doesn't mean quality and journalistic best practices are part of the job descriptions for success. Today we have conferences, institutes, books, webinars, blogs, staff, departments, and agencies dedicated to content marketing offering tips on how to do it best.
While content marketing maybe just be one of most overused words in 2013, it's a necessary evil that brands must master to rise above the competition, get attention by the search engines, feel the sharing love in social and create brand advocates that ultimately... convert into sales. Gasp!
Brand Publishing: It's Really Nothing New
Smart brands have always published good content – they just used to do it via press releases to get their message across to print journalists. The difference now? There's no need for a third party. Brands can go straight to their audience and bypass middlemen; becoming the authority news source.
Social content, editorial content, news content, web content. Everybody is doing it, the question is who is doing it right and what is the right way?
How is Social Media Impacting a Brand's Content News Cycle?
For the fourth year, TekGroup International conducted the social media news survey (PDF), asking social media users how they share, discover and create news content. Respondents indicated they are using social media tools habitually with almost 90% saying they use Twitter, Facebook, and blogs on a daily basis to follow and monitor news content and information.
- 35 percent reported frequently visiting a corporate website for news, an increase
- 54 percent believe social media is important to follow news
- 78 percent use Facebook to follow, share and discover news
- 86 percent use Twitter as a news source
How to be Content Jugglers and Social Media Masters
What best practices can we learn from brand publishers doing it right and even online publications such as Search Engine Watch?
We asked the names behind brand content managers: Ashley Tate, content manager, BigDoor; Danny Goodwin, associate editor, Search Engine Watch; Jennifer Lopez, director of community, Moz; Victoria Edwards, digital content strategist, Florida Blue.
Is More Content Better?
When it comes to quantity and quality, all agreed that quality was more important that quantity.
"Gosh no! For example, our goal with YouMoz is to publish one post each day (two if possible). However, we'd rather not put anything up, if it means we're sacrificing quality," Lopez said.
"I prefer high-quality content over a high quantity of content, so as a general rule, more content is not necessarily better. However, every content strategy is different, so sometimes publishing a high volume of content can support a strategy well," Tate said.
When in doubt, go back in your content timeline and repopulate past content that still serves a purpose.
"Repurposing good, evergreen content is better," Edwards said.
"There is no ideal word count. You can tell a story in 400 words or 2500 words. Write to what the topic deserves. "More" isn't better. "Better" content is better, " said Goodwin, who manages about 80 writers and guest contributors and gives the final edit, optimization, artwork, and production pass on all Search Engine Watch posts.
What Are Your Guidelines About Authors Tweeting and Sharing?
"Every piece of content we publish is easily shareable, so we always encourage social sharing internally and through our community if the reader is inspired to do so," said Tate of BigDoor's publishing and sharing policy. "The more eyeballs you can turn towards your content, the better!"
One aspect brand and publishers sometimes forget is to give the author credit embedded in social shares. A best practice is to make sure the sharing widgets are programmed properly especially on Twitter article shares include credit to the publication and the author versus just the title and the link.
"We share all of our posts several times on our social networks and will always call out the author if they've given us their Twitter handle, G+ profile, etc.," Lopez said. "Additionally we encourage authors to share their posts in their networks as well, as it can really help a post get out to the greater community."
How Far in Advance do You Manage Your Editorial Calendar?
"We look at our editorial calendar in two ways: the long game and the short game," Tate said. "For the long game, we have big content pieces planned at least six months in advance, and will tweak the topics when necessary due to changes in the industry, updates to our product, etc. For the short game, our editorial calendar is usually set four week out."
"For the main blog, the calendar is often full four to six weeks in advance. However for YouMoz, where the editorial process takes a bit longer, we're happy to get a couple posts set in advance," said Lopez in regards to the Moz blogs.
Brands can learn from online publications when it comes to flexibility and leaving room for breaking news that needs immediate attention.
For example, Search Engine Watch sets up a publication schedule for the full year, where contributors are given assigned due dates, and sent reminders to ensure they keep on track to deliver their posts. With the search industry seemingly in constant flux, Goodwin said he aims to have a good handle on what contributors are working on by four weeks out or helping generate content ideas, though many contributors are often given creative freedom to write about topics they choose.
How do You Decide the Timing of the Posts?
There is no one size fits all when it comes to timing.
"You should check analytics to see when most people use the site and put out content during those hot times," Goodwin said. "For us, it's generally weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET."
Publishing when you have the most audience eyeballs is the name of the game.
"BigDoor's blog posts are published at the time when most of our community will be available to read them," Tate said. "We've assessed the days and times throughout the week when our readers are most active on our site and social networks, and base our publishing schedule off of the combination of the two. We know that our readers are always evolving, so we try to make sure our publishing schedule evolves with them."
Who is Responsible for Optimizing the Brand's Content for Search?
While some brands have the luxury of a point person heading up the optimization, in today's digital world where content is king, writers with an SEO background can add even more value.
"Ruth Burr focuses on our SEO, however most of our editorial staff are trained in SEO as well which helps us scale," Lopez said.
"Our primary editor is responsible for making sure the content, header, and social sharing copy for each piece is searchable and engine-friendly," Tate said.
"At FloridaBlue, I have a blog guideline document that I share with writers, but ultimately it is me that will optimize the content and visuals, that go along with the blogs," said Edwards, who is also a Search Engine Watch contributor.
Collaboration Brings Symmetry and Productivity – or Chaos?
Publishing a blog with just a part-time writer, in-house team, or blend of outside contributors can be an experience of havoc and chaos if not organized with editorial calendars, deadlines, schedules, and roles of responsibilities. Tools of choice include:
The world of journalism and publishing is evolving. Need proof? See NewsCred, the content marketing company which just launched The NewsRoom, a freelance-based newswire that aims to connect brands with journalists.
The slow moving days of marketing departments approval process are over, today it's time to find a journalism frame of mind. Brands can adapt or die.