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Why Brands Need to Care About Blogging, Mailing, or Podcasting
Hanna Latushkina | Nov 20, 2020

Which Businesses Need Brand Media and Why

Almost every brand wants to be widely recognized by its target audience — to build user relations with the product and the brand, demonstrate expertise, or create a community. Corporate media can help with that. Blogs, mailings, podcasts, and social media channels are the exact places where target audiences gather to solve their problems and just have fun.
Things to Know about Corporate Style before Ordering It
Why Brands Need to Care About Blogging, Mailing, or Podcasting
What targets can only be met with the help of media? How to create an editorial team, how to promote it? Why is it unwise to measure the effectiveness in direct sales, and why is an independent department a good idea even for a small company?

Some believe that brand media is an expensive quirk of large companies, something like "we also want a beautiful website with long-posts." Is it really so?

In most cases, projects turn to quirks because customers don't understand how much content costs and how media works. Some think that logos are the only thing paid for, and design doesn't matter at all. Once that poorly written text with the wrong layout is published anywhere on the internet and people get down to reading it, the business will skyrocket. But it doesn't work like that.

Brand media has

  • A decent concept
  • An understanding of why the target audience needs it
  • Good quality content and design
  • A distribution system that works well and solves clients' problems
Successful brand media isn't too expensive. The monthly cost is roughly $10 000 –
30 000, which is a small percent of most companies' marketing budgets.

What Issues Can Brand Media Solve?

Content Marketing Issues

When a brand needs to communicate with its target audience about something more complex than just a motto or provide more information than will fit in a video, it gets down to wrapping the necessary information in up-to-date media formats. If it's a one-time story, native advertising will be enough, but if the company needs regular advertising, it's better for the company to create its own channels.

Brand media can be straightforward and explain the product, or it can act more broadly by changing the perception of the market to push it toward a required direction or just entertain users, thus creating a positive relationship with the brand.

For example, BMW's brand media mostly deliver text about the vehicles and motorcycles it produces. Conversely, Kod (a journal about programming and technology) says practically nothing about its producer, Yandex.Practicum, while trying to change the audience's relationship with the programming. Yandex.Practicum's marketing director has recently stated that the company had been using brand media for the year and a half. Its educational project has made sales totaling six times more than the capital invested in Kod.

In general, brand media can

1. Strengthen the target audience's trust and brand loyalty

2. Expand sales opportunities via both increased numbers of interactions with the target audience and more detailed or alternative descriptions of the product's advantages

3. Make the brand an ideological leader and reinforce its influence in the targeted field

Digital media isn't just blogs. It also includes mailings, podcasts, shows, and special events. Which formats are mainstream, which are outdated, and which are shaping the future?

Multiple formats are everything. We don't share the idea that there are 100% effective formats and old-fashioned ones that don't work. Content is the primary factor, and the format is secondary. It's more important to focus on the audience's media habits. If the target audience like podcasts, then the company needs to produce a podcast. If they like videos, then it's weird to offer audio material. In the meantime, text remains the most popular and convenient format for most audiences.

If it's hard to define the audience's preferences, try all formats and look at what works best. It's not expensive to try something one time — you can produce a podcast or video for $200–300, and text is even cheaper.

Do all brands need their own blog? Who should try it, and who should focus on standard social media?

Do all brands need their own blog?
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Large brands should strive for it. Media is a universal, accessible, and understandable language for communicating with the audience. For now, there are no signs that the situation will change.

Yes, full-fledged media for a small company is too extravagant. But media can mean many different things, such as mailings or Telegram channels.

The main bump in the road to successful media is a lack of understanding of why media is needed and the resources to deal with it. It's not just about money. It's about management and creativity, as well.

The market is highly competitive right now. You can find media addressing any inquiry. Isn't it easier to use alternative ways to attract attention to the product instead of all that fuss?

Yes, the competition is extensive. But all that means is that we need to go better and higher. Things working out on their own is an old scenario that must be left in the past. We need more thorough and well-planned communication.

Still, we don't need to jump into a whole new industry. Invisible (a wine shop) mailing with a wine selection is also brand media. Plus, it's super effective and cheap.

Yes, we have started to call a website a luxury. It requires many resources and two or three years for the project to gain readers. But website-based brand media often establishes stronger relationships with the audience.

Nevertheless, the format depends on your goals and resources. You can start with mailings, add social media, and then switch to a website. If these steps help you meet your business goals and are cost-efficient, then let it be.

Let's assume that a frozen waffle brand decides to go with brand media. Where should it start? Look for a big idea, a budget, and a team? Find a format and define the target audience?

