Within the last 30 minutes, you might have sent an email to a client, responded to a reply on Twitter, made a comment in your user community, and shared a new blog post on LinkedIn.
In your mind, this is just maintenance work: Keeping up on correspondence, communicating with customers and prospects.
True as that may be, each minor email and a quick Twitter reply is doing much more than you may realize. They all contribute to telling your brand’s story and connecting that story to customers.
There is a common misconception of content marketing. Content isn’t just blog posts, whitepapers, and other marketing content that contributes to this story. Think of sales emails, social media, voice messages, support tickets, apps, API documentation: Anytime something is written down and delivered to the outside world, it is helping advance your brand story.
If you can wield your own brand story, you can engage your consumers however you want. Here are four critical steps to make that possible.
1. Work with executives to establish the company’s brand messaging and positioning statement.
Every company needs a clear and concise value proposition that serves as a living blueprint of the company. When correctly created, it can help direct almost any operation taking place among any of your employees are departments.
An effective messaging and positioning statement will also lay out the company’s brand and style, its core values, target markets, top buyer personas, and how that company differentiates itself from other competition, among other data points. It requires strong leadership at the top and a commitment to fully flesh out the more delicate details of your company’s identity.
If you’re a clothing retailer, for example, your business goals are relatively distinct: You want to create fashionable clothing that sells to a specific demographic. But this isn’t the same as your messaging and positioning, which should be a passionate argument for why your brand is better than the alternatives. Are you eco-friendly, is your clothing locally made? Answer all these questions in your documented statement.
This statement can’t be developed among marketing professionals alone. A successful company statement is created at the top. It takes time to define, design, communicate, and build into the company’s DNA. For this reason, it is vital that the statement is documented on paper. If it only lives inside the CEOs head and communicated verbally, it won’t stick to your employees and shape their approach to their daily job responsibilities.
2. Highlight relevant customer, client, employee stories.
Brand marketing is depending more and more on storytelling to cultivate relationships with current and prospective customers. Marketers should be thoughtful in how they identify these stories and integrate them into their brand messaging.
This storytelling can take many different directions: Highlighting happy customer stories, exploring how your services improved operations for a B2B client, sharing exciting news from within your company workforce, and many more. These stories can be created to meet a wide range of goals, so long as they serve the broader mission of your brand.
The outdoor outfitter REI is an excellent example of this storytelling in action. The company regularly hires retail workers with experience as adventurers and explorers. These workers then serve as brand stories the company can tell, explaining how Eric from Portland is a world-class mountain-climber, or how Debby in Minneapolis has gone mountain biking on all seven continents. These stories offer authenticity to the brand, deepening its connection with consumers.
3. Coordinate content across digital channels.
As we said before, everything you create is helping tell your brand story. A content management solution is a vital tool for keeping track of assets designed specifically for each branded story, and teams must work together to coordinate what content is published when and to which channel.
You can segment this content for different campaigns and branded stories, managing assets and repurposing them on different channels when appropriate. An organized approach to content management will help you get more ROI out of your brand marketing efforts, increasing your ability to utilize content to get results on a range of digital channels.
One famous example of coordinating and repurposing content was launched by Buffer in 2015 when the company challenged itself to maintain marketing ROI without creating any new content. By repurposing its blogs and articles, resharing content and cross-publishing to different amplification platforms, the company grew its organic search traffic by more than four percent—all without creating anything new.
4. Build customer advocacy through your content distribution.
Most branded stories have an emotional heart at the center of the narrative. This is an asset that can deepen engagement and contribute to increased sharing and distribution. When you tell brand stories that connect with its target audience, these high-quality stories transcend their marketing and advertising objectives—at least in the minds of your content’s consumers.
Great stories can help find their audience through social sharing and other organic distribution driven by your consumer advocates. Every year, the Super Bowl’s most prominent ads seem to touch one of two emotional nerves: Humor or heartache. These are often the most reliable paths to earning customer engagement, which is why a significant advertiser like Budweiser typically splits its priorities between both, producing more comical content for its Bud Light brand while featuring horses, puppies, and other emotionally heavy stories when promoting its flagship beer.
As you create branded content, examine which storylines prove most engaging to your audience, and why. There are often clues in these success stories that can help you recreate that success in other upcoming campaigns.
No piece of content is static, confined to life inside its bubble. Everything belongs to a much larger content ecosystem: One that comes together to tell your brand’s unique story. Each piece of content will be measured by its success, but it must also contribute to the larger goal of growing your brand and captivating your audience.