Helena Raven Head of Digital, NSPCC
When I was asked to think about how, as a brand, we can work with publishers to the best effect, the immediate answer was obvious. The point of convergence for us, whether brand or publisher, agency or client, is always our intended audience. So if we start with them, what could possibly go wrong?
Apparently, quite a lot, according to the Women in PR and Women in Journalism groups I spoke to last November.
We brand-side folk can be a pesky bunch, it seems. We’re too slow, too demanding, too changeable and too risk averse. We want native advertising but we also want our logos to be prominent. We want brilliant editorial to appear overnight. We always think we know our readership better than anyone else and we just can’t resist meddling. How, cried the despairing publishers, are we to work with you?
Start with data
The more I thought about it, the more I realised this was my first point of truth. Those of us who are lucky enough to work with brilliant brands can form an emotional connection with our work. We live and breathe our brand values, we are immersed in the customer experiences we are working hard to create. So yes, maybe we think we know best, and maybe we are risk averse. But rather than let decisions run the gamut of creative discretion and entrenched opinion, we need to co-design using the data we have. Who is our intended audience and what do we know about them? What performs best and what happened last time we did that particular thing? When has the approach seen results and what exactly are the targets we are jointly committed to achieving? If we don’t know the answers, we don’t create things until we do.
Design for digital
The thing we think we want often isn’t the thing we really need. We might want our logo to be visible at twenty paces, but the truth is that digital progress has fundamentally changed customer expectation. To achieve digital success, content needs to stand on its own two feet. Relying on a brand or a product label is not enough. In a digital world, content needs to have inherent worth and value whether that’s for utility, entertainment, education or simple amusement.
The litmus test. Will it be shared? Would you want to share it? I remain convinced that very few people in the world want to share a piece of content that makes them look dull, unimaginative, or ill informed. We all want to look witty, up to date and preferably more exciting than our ex-husbands. So let’s ask each other- would we want to share the content we are creating?
Remember the real world
Sometimes brands might get very wrapped up in what’s happening internally. As indeed, might publishers. The more we are able to respond to real events in the real world, the more we are likely to create content strategies that remain relevant. As a publisher, if you are able to help your brand partners take advantage of moments in time that allow a brand to engage in a public movement, you’re already winning. Being part of a conversation that people are already having is always going to be better than trying to elbow our way into a party to which we haven’t been invited.