First, we have to form business goals. They could be to increase sales, explain why this breakfast is healthy, or explain that people should forget about frozen pancakes and switch to your waffles. Next, it's wise to turn to those who have experience in launching brand media. They will help advance the project's configuration, terms, and budget.

When we calculate the budget, we give an initial vision of the concept — you can't estimate a budget without it. Then, you choose a contractor and align the budget.

The agency will then offer you a publisher, who will gather a team and start to think the project through. It takes us around three months to create website media. Sometimes, it may take up to nine months or a year. In most cases, if it takes that long, it means the team is lacking proficiency. People are unprepared and can't make decisions because they lack experience and expertise. As a result, they spend a lot of extra money.

Let's talk about the team. How many people do you need, and who are they? Where can you find authors? Can the company employees be authors?

You need 10 to 15 people to make media:

  • A publisher
  • An editor
  • Authors
  • A content manager
  • An SMM specialist
  • A targeter
  • A corrector
  • An art director
  • A photo editor
  • A designer
  • Photographers
  • Illustrators
If a brand is building its own independent editorial department, it can't hire all these specialists. It will sooner hire one universal employee instead of an SMM-specialist and a targeter, but either creativity or targeting will inevitably suffer. Instead of both an art director and a designer, the company is likely to hire a designer only, but the image quality will suffer. A content manager is the next area to economize on, supposing that an editor can manage all the content-related work, which will increase the cost of the layout.

In general, it's either quality or budget that suffers, and there's no way around it. It's much easier for an agency to deal with multiple projects to guarantee efficiency. We provide the required team participation — if you need 30% of a targeter, you get 30% of a targeter.

Next are authors. Can the company's employees be authors? If an employee has the skills and desire to write text, sure. Why not? But it can't be the basic model or the employee's obligation. Such text will eventually become more expensive — it will take more time and effort from the editorial office, and the employees who write text are usually paid higher than regular staff.

Editor-in-chief vs. the company owner: how can you build relationships, and who can invade whose job?

Brand media isn't mass media, so we can't talk about some independence and non-intervention. Brand media is a part of a company's marketing. If it's complicated to agree on each particular article, then the company needs to agree on an approach, style, and terms.

logo inversion
Brand media isn't mass media
For example, this spring, Tolko Sprosit media (a Russian medical journal) from Doc+ bought Severgrupp Meditsina. It decided to combine it with Tolko Sprosit's media resources and develop it under a common brand, Kuprum. But it did so too hastily and imposed new names and a new style without prior work.

Finally, they faced a negative outcome, which was especially evident in Telegram, where the audience makes decisions fast when they don't like something. The company lost a part of its audience, but instead of working out why it began promotions and grew by 10,000. As a result, its current post reach is 5,000 to 7,000 with 30,000 followers, while Tolko Sprosit is hovering around 13,000 to 20,0000. Simply put, Tolko Sprosit increased its figures in an instant but lost the quality.

Let's talk about content. What should it be like? Should we sell the product immediately, integrate it natively, or go even broader?

The projects with carefully integrated brands are the most successful ones. The audience clearly understands that they have received the content because of a specific campaign, why the brand needs it, and what it wants to say without the branding being rejected.

Projects where the brand serves as an exceptionally non-intrusive sponsor or where the brand screams about itself in a very advertisement-like way with evident signs of copywriting are both difficult to understand. In the first case, it can be a delicate long-term game. The second scenario annoys practically everyone.

The active use of a corporate style in media is almost always a big fail. Brand books regulate cooperation with advertising vehicles, and they are much more different from the ones used in media. Moreover, a corporate style is almost always conservative. Its elements can remain unchanged for five to ten to fifteen years. Everything is the other way around with media — it's hyped up and changes regularly.

Look at the blog from Beeline's entrepreneurs to understand why active branding in media is no good. It's hard to read. Media must have its own image and style to work as a product.

UGC is a wonderful ambition for brand media. Most companies strive to create an active community, and media can be really helpful with that goal through discussions, blogs, and reviews. TJ is one of the things that work well for UGC — it turns user comments into publications and invites experts to respond to readers' questions. But it only started doing this actively three of four years after the project launched.

What about the shape? Which formats are outdated, and which are gaining momentum?

Subject sensitivity and performance quality are more important than format. Long-reads, checklists, and selections are all the formats of the past and the future. Of course, some of the audience will want something new and fresh, which is why media must be able to deal with the latest trends. All you have to do is follow the dynamics.

Podcasts are a new trend. Yandex recently published the following statistics:

· Four million people listen to podcasts like music

· Most listeners spend more than an hour a day listening to podcasts

· The podcast audience has grown by six times since 2019

Despite the emergence of new services where the text is voiced by a virtual host, these services are cheap. Will that become a new trend? Do people what to hear all their news from a robot? That's the question.

