Every Marketer Is a Publisher

Participatory journalism – or citizen journalism – has changed the news business. We rely on editors and news personalities to validate and curate, but often, breaking news is first covered not by a major media organization, but by nearby people with mobile phones.

Yahoo celebrity news maven Katie Couric said at a recent IAB/MIXX event that she relies on viewers to tell her what is interesting and what is valuable. She said she used to have to “guess” at what people wanted to see and what questions they would ask of newsmakers. But now, she doesn’t have to guess – she just goes online, asks for comments, and gets more feedback than she (or her staff) can consume.

Marketers and brands have always participated in the national conversation. Ads themselves are sometimes news, and marketers provide all kinds of information and guidance when it comes to things like living well, making big purchase decisions, and entertainment. B2B marketers publish whitepapers and surveys on key challenges in their industries. This kind of information-based marketing is not new.

However, I think it’s more important than ever before. BuzzFeed-type surveys and quizzes aside, marketers are often in a great position to share knowledge with customers and prospects. Marketers often have access to a tremendous library of content – scientific, anecdotal, and historical – as well as many creative assets that may be useful or helpful to citizens. Therein lies the opportunity.

At the same IAB/MIXX event, Denise Karkos, chief marketing officer (CMO) of TD Ameritrade (follow @dckarkos), shared how they used marketing automation and content marketing strategies to publish content from a sponsorship of the Sochi Olympics. “It was important for us to connect our brand with core messaging and positions, but it also let us showcase to executive management how technology-driven marketing is today,” she said in her keynote.

TD Ameritrade sent seven Olympic hopefuls to the Sochi games and exposed them to what the Games experience is really like. This “growth” experience of exposing hopefuls to what it’s really like to go to the Olympics helped to demystify the goal and to prepare them for success. It linked directly with a core message tagline, “It Adds Up.” “They all dream of being Olympians,” Karkos said, “But how do you get there? The small steps add up.”

Although TD Ameritrade experimented with crowdsourcing the funding, they ended up just having a program for people to tweet their support of the Olympic hopefuls (#itaddsup). That content and connection to the brand, along with the marketing of video from the visit and interviews with both the hopeful and current Olympians, created a several month-long content program to connect the brand with Olympic values, and with trust and service. “We made a connection with younger people, saw a big lift in consideration, and drove business as well,” Karkos said.

This test of content marketing inspired further ideas around publishing content to connect with investors. TD Ameritrade is piloting a content program of producing analysis of key trend stories that will help investors apply the news of the day to their own portfolios and actions. The content was piloted with distribution through banner ads in the NYTimes.com website. Although early tests proved a lift in click-through rates, it takes a pretty big commitment and staffing effort to publish news, and Karkos said that the program is still under evaluation.

Publishing a whitepaper a quarter is a totally different challenge than curating and interpreting real-time news. Still, the opportunity exists for every marketer to build a brand and revenue through content marketing. Thinking like a publisher, and organizing content creators, editors, technologists, and technology around a publishing schedule may advance your program beyond campaign-specific marketing. Publishers are reader/customer-centric. That is a model that many marketers would do well to emulate.

Of course, we all must focus – you can’t chase every trend. However, you also may have an opportunity to pair longer-term, brand compliance-savvy marketers with technologists and “sharpshooters” who are not afraid to take chances. Testing new ideas can transform your market opportunity.

How are you applying analytics techniques to your content marketing? What are the best-performing approaches for your business? Please comment below for discussion.

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