Matthew Schwartz

Why brands need to act like media companies

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It’s time organisations found a ‘bigger boat’ and started producing original content, argues Matthew Schwartz.

Consider it a wake-up call for brands and organisations whose content marketing efforts are half-baked and underfunded. According to the latest survey, newsroom employment in the US fell 23 per cent between 2008 and 2017. During the same period, the number of PR professionals has surged. In keeping with the ratio tracked by media software platform Muck Rack, that translates into six PR pros for every one journalist.

With that ratio in mind, PR and marketing managers can ill afford to stick with the status quo when it comes to their content marketing efforts. Indeed, the downward spiral in the number of US journalists – juxtaposed with the upward trend in the number of communications pros – will force brands to become quasi-media companies.

This isn’t about bolstering your “digital PR” efforts. You need to change the culture.

Depending on the business sector and local media markets, more and more companies are looking at fewer and fewer news outlets to pitch their stories. It’s your garden-variety disintermediation, as companies increasingly distribute their content directly to consumers or B2B audiences without a filter.

“Hold on,” marketing managers say. We supply our websites and social channels with a steady stream of original and branded content. Via our YouTube channel, we offer plenty of online videos to feed consumers’ growing appetite for visual communications. And, oh yes, our executive suite delivers online-video messages to our constituents via multiple media channels on a pretty regular basis.

That’s all well and good, but largely tactical. If marketers want to make content marketing core, they’re going to need “a bigger boat”. That means having regularly scheduled and original programming steeped in storytelling and rich media. It means being less risk-averse and exploring new communications channels and products.

Marketing managers need to stretch their imagination for how to create content that will separate their brand from the pack and hold appeal for both existing customers and prospects.

How much longer do we have to wait until companies start to produce, say, the “The Acme Co. 5pm News”, “Globex Corp’s Weekly Business Report” and other branded or themed programming based on a broadcast-news model?

Rather than distribute content whenever it’s ready, companies need to condition their customers for “appointment” viewing. That might be regular news programming, website serials and YouTube series and documentaries, anchored by consistent scheduling.

As part of what must be an ongoing exercise, brands also need to find senior executives and employees – regardless of where they reside on the organisational chart – who are eager to help create ideas for original branded programming.

Senior managers should also encourage employees who are media-ready and can play the role of the “talent” needed to host (and promote) the various programming.

This is a major undertaking that will fundamentally change how brands and organisations develop, produce and distribute original content. But when they take a cold-eyed look at the ongoing deterioration of traditional media, they have little choice.

PR pros, whose numbers are growing steadily, are in a good position to drive the strategy, coordinate across the company with departments such as finance, product development and sales, and develop new editorial content.

Above all, communicators need to start thinking like programming strategists with business acumen. Their scope needs to be much larger.

In the not-too-distant future, communicators will be evaluated increasingly based on the company’s branded programming and cultivating a new marketing model appealing to both customers and prospects.

There’s barely time to wait.

Note: This article first appeared here and is republished with permission.

Links & references

Brand Tales article on how businesses can adopt a brand newsroom approach

About the Author
Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz is a former journalist who is director of content for Stanton, a communications firm with offices in New York and California.

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