Don’t laugh, because, one day, it will happen. A company’s blog will win a Pulitzer journalism prize. And the next thing that will happen for that company (if it hasn’t already at that point) is that they will gain an incredibly large and loyal customer base.
Just two years after Politico and The Huffington Post were the first online publications to be honored with a Pulitzer, is there anyone left who would still argue that online journalism is not just as worthy of the prize as traditional journalism? These outlets have proven they can be independent stewards of journalistic integrity. The next big question will be: can brands do the same?
The term has already been coined for some time – “brand journalism” – so surely at some point the debate will come to a head when one company out there takes the program to a level that really may be worthy of the storied prize. But what does that take in terms of talent and resources, and above all – how much will that cost?
The answer is different for every company. Many are trying to figure it out by focusing more on the new world of owned media and content marketing – and a big part of that is transforming their blog in to the source of expert, trusted third-party content.
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Let me plainly state that this series is not a financial calculator. Instead I will go through several factors that all impact the cost of a really top-notch blogging program. So, with that:
1. Content has to be Valuable to Your Audience.
Thin, repetitive, introspective (i.e. “selfie”) content is dead. Or it will be soon. Consumers are smart, and they know when they are reading crap or something that is worth their time.
And what is worth their time? Helpful, expert-driven, unique content. Let me show you.
For one, we all live in Google’s world when it comes to SEO, whether we like it or not. About.com SEO and web design guru Jennifer Kyrnin lays out the problem with duplicate content pretty clearly, and is backed up directly by Google themselves: “If your reasons have more to do with you, such as you want more eyes on the content, you want to get the content to display higher in search, or you want to manipulate search results then you shouldn’t do it.”
From a pure visibility standpoint, then, don’t repeat yourself. Produce new stuff. Have a different perspective. And don’t cross-post if you can avoid it.
2. Your Own Word Only Goes So Far.
A recent study from social sharing and influence experts at InPowered found that expert third-party content lifted brand familiarity among buyers 88 percent more than branded content and 50 percent more than user reviews.
Third-party content also lifted brand affinity:
- 50 percent more than branded content
- 20 percent more than user reviews
Along with lifting purchase consideration:
- 38 percent more than branded content
- 83 percent more than user reviews
3. Focus Outwards, Not Inwards.
Some of the best advice about valuable content that I’ve heard recently comes from Marisa Kopec at SiriusDecisions, a research and advisory firm that helps B2B companies align product, sales and marketing efforts (full disclosure: they are a March client, but I am writing this totally independently because this advice really is good): Too much marketing content is made up of selfies.
Companies talk about how great they are, how great their products are, and what they intend to do, but very rarely do they turn the lens toward their customers to talk about what their challenges and needs. Our eBook about content marketing can help you start solving those problems, if you want to download it.
Cost & Content
So what do these three tenets of producing good quality content mean for the cost of running a good blogging program? Well, from the “unique content” angle, it means you must never stop innovating new ideas and new forms of content.
You can’t produce a great series of content one month and think that will sustain you. The pace has to be constant. That means tapping into resources that help plan, create and amplify your blogs, that can think creatively, and that can work across a few different teams in your organization (product, demand creation, executives) and synthesize good thoughts in to valuable content. That’s not an intern. That’s more than likely a fairly seasoned person, or group of people (as we will examine in part 2).
From the InPowered study, it’s pretty clear what kind of content has the best chance of swaying potential customers. Company blogging programs need to engage outside influencers as guest bloggers, contribute content to third-party sites or use a full PR program to create truly independent third-party content that references your brand.
In that sense, a blogging program’s costs, or at least it activities, need to be integrated and inclusive of a broader external communications and influencer relations program. You can’t JUST blog. The good, meaty content has to come from somewhere.
And finally, Kopec’s advice means that you might need to take a good hard look at the existing content your organization has, and possibly even think of reworking substantial elements to cure the selfie syndrome. Certainly it means implementing a set of solid new criteria and processes for creating new content and vetting that it does in fact turn the lens outward. That may mean new workflow, documentation and training across parts of the organization.
So what does all that equal? Strong external communications to garner third party voices. A regular flow of new, unique content. And a set of new processes to ensure content is positioned correctly.
Given these requirements, you can probably start to see why some of the bigger brands out there are spending massive sums on brand journalism and blogging programs!
Check back for part 2 in a couple days for a look at the next pillar of blogging program costs: why high quality content needs high quality talent.
Want to learn more about blogging for your brand?
In The Evolution of PR, Content Marketing and Blogging, we cover:
– The ongoing changes in the world of PR
– The principles of content marketing for tech companies
– Important blogging strategies
– How to use press releases for more than just brand-building