Brands

The Secrets Of Bureaucracy-Free Content Marketing

 

Media outlets have long since understood that a quick trigger finger can lead to embarrassment (as in the famous example here) but brands run the risk of going so overboard with approvals that it defeats the purpose of their content.

Media outlets have long since understood that a quick trigger finger can lead to embarrassment (as in the famous example here) but brands run the risk of going so overboard with approvals that it defeats the purpose of their content.It’s an old maxim of journalism: Yesterday’s newspaper doesn’t make tomorrow’s news.

It’s an old maxim of journalism: Yesterday’s newspaper doesn’t make tomorrow’s news.

And, the fact of the matter is, the same thing holds for branded content. Brands want to be seen as relevant, and sometimes even as cutting edge–especially if they’re investing resources into content marketing and storytelling to do just that.

The lengthy, tedious workflows and extensive legal approvals that are typical of corporate rather than journalistic publishing models can make brands’ marketing content feel like old news if things aren’t handled right. In an age where social media and the internet is driving conversation faster than ever, and brands are becoming publishers, the workflow of traditional marketing can hold them at the back of the pack.

“Workflows and approvals tend to expose the lie in the ‘brands as publishers’ idea,” says Kyle Monson, a veteran of global agency JWT who is now CEO and founder of agency Knock2x. “For news organizations and publishers, timely content is a huge competitive advantage, and they’ll move heaven and earth to get their story published before a competitor gets to it. But on the brand side, it can take weeks or even months to get a fairly puffy piece through all the clients, lawyers, and managers necessary for a green light.”

Publishers succeed through an equation of timely, high-quality, and relevant publishing — and that equation needs all three of those parts. A brand can’t truly be a publisher if its content (however high-quality) isn’t being published in time to remain relevant with an audience and potential consumers. The further danger is that the brand comes off as tired and old. Stale content marketing can actually fuel negative consumer sentiment, according to Myrland Marketing.

Yes, your lawyers have a point

Brands’ lawyers and marketing leaders care about the content that’s published for obvious reasons: Every word they print, and each of their opinions, can be misconstrued. But as Charles H. Spurgeon said so aptly, “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow… but only empties today of its strength.” The key to tackling the approval process with a legal team and higher ups in the marketing department is by putting a sense of reason and order in place.

The team over at the Content Marketing Institute recommends instituting a book of “rules.” They say, “To succeed in a real-time content world, content marketers need to be able to move fast when it comes to producing content…Before you start executing on your content marketing strategy, create a “rules” document that both content team members and your legal and compliance teams agree to.”

If brands have a rulebook, their legal teams will be familiar not only with the way that the content teams are envisioning their publishing cycles, but will also be more comfortable since this is the way they’ve been trained–by the proverbial book. It’s capable of eliminating some unnecessary hand-wringing as a result. The CMI team recommends creating a rulebook that “clearly defin[es], in advance, what your content/social team will and will not do with the company’s publicly available content.” In this way, both the legal team and content team will be in a position to understand one another better and prevent fewer miscommunications — and ideally will make the legal team breathe easier.

Lessons from the newspaper world

Something that may surprise content marketers is that the media world does, in fact, grapple with the need for its content to be fresh as well. They, too, have systems and chains of command in place — particularly if they’re legacy publications from an age of print media where publishing weekly or even monthly was sufficient.

An organized content strategy instills confidence in the management, and that’s the first step to breaking down the walls of bureaucracy that can frustrate brand editors.

Ben Frumin, Editor in Chief of TheWeek.com — the digital arm of print magazine The Week — says “We don’t measure wins and losses in seconds like some of the news wires do, but we also certainly don’t measure them in hours, days, or weeks like print publications do. We deal in minutes, and want everything conceived, pitched, approved, written, edited, published, and promoted as quickly as possible — though not in such a hurry that we sacrifice quality.”

For a brand, deciding just how often it wants to be creating content, and what kind of content, is key. Charting out this rough calendar is the kind of strategy that can help executives on both the legal and marketing sides understand what to expect. An organized content strategy instills confidence in the management, and that’s the first step to breaking down the walls of bureaucracy that can frustrate brand editors.

Knock2x founder Kyle Monson says, “The two ideas we typically need to reinforce are: one, the client’s editorial team needs enough authority to be able to act quickly, and two, if a brand has an ongoing content campaign, it really isn’t necessary for every piece of content to represent the totality of the brand identity. They can publish a bit of it today, and more of it tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.” That’s another step in the process that can erode a rigid approvals hierarchy: Ensuring that the management knows the brand’s content is incremental and doesn’t need to be the be-all, end-all of the brand’s story.

One article, after all, rarely tells a news event’s whole story.

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