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  • Writer's pictureRachelle Spero

When to Rev Up the Content Engine to Scale Your Story

Companies that want to own their destiny create more sophisticated content engines to drive engagement directly with their audiences. It’s not just the best practices we’ve all heard about from global B2B corporations such as GE Reports, or consumer product companies like Coca-Cola’s Journey. Startups like Acorns, the personal finance app, create an incredible following of young people interested in managing their money via Grow. Grow started as the company blog and has since evolved into a full-fledged media platform that is cross-pollinating content and audiences with CNBC. High-growth companies like Airbnb are creating digital media magazines and launching print publications filled with stories about the hosting lifestyle and incredible travel experiences from their community members.

What these companies all have in common is a commitment to scaling their storytelling over time with the ultimate goal of creating a highly targeted community. For example, Adobe’s site for CMOs, Amex’s Open Forum for small businesses and Andreessen Horwitz’s a16z entrepreneur ecosystem have all been around for years because they provide value to the business by tightly integrating communications and marketing efforts.

The benefits of owned media

Here are a few benefits of building an owned media platform for deeper engagement with audiences through storytelling.

  • Track audience behavior for greater insight into audience preferences.

  • Create more authentic stories to build trust, credibility, and relationships.

  • Greater brand awareness and message pull through.

  • Earn more qualified leads by distributing content based on where your target audience goes online, in the format they prefer, and at the time they need the information.

  • Establish authority, leadership, and impact search.

  • Cultivate a community of advocates for your brand.

The question is, when do companies invest in fueling their content engine, and how do they scale their storytelling? Whether you work for a newly formed disruptor, a high-growth company, or a global corporation, this is the path I’ve observed many companies take to scale their brand story.

Explore the possibilities

Most companies today are doing something to dip their toes into content by utilizing a company blog, hosting a podcast, or broadcasting on Facebook Live. But how does a company know when and where to invest more? The answer is to embed tracking into the content to capture more details about what is resonating with your audience. Once you know more about your audience's wants and needs, you’ll want to gradually build a more sophisticated platform for publishing, distributing, and tracking more content that leads audiences to follow and action.

For example, one of my most successful brand publishing experiences was creating Bluenotes, for the Australian and New Zealand (ANZ) bank. ANZ’s business priority was to support the bank’s growth into new regions by going beyond media to reach the next generation of business and financial audiences where they live — online. Bluenotes launched with a simple editorial focus on corporate news, business insights, and executive opinions from inside and outside of the bank. Initially, the site’s content was built on the CEO’s digital vision for the bank and the origin story of Bluenotes. The content served both to add more personality and accessibility to the brand.

A key component of Bluenotes platform was the data tracking, analysis, and reporting systems that provide the editorial team with a steady flow of feedback on audience preferences and deliver ideas for creating timely stories based on what people were talking about outside of Bluenotes. We could track and measure every piece of content to determine where traffic was coming from, what content was shared the most, when a reader became a subscriber, who registered for more information, what content was influencing conversations online, trend tracking, etc. The insights helped to inform future investments in events, podcasting, and other multimedia formats.

Scaling Story

Once your content platform is established, and your following is steadily growing, your story can hit a sophomore slump. Companies can avoid the slump by drilling down on their story fundamentals and bringing more storytellers into the mix. At this point, you’ll want to introduce new characters, show you stand for something, and excite your base. Then you can add more characters and create more plotlines.

For example, Bluenotes scaled its storytelling to include voices from across the bank from investor relations and human resources to retail banking and institutional investing. The bank hired a managing editor from the Australian Financial Review to oversee the editorial direction of the site and add to the credibility of the content. The managing editor expanded the cast of characters by inviting outside thought leaders to contribute thought-provoking stories and by hosting in-depth conversations with customers in multiple formats, including videos, podcasts, infographics, interactive media, and live broadcasts. The Bluenotes platform also became a launching pad for Bluenotes-branded events centered on the most popular stories on the site. One Bluenotes event focused on diversity and included a panel of experts from inside and outside of the bank.

It takes discipline and commitment to tell your story directly to audiences through owned media platforms. Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Integrate storytelling and content into all communications and marketing initiatives to help drive better business results beyond brand awareness, reputation, and employee engagement.

  • Establish a vision for the platform, a mission for its content and compelling storylines to drive engagement.

  • Define the shared values your business has with its audiences.

  • Provide leadership with the messages and behaviors they must model to shift the company culture and mindset from transactional marketing to authentic storytelling and engagement directly with audiences.

  • Develop new skills through training for communications, and marketing functions, as well as a process with governance for producing content at the pace of the digital world.

Corporate communications and marketing professionals are looking at the analytics from their company blog and social media channels only to see they have hit a plateau. You can own your destiny by creating more sophisticated content engines to drive engagement directly with audiences and scale your business story to new heights.


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