How do you promote brand media: target, seeding, SEO? Yes, all of it.

The distribution system is critically important for a project. It's essential to understand from the start how you will deliver content to your target audience. It has a big impact on the budget. A distribution system can cost 30% of the content budget or even up to 100% or 150%.

Targeting and seeding in social media help increase traffic, while SEO is effective for around four to six months. A lot depends on the brand's resources. If a brand has a base of e-mail addresses from its loyal audience, that's great. A selling website with huge traffic is also good. It can be transferred to media to further create a meaningful stream to the site.

How do you measure effectiveness, and what tools do you use? How do you analyze the content's impact on the business?

The generally accepted metrics are traffic (visits) and contact quality — whether users read the text fully or not, ER from media reach, and other targeted actions. Direct sales push simple content projects: mailing and lendings.

Media is complex. It's about how to change the audience's opinions and make money from that. For example, Kuhnya Na Rayon launched brand media recently. It had been promoting itself for a long time with particular creatives and probably started to think that such advertising had run its course for a part of the audience. People would see the ad but not react to it. They didn't see the benefits and didn't understand the project in full. Media can help the team create a whole brand image. Apart from that, it will integrate the ecosystem of what this brand offers to its clients. It works for loyalty.

Another example is Coca-Cola. The company pledged to recycle 100% of the packaging by 2030. This project creates lots of questions from consumers. Why wouldn't the company just stop using plastics? Why not serve drinks in glass bottles? Why not earlier? And why recycle? They say it's a meaningless and harmful gesture. These questions can't be answered concisely, and communication via a video won't work here. But brand media would be a good choice.

Ecology is a very convenient subject for brand media. Traditional mass media doesn't do any serious research on it. There's little good and compelling content and not a lot of straightforward content.

Here's a comment from your Telegram channel: "It seems that brand media is used much more often during the quarantine than before it." Why is that so? Wouldn't it be wise to get rid of or cut down on these significant expenses during the crisis?

To some extent, it is a coincidence. Brand media's launch cycle is two to four months, so projects that started in early 2020 launched in April and May. But some projects were started because of the quarantine. For example we launched temporary media for one of our clients about life in self-isolation. First, we launched the project in a small town, where the client has a plant. But then, people all over Russia started to see it. Everything was based on live broadcasts. The plan included workouts with famous coaches, discussions about COVID, and many broadcasts with guests. The videos have collected ten million views in two months.

The market of brand media is much more reluctant to react to crises then marketing as a whole. Media is a long-term story with monthly support, and it's not smart to shut it down for a few months. You lose more that you get. It's hard to remember at least one decent example of brand media that was shut down during the quarantine.

Finally, here are some do's and don'ts for great brand media in 2020 that will work for anyone.

Usually, brand media covers theme-based niches left out by traditional mass media, and it targets this specific audience. That's why different brands need different tools.

We created some small-scale brand media for another brand — about ten pieces per month. One article about okroshka (a Slavic cold sour soup, which often leaves other cultures confused) and turnip gained more than ten thousand reposts in July! It was unexpected because we write about okroshka every year (the brand produces kvass — a sour drink made of bread, which is the base of okroshka — and likes to promote this topic).

Carrier Design
We still receive inquiries about honest, sincere media with slight irony. Packaging is critically important. A sharp design and fashionable formats are necessary, and the media must excite and entertain. The demand for honesty is making the format of personal experience more and more popular. Projects with such content can easily build a community and make UGC. Building a community for brand media in the form of a website is a great idea. We are launching the exact same product now.

We still need more media that systematically covers changes brought on by the coronavirus crisis from the point of view of economies and real markets. The only company that has done something like this is Sberbank with its Sberindexes project. It collects fascinating statistical data but can't turn it into stories. Still, the idea is great.

There are many wonderful ideas, and the market of brand media is far from being saturated or even mature. People are only starting to understand that it's ridiculous to add a copyright symbol each time they mention this or that brand. Companies have been burned by the idea of hiring a cool editor-in-chief who will make them cool media. People are only making their first steps toward understanding that media must be prepared by a team — an outsourced team. It will take too long and be expensive for an in-house team with corporate conflicts to run the show.

We need to understand and accept that media can't skyrocket immediately just because you started to post some poorly created content somewhere on the internet. The baby steps approach used to be popular once, but honestly, it worked poorly even then. Media in 2020 is hard long-term work where numerous nuances must be taken into account. There's no room for failure or getting ahead of ourselves by trying to prove to the audience that we are the best.

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