Content Connects People With Products

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Choosing Your Content Distribution Channels

When marketing consultant Julie Roads was hired to guide the social media campaign for the indie film based on the best-selling novel, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, choosing the right channels was easy. "I went to where the audience was," she explains. "I'm fascinated by the relationship between bloggers and their readerships, and I knew that working with credible bloggers would give me an audience already completely tapped into their specific subject."

Both the book and the film incorporate key themes including sexual violence against women, technology, tattoos and piercings, and genealogical research. Roads went to the top bloggers in each of those niche markets and gave them a screening of the film. "I asked them to watch it with their ‘blogging goggles' on, not to write a movie review but to consider writing about the specifics of the film that would appeal to their readership." The relevant posts written by just 11 bloggers were read by 2.5 million unique readers.

Scott cautions against throwing out the traditional methods in favor of moving entirely to social media channels. "The good old company website is being ignored in a lot of places these days, but that's probably still the most important thing to pay attention to," he says. "You still need good content there; these other channels should be additives, not necessarily replacements to what you already have."

Depending on your target market, traditional methods of presentation such as case studies and white papers may still be key communication channels. But even there, companies may want to reconsider the familiar email address-for-access trade. "Most white papers are used for lead bait," says Scott. "When you require someone to provide an email address before they can see the white paper, you are putting the brakes on the ability for your content to spread easily from one person to another."

Expanding the Role of Storyteller: Brand Journalists

Assuming companies are comfortable taking on the mantle of publisher, there's yet another wrinkle: identifying who within a company is responsible for content marketing. In Pulizzi's experience, the role belongs to the marketing team: "You need someone who can monitor and understand the brand story well enough to engage on an ad hoc basis. That can be in marketing, PR, corporate communications, or maybe even customer service."

Scott has been a vocal advocate for the premise of companies hiring former journalists who can craft content for companies to educate and inform customers. Nike already does so, employing a field reporter whose role is to "interview the world's top athletes on Nike's dime. You ask the questions. The athletes will dish the answers. And best of all, your profiles will appear every month on Nikewomen.com."

But what about an engineer with a loyal Twitter following; can't he or she also be a powerful a voice in telling the brand story? Many companies are grappling with how to hand over control of brand storytelling to their larger team.

"You give salespeople mobile phones so they can connect with their customers at all times," points out Scott. "Social media is exactly the same thing-a way to communicate directly with potential clients in the way the client wants."

Having a social media policy in place is the cornerstone to making that shared responsibility work. Despite the meteoric rise of social media use in the past few years, a January 2010 study by employment services firm Manpower found that only 20% of 34,400 employers worldwide had a formal policy in place guiding use of social networks.

Pulizzi recommends working with a company's legal team to create social media guidelines. "Ninety-nine percent of what employees might talk about on Facebook or Twitter is of no concern to the legal department, and you work with legal to address the remaining 1%." Indeed, only 4% of the companies responding to the Manpower survey said their reputation had been hurt by employee use of social networks. Scott feels that the social media policies are simply an extension of what should already be in a company's employee handbook. For companies just getting started in developing their guidelines, IBM's freely available Social Computing Guidelines are often recommended as the gold standard for a reasonable policy.

JNJ's Monseau is a bit less sanguine about the prospect of putting responsibility for the company's brand story in the hands of all 120,000 employees. As a pharmaceutical company, its communications are impacted by myriad FDA regulations. "If you could be sure that all 120,000 of us would abide by all the many FDA regulations that control us, sure, that would be great, but I'm not sure that's even what customers are looking for," he says. "It is true, though, that a lot of companies in this industry hide behind the regulations as an excuse not to engage more."
For now, JNJ has a small team of people empowered to produce content for the blog, YouTube channel, and Twitter feed-including a historian, Margaret Gurowitz, who maintains a blog called Kilmer House: The Story Behind Johnson & Johnson and Its People.

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