original content

Discovering the Amazing Corporate Story

Telling genuine stories about exceptional service and product quality is a way to woo customers.Most companies have moved on from the corporate line to the corporate story, but they still fail to connect with customers and clients because their words don't ring genuine.

Toeing the corporate line faded into disuse because customers and employees increasingly blew off rote recitation of claims that seemed more spun than truthful. It is harder in the digital age to pull the wool over someone's eyes than it is to be unmasked as a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Corporate storytelling can be more compelling because people like to listen to stories, a habit formed since early childhood. But customers can tell the difference between real stories and fairy tales. If the corporate story doesn't match the real corporate persona, then the story turns to pixie dust.

The irony is that most companies have good stories to tell. Their problem is failing to look for them.

Many corporate employees, acting on their own or with encouragement from their managers, do the right thing by customers and often go above and beyond what is expected. Telling those stories puts a personal face on a company and speaks to its core values.

Tips for Brand Journalists

Brand journalism is all about feeding your viewers content that interests or informs them, rather than writing a string of press releases about what you want to tell them.

For many PR and marketing professionals, especially those who never worked on a college student newspaper, brand journalism can be uncomfortable. Training to develop and deliver key messages must give way to reportorial instincts about story hooks, absorbing stories and visual storytelling. You don't push, you reel in. You don't hype, you engage.

For the journalistically challenged, here are some brand journalism tips: 

1. Think stories, not press releases

Reporters and their editors think in terms of stories. What's happening that is newsworthy? What would our readers or viewers like to know? Brand journalists should ask the same kinds of questions to determine what kind of content to post on a website or a blog. Understanding brand consumers and their expectations is critical to producing stories that will capture their interest and make them repeat clickers. Social media guru Jay Baer stresses the importance of "youtility" in brand journalism content. Tell stories that matter to your viewers.

2. Package your content for ease of access

Print, electronic and digital media package their content so it is easy for readers and viewers to find what they are looking for fast. ESPN divides its dense website into different sports. Newspapers have different sections, dividing national news from local news and business news from entertainment news. Television stations have different anchors for news, weather and sports. In addition to ease of access, packaging also is designed to expose as much content as possible. There is a reason why the sports page is usually deep inside the paper and the sports report is at the end of the news broadcast. Brand journalists need to employ similar packaging techniques to make their content accessible and expose as much of it as possible.

3. Behave like a photojournalist

Your website and blogs need what journalists call "good art." People like pictures and video. Reporters today, even for print and web-based publications, are asked to tote around cameras or camcorders. This harkens back to the days when reporters, especially those working for small daily and weekly newspapers, served in the role of photojournalists. They covered the stories and conducted the interviews while keeping an eye out for visual opportunities. My personal photojournalism gem was a picture in Portland Angeles showing a mile-long line of log trucks carrying single, huge logs cut down from an old-growth forest. The picture ran with no story. None was needed. As the hundreds of reader comments noted, it was a picture for the history books. Brand journalists need to look for pictures for the history books that tell stories and captivate viewers. 

Case Study of 'Show Me' Content

Two Portland teenagers want to engage young people on the issue of climate change by building a sustainable house and documenting the steps they take to lessen its carbon footprint. They want to show how everyone can make a difference on what the teens believe is the biggest issue facing their generation.

It is a perfect example of "show me" content.

Forest, 18, and Augest, 15, Endicott say they have secured a land donation for the house and have turned to Kickstarter to raise $395,000 to build it and document what they call an "EcoJuggernaut" journey to "uncover truths behind global warming and discover the actions that can deliver the greatest impact for solving it."

Describing themselves as "tenacious teens," they promise their Kickstarter investors a "front seat" on their "epic adventure to discover what it will take to stop global warming, and how the younger generation can lead the effort to actually reverse the current trends causing it." You also get a free T-shirt.

Forest and Augest say they will "research and investigate sustainable claims in their effort to discover for themselves, along with the audience, what sustainable technology, designs and simple steps can turn our buildings into energy preservers and generators." They will "apply what they discover with hands-on construction, by building a real home from the ground up, capable of producing more energy than it uses."

The Endicotts promise to "weed out greenwashing and eco-placeboes that too often take us down a road to nowhere." They also pledge to make the EcoJuggernaut "edgy, fun, suspenseful, hard-hitting, adventurous, inspiring, mind blowing, engaging, relevant and always real." A reality show with substance.

Curating Your Own Content

Scrambling to create original content is challenging. You can ease the burden by curating your own content and repackaging and refining it in new, useful ways to your target audiences.Content creation can be a demanding chore. One way to cope with the challenge is to repackage your best content.

We recently combed through our blogs, which are dutifully freshened at least weekly, and were startled at the gems we discovered. We offered advice, shared case studies and provided insights as valuable today as when the blogs were originally written.

Instead of letting them gather digital dust, we've decided to resurrect, repackage and repurpose our best blogs into one or more e-books.

Think of it as curating your own content.

Growth of Social Media Advertising

Social media advertising is growing rapidly, but the key to success remains in having vital social media sites featuring compelling original content.Social media ads are becoming a staple of integrated marketing campaigns as marketers look for ways to surround their target audiences. And people are taking notice of more ad traffic on their social media streams.

A survey by Vizu confirms advertisers are embracing social media ads as a way to drive traffic to their websites. A report by BIA/Kelsey predicts native social media ads will grow from $1.5 billion this year to $3.9 billion in 2016.

But marketers aren't abandoning other tactics, such as online display, TV and print ads. Instead, social media ads seem to be the latest great idea to take their place as just another outreach tool to audiences, much like mobile apps.

Social media ads are proliferating, explains Ryan Holmes, CEO at HootSuite, because they produce results — at least better results as measured by numbers of clicks than stale ideas such as online banner ads. 

What Original Content Reveals

If your original online content reflects your core brand, it will reveal why you are special.Aggregating content from multiple sources is the role of media and reference websites. If you blog to market your services or display thought leadership, you need to create original content relevant to your target audience.

Your insights and reflections are what differentiate you from others and attract followers, clicks and shares. They also are the stuff that incites engagement.

To engage customers or constituents, you need to be engaged with your subject. Talk about what you know, what you feel, what you believe. Share your experiences. Be the expert people are looking to find.

Borrowing and circulating what someone else knows, feels or believes is akin to advertising your competitors. It's fine to quote a source that inspires or informs your thought, but why rehash someone else's work at the expense of sharing your own?