Last week I outlined how social media is useless without a thoughtful content marketing strategy. My man Mark Schaefer carried this one step further by brilliantly describing Content Marketing as a "do-over" for social media.
Something is still missing though.
I couldn't put my finger on it until I began dissecting the term "content marketing." It occurred to me that many acts as if "content" has already been defined. Say the word content and people automatically substitute the word with "savvy, smart,interesting or systematic." The assumption follows that you can't go wrong if you stick with content.
When pushed to define content - I often get a "procedural" answer.
Great content should be published regularly. Content needs to be relevant. Content must be interesting. Close but not quite.
Sonia Simone, CMO at Copyblogger, provides the best starting point -
"Content worth reading usually appears under a headline that attracts and pulls in the audience, and is genuinely useful, focusing on problems readers actually care about, and is formatted to engage and hold attention, and is at least moderately entertaining" tweet
But we shouldn't stop there. Afterall, you probably are publishing interesting and useful information already but still haven't seen results.
I've been deeply skeptical about brand marketing for over a decade. Branding seemed wasteful since it was always used as an excuse for a failing campaign. "We are building a brand so don't look at how many clicks and sales you are getting. " In fact, I've seen many dumb campaigns and dumb people hide behind the fig leaf of branding.
But I was being unfair.
Branding made sense its the execution that sucked. In branding's heyday creative teams identified an emotion that matched the story and benefits of their product.
Volvo is safety.
Apple is creativity.
Harley-Davidson is rebellion.
Every commercial, magazine ad, radio script, and billboard worked together to drive home the "brand promise."
Branding is still powerful (and will remain so for decades to come) but it's getting harder to actually get a brand message in front of consumers. 86% of consumers skip commercials. I can flip through a magazine and remember 2 articles and forget every ad. I haven't listened to Top40 Radio for years. Why? I hate the ads.
But...we have an answer to the distribution problem. Content Marketing.
Our customers start out as intensely curious readers. Well-crafted content grabs their attention by giving them control over the experience. They are "learning" not being "pitched".
The next step is to make that content stick. That's where Branded Content comes in.
Why Branded Content Works
Branded content takes the best of branding and marries it to content. Branded content is memorable because it tells a story. Branded content inspires loyalty because it takes a stand. Branded content builds leads and sales because people like supporting companies they understand.
Branded content is emotional and good, but not tame. It requires risk but it's not a gamble. Branded content puts your organization's heart on its sleeve and dares anyone to question or disagree. It's gutsy marketing that gets results.
How To Add Brand To your Content
I have to admit that we are out on the edge on this one. Content Marketing is new. Marrying content and branding together is newer still but there are a few smart steps you can take now:
Pick an Emotion
What is the emotion you want your reader to feel after they've visited your blog? I go for determination at Pushing Social. Every graphic element of Pushing Social is designed to reinforce this emotion. Knowing your blog's core emotion will guide your choice of theme, color, logo, typography and editorial content.
Joe Pulizzi always wears orange when he gives a keynote speech. You will probably never see Derek Halpern in a tie. Marie Forleo gives as much consideration to her on-camera appearance as she does her script. People want to know the person behind the brand and they want that person to have something that is memorable. Plain works for the CIA but not for brand content marketers.
Anything can be used to accent your look. My favorite is color but you can use eyewear, jewelry, an expression, even hats are all great ways to stand out and stamp your brand with personal flair.
Be consistent and Persistent
Settle in for the long haul. Brand Content takes time to marinate. Your readers love new content but want to come back to a familiar space. Radically changing your blog's look and feel is a recipe for confusion and decline.
I stuck with one logo for 2 years before I changed it. One thing I will never change is the emotion and the color red. Bring the same consistency and persistence to your brand.
Find and Then Evolve Your Voice
Voice. Voice. Voice.
Nothing can beat a blogger that has put in the work to discover their Voice. Your Voice can be salty like Naomi Dunn or Erika Napoletano. Your Voice can be thoughtful and full of soul like Margie Clayman. You can also be a cocky son-of-a-gun that is as good as you say you are - I'm winking at Derek Halpern.
How do you find your voice? Use it. Write like you talk. Write a lot. No shortcuts.
Putting it All Together
Branded content expresses your core emotion, look, and voice in:
- The blog post headlines you write
- How you use the first two sentences of your blog post to suck people into your posts
- The stories you tell
- Your post photos
- Your podcast intro music
- Your favorite topics
- Your logo design
- Your font choice
- The type of guest posts you publish on your blog
- The fights you pick
- The heroes you support
- The villains you kneecap
- How you answer comments
- The type of products/services you offer
- The cover photo used on Facebook
- Your Twitter bio (love Hillary's)
- How you participate in LinkedIn Groups
- The blogs you select for your guest posts
- The topics you ignore.
Go ahead and infuse your content with your special brand of moxy. You got this.
By the way, if you are trying to get your blog design figured out then pick up a copy of my free 50 Blog Design Tweaks special report here.