Do brands really need to be publishers?


Nick Blunden from The Economist was spot on a few weeks back. He was presenting at the Content Marketing Association Summit 2013 and stated that ‘brands do not need to become publishers’. 

The brands-as-publishers mantra has been espoused for a few years now, but quite badly misinterpreted by both brands and agencies alike.  Many have sought in vain to live up to that publishing ambition in terms of volume, rather than quality, of content. Nick rightly pointed out that brands need to plan their content activity, and identify the stories to tell. No dissent there, and it doesn’t take a master media or content strategist to add that they must also consider to whom they’re telling the story, as well as when, where and most crucially, how. Seems obvious, doesn’t it?

Then why are so many agencies failing their clients in that regard? So much content is currently being produced seemingly without any thought as to what it might achieve or why any sane person would ever want to watch it. For some brands and agencies it’s as if being a publisher or a media brand is a goal in itself – an innovation box ticked. It shouldn’t be. In a world of declining advertising effectiveness, the application of strategy and craft from traditional media brands should be a major means of achieving a brand’s marketing objectives.

That it might not be for some is because they and their agencies are not yet familiar enough with the way successful media brands plan and create content. Schooled in the more interruptive marketing disciplines, in thrall to the single-minded message from the brand on high, so many lead agencies on the roster lack the right expertise to create gripping content. They have little experience in broadcast audience planning and insight. They are unpracticed in the craft of longer-form video storytelling or TV formatting. And they lack the innate understanding of consistent and distinctive editorial positionings, which tend to be so much more directional and active than a single-word brand essence.

By grasping these elements, brands and agencies will start to tell much more interesting and effective stories. So, brands don’t need to become publishers or broadcasters. But to be better storytellers, they’ve got a lot to learn from them.

Michael Reeves, Business Development Director