Don’t let Felix Baumgartner
His 2012 jump from space was watched by a record 8 million people live on YouTube and generated enough hot air on social media channels to power his next adventure. Despite Baumgartner’s heroics, all in the name of Red Bull, his exercise in content marketing remains an outlier.
One key to getting the story of your brand right online is to understand your audience and, as a consequence, to understand the myth of virality. In the words of Collective Content’s managing director Tony Hallett, “For brands it’s not always about virality. It’s about reaching the right people.”
It is a point echoed by Will Sturgeon, executive director of strategy at Golin Harris. He compared Red Bull against technology maker Cisco, which built a news and information channel called The Network
. Both are valid examples of brand storytelling with very different audience expectations.
“Fewer people want to read the techie stories than want to see someone jump out of a balloon at the edge of space,” says Sturgeon. “You really don’t need to reach a mass audience if a few thousand IT decision makers [are] your target audience.”
Building an effective brand newsroom isn’t about creating the next big phenomenon. It’s about consistently giving an audience what it wants. Here are 10 ways to ensure you do:
1. Define your audience.
If you don't have a clear idea of who you are writing for, your brand newsroom experiment will fail. One effective way to do this is to create a persona of your ideal reader. Then every time you consider producing a piece of content, think about whether he or she would want to read, watch, or share it. Consider what angle best suits his or her needs.
2. Establish an editorial proposition.
The more a brand talks about itself, the more likely it is to turn a potential audience off. Instead, provide news and information that are useful and valuable to your target audience.
3. Don’t fall for the myth of virality.
If your content goes viral and gets read or watched by hundreds of thousands of people, that's great, but it’s a rare thing. Aim to reach the right people.
4. Find your tone of voice.
This is essential when creating content that will work across multiple channels, including social networks. Often, being relaxed, informal, and direct works well.
5. Build a team.
Think of a traditional newsroom structure. As you build up your marketing communications team, make sure to hire people with versatile skill sets who can adopt various roles. Look for skills including writing, design, video production, and so on.
6. Use the calendar.
An editorial calendar can help you pinpoint and plan stories that connect to your audience at particular points throughout the year.
7. Be ready to react to breaking news.
If you want to take advantage of an ongoing conversation, manage a crisis in real time, react to or add perspective to an ongoing news story, you must be able to publish and distribute content on the fly with skill, confidence, and authority. You also must know which medium will work best.
8. Define a workable sign-off process.
Ensure that you've established a sign-off process that everyone understands and buys into, and that can be deployed even on the busiest of days.
9. Establish no-go areas.
Define upfront the subject areas you are willing to write about and those you should avoid.
[RELATED: Get advanced brand journalism tips from Mark Ragan and Jim Ylisela!]
10. Remember: It’s editorial.
As Sturgeon says "A CEO of an organization shouldn't accept that 60 percent of the media he or she endures is boring. It doesn't work like that. CEOs are just as likely to enjoy 25 cats on BuzzFeed
as the rest of us. So you have to police yourself to make this stuff interesting."
To find more detail on each of these, download “The rise of the brand newsroom,” the latest whitepaper from Mynewsdesk.
Jon Bernstein is a writer and journalist who formally served as deputy editor and digital director of the New Statesman, as well as multimedia editor of Channel 4 News in the UK. A version of this story originally appeared on digital PR firm Mynewsdesk's blog.