There’s an old joke that goes:
How many publishers does it take to change a light bulb?
Three. One to screw it in. Two to hold down the author.
I say old because sadly – or not, depending on your point of view – the number of people to whom that joke means anything is dwindling. The wall between those that want to promote their ideas and those that vet them on behalf of the public has been all but broken down by digital media.
That means that, these days, I’m a publisher. You’re a publisher. Some people’s cats are inadvertently publishers.
That also means that with the digital media revolution, marketing and how to market can go one of two ways – you can either buy advertising and do traditional PR, or you can publish.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, efforts in effective content publishing are waning in their efficacy. In 2016, only 30% of B2B marketers said their organisations were effective at content marketing, down from 38% the previous year. With more content comes less of an onus to make it work hard.
So, on the playing field of promotion, publishing is the name of the game. And if everyone is a publisher, then we must compete on what, and how, we publish. I mean, of course, your content, in its various guises. But rather than banging on about how important it is to keep producing good quality stuff, this argument goes a little deeper, as a recent PowerPost webinar sought to extol.
The talk starred Barry Feldman of Feldman Creative, Ann Handley of MarketingProfs and Paul Shirer of PowerPost, and an accompanying eBook featured insights from giants of the marketing industry including Content Marketing Institute founder, Joe Pulizzi.
Brand versus power
You see, brand publishing – which includes content marketing – is a given. If you’re not publishing your content, you’re falling behind the competition. People engage with brand content before speaking to sales. The latest development, however, is the rise of the power publisher.
If everyone is a publisher, then we must compete on what, and how, we publish
Spiderman’s uncle said that with great power comes great responsibility; that wisdom is just as appropriate here.
The average brand publisher creates content for the brand. The power publisher creates content for the audience.
“Having an audience is a privilege. Remember this and you’re less likely to over-automate,” said Ann Handley.
This is all comes back to that customer experience (CX) thing – if you’re not publishing content that puts the customer first, then it serves only yourself.
Assume the publisher role
One big job of the publisher is that they’re a quality control working on the public’s behalf; when you assume the role of both the author and the publisher, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. Anybody that has produced a piece of content will inevitably be a little bit precious about it; that’s human nature, and it’s OK. But, going back to that joke, one side of you can be a very proud and creative author; however, you’re going to have to keep in mind that there’s another side of you that will have to hold the author down.
As the content creator, you absolutely should take risks – revel in your ideas, and be proud of your creations. Make them outstanding. As a publisher, however, it’s worth being a bit more conservative when you ask yourself, ‘does this content bring value to my customers? Does it enhance the customer experience?’.
There’s another side of you that will have to hold the author down
Power publishing is about making beautiful art that knows its responsibility to its audience. So, how do we translate that into branding? PowerPost outlines the five pillars of power publishing.
First and foremost, create content that responds to your audience’s needs. Here at Southerly, we adopt a content marketing strategy based around customer personas and this really is key to understanding what your audience wants. It’s based around good data, good marketing intelligence, a strong mix of creative flair, multiple channels and genuine subject matter expertise, all the while knowing what trends, headlines and curated content people respond to. It’s also about understanding SEO from the point of view of the customer. Rather than simply challenging your competitors on keyphrases, think from your audience’s perspective. What do your customers search for, and why? What are your competitors missing?
Does this content bring value to my customers?
As a brand and as a publisher, you need to make publishing your mission. It needs to be embedded within your DNA. The best publishers follow strict guidance on publishing regularly, adhering to effective planning processes. Your content plan is just the start of this, but it is of paramount importance.
Having an audience might be a privilege, but getting an audience is a chore; not an arduous one, granted, but a chore nonetheless. One that you have to be prepared to plan for, and pay for, too.
As Joe Pulizzi states: “When you’re just getting into [the creative process], you have to realise that seven out of your 10 dollars should be spent on promotional activities. Until you have your audience built, you should be paying to get your content in front of an audience, so you can convert them into YOUR audience.”
The power publisher must also optimise content on multiple channels, trying out different creative approaches that very specifically suit those channels’ audiences.
A goal of publishing is to build an audience – putting this into the context of a brand, we have to remember that building an audience must also translate into leads. So you need to be creating useful and engaging collateral such as email newsletters, eBooks and case studies, webinars and small courses, games and apps – use available tools that can extract your creative flair, while also engaging your audience on a much deeper level. This will ensure that you’re first on the call list when they’re looking to buy your kind of product or service. Ensure you’re tracking these leads, visualising the points where people convert on the marketing goals you’ve set.
Power publishing is all about the intelligent use and reporting of data to power your decision making. You need to set yourself goals in the form of relevant metrics and then constantly review your performance, building a picture through qualitative and quantitative data. You should be acting on data that specifies engagement with a piece of content or campaign, rather than vanity metrics. The number of people that have watched your video might be a nice, big number, but what you should be interested in is the conversion data – the ROI. Who are the people that engage with content? What do they do after they’ve watched your video?
You should be acting on data that specifies engagement
Power publishing is responsible publishing – apply your creative flair in the context of knowing your customers, knowing your business, and tracking performance and progress based around what people actually want. With the right insights, your publisher side won’t need to hold down your author side; they’ll work instinctively together to the benefit of your customer experience, and brand.