“In a world dominated by email and social media, your success is directly proportional to your ability to influence others through the written word.”
Geoffery James, Inc.com
I read an article in Marketing Week about how the trust in advertising – in particular editorial content – has seen its biggest fall in the past two years. It poses the question; how can brands instill trust again in their content, and thus their brand? What can brands do to reduce the suspicion of their audience and add credibility to their campaigns?
It’s agreed that credible content is largely dependent on a tasty mixture of author, theme, emotional connection, contributor’s achievements or experience and consistency. And when it goes wrong it can be because there is simply too much of it, it’s saturated with the hard sell or it lacks entertaining and relevant information. It could even be because there is already mistrust and negative association with the brand that is hard to shake, which can leave a bitter taste. So here’s one of our recipes for credible content…
Add a generous helping of customer generated content
There is no better advocate of your product that the very people that invest in it. I once worked for a company that manufactured and sold something very niche. It was an unusual concept and an expensive product, but there were prolific benefits for its users and the most effective and credible way of communicating this was through the customers themselves.
One customer in particular was the victim of a terrible accident that left her with life changing injuries. She had made a miraculous recovery through using said product, and as a result, invested in it for herself and used it to aid others in their recovery.
She was asked to document her experience for a product review exercise, but the feedback she wrote was uploaded to the website blog and as a result attracted huge amounts of attention from people that could relate to her injuries. It also gave audiences the opportunity to comment and share their experiences, and so an open discussion began.
The content was written by a customer and the subsequent conversation that followed was directed by the customer, the company simply created the platform for it to take place. Another example is Vita Coco who, launched their own content platform aimed at bringing coconut oil to the masses through lifestyle articles. They weren’t pushing the brand, just providing an unbiased commentary instead. (Marketing Week)
When monitored and steered in the correct way, this can be a powerful way of engaging customers through credible and honest feedback, initiated by the customers themselves and without the hard-sell from the brand.
Use what you have in the cupboards:
Utilise the expertise of people within the company to contribute towards honest and insightful content.
In the same way that customers are the best advocate of your products, so too are the very people behind the brand. I don’t mean the sales and marketing team, I mean the people on the workshop floor, the events team, the product designer, the customer support, after sales care, business development, the HR manager… basically, the very knowledge hub of the company.
These people are the knowledge experts behind the brand, so hearing from them is as equally (if not more) relevant as hearing from the CEO. They hear what the customers and suppliers want and need first hand and so they’re in a better position to feedback information based on this knowledge.
Whilst there may be various internal communications challenges to overcome in order to get staff to blog for you, once overcome, this is a really powerful way of demonstrating the brand as a thought-leader in its field. It also shows more credibility than messages generated by the marketing team. “Make sure you define a team of bloggers and give them a presence on your blog. Include head shots, short biographies, and contact information, so that readers can get to know your writers.” (Mashable)
Staff don’t even need to necessarily agree, healthy debate shows transparency and a brand’s inclination to welcome open discussion if it means reaching a conclusion that will ultimately find the best solution for their customers.
“People want to communicate with other people, not with “companies”. Lose the corporate voice and empower your employees to write about areas that they excel in. For example, O’Reilly Media, a technology book publishing company, gathers a diverse team of bloggers on the company blog. With varying interests, the writers are able to report on a range of topics, including business, copyright laws, emerging technology, open source projects, data visualization and programming, among others. On each post, the author’s name, Twitter handle and photo are displayed, adding a personal touch to each update.” (Mashable)
Whilst offering employees an unfiltered and open platform to wax lyrical their grievances publicly is ill-advised, approaching them to contribute shows that you value their opinion and insight. Remember, you can always edit it to meet company standards and protocol without losing emphasis.
The simplest dishes are often the most satisfying
It’s not just in the content it’s in the execution too. Upload readily available, informative editorial to educate and inspire
“A blog is not just an exercise in creating content and tossing it over the wall at your readers. The content must be compelling, informative and relevant to your audience. Think about your blog from the point of view of your target and decide if your latest article provides any value.” (Social Media B2B). Tips and suggestions, encouraging words and anything that might help find solutions for your customers are ways of driving people to your website with sincerity, not simply to push the brand or the product. It also encourages people to return.
GT Nexus, a cloud based platform for the global supply chain industry, host an entire resource section on their website. This resource section is dedicated to keeping abreast of current affairs and industry mega-trends that affect their customers and their industries. This online and accessible library plays host to hundreds of thought leadership pieces broadcast through podcasts, blogs, articles and guides – even live webinars.
They leverage this content by expanding it to their social media sites to encourage sharing information and to attract new visitors. The simplicity of navigating around their site, the consistency and availability of the information they share, along with the highlighting of in-house knowledge and expertise could be an inspiration for companies wanting to generate credible and engaging content for their own websites.
- One interesting idea
- A pinch of collaboration
- Sprinkle with some humor
- Then spread it across your social media channels for organic readership
Et Voila! The perfect blog. Enjoy……..
Image courtesy of Picklee