Semiconductor and mobile technology giant Qualcomm, like many B2B companies, finds that telling its story isn’t always easy. The 25-year-old company wants to educate the world about digital communications and mobile user experience while weaving a narrative of innovation and inspiration in the process. The company’s marketing power tool of choice? Branded journalism.
“When evaluating our marketing and business challenges, we took a look at the landscape,” says Liya Sharif, publisher of Qualcomm Spark, the company’s content marketing hub. “In today’s world, consumers are increasingly skeptical of brand messaging and advertising, and the amount of social chatter and noise is deafening.”
Qualcomm has positioned Spark as an extremely focused audience engagement tool.
“Spark is meant to cut through the noise, reach our key audiences with unexpected content and provide a unique perspective from influencers on how mobile is transforming people’s lives around the world,” Sharif says.
So what lessons can other content marketers learn from Qualcomm’s efforts with Spark?
Lesson 1: Inspire Conversations
Consumer dialogue is key to content marketing. Rather than blast audiences with advertising messages, inspire meaningful dialogue around your brand.
“Qualcomm Spark is currently a way to ignite conversation about technology and invention by inviting tech enthusiasts and early adopters to discuss ideas, trends and concepts shaping next-generation mobile technology,” explained Sharif.
The concept of innovation is foundational to Qualcomm as a brand, and that same value underscores the company’s content marketing plan. The crucial first step? Conversation.
“Invention is the core of Qualcomm’s DNA, and we created Spark to give inventors, engineers, creators, designers and consumers – both internally and externally – a place to have a dialogue about creating the next amazing thing,” says Sharif.
As an example, How Mind-Controlled Devices Will Change Our Future has generated more than 400 shares on social media and 20+ user comments about mind control, privacy, and technology.
Lesson 2: Take Off Your Sales Hat
The goal of content marketing often isn’t direct sales, but rather the kind of brand awareness and affinity that will ultimately drive sales. Remove sales — or at least clear references to sales — from your content marketing equation for the best results and most meaningful conversations.
Spark’s approach to branded journalism is to remove ‘marketing’ from the equation altogether.”We decided we wanted to be less of a marketer and more of a publisher,” Sharif said.
“This type of owned content marketing allows us to explore concepts relevant to the Qualcomm brand in a way that’s not possible using traditional marketing tools.”
Prioritize brand positioning for the long term instead of focusing on short term sales opportunities.
“Spark allows us to build a conversation around the Qualcomm brand — designed to enhance recognition, awareness and likability to help improve standing in the tech community and bring new life into the news via storytelling,” Sharif said.
Lesson 3: Quality Is Irreplaceable
Nobody likes bad writing. When your content lacks a high-quality edge, your audience will notice — and your marketing efforts will fall flat. For Qualcomm, awesome content is priority #1, which sometimes means removing the brand from the equation.
“The key to successful content marketing lies in a sound editorial vision behind cutting-edge brand journalism and a blended content strategy,” Sharif said.
Above all, your content should come from the heart.
“We keep our content very authentic,” Sharif said. “In fact, we have chosen to include stories from contributors whose positions don’t always align with the company’s stance in order to produce authentic content. An example would be [analyst] Rob Enderle’s ‘Smartphones suck at gaming.'”
Lesson 4: Let Analytics Guide You
Rely on your data to establish your content program’s direction. Qualcomm Spark keeps a close eye on data to keep the content as relevant and effective as possible. The key metric to watch? Not necessarily traffic, but levels of audience engagement.
“One of our contributed articles has received 1,000+ comments to date, which is on par or even better interaction than even some of the major consumer blog stories out there,” Sharif said.
Look beyond the buzz to focus on the metrics that are right for your brand.
“We are looking at ways to make Spark more of a customer acquisition tool in the future – as a way to attract consumers to our brand, build affinity and loyalty and make Spark a touch point,”explained Sharif.
Knowing how to read and intepret your content marketing program’s data can push it to new heights.