It has been three years since Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” tweet scored a social media touchdown at the Super Bowl. And yet again this year, one can read article after article about marketers’ efforts to capitalize on the social media chatter of sport’s biggest event without having to shell out big bucks on traditional TV ads – just as Oreo did so successfully when a blackout stopped play in 2013.
Yet this year’s game between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos came and went – and for another year no brand reached the heights of Oreo, at least in terms of generating column inches and social media impressions. It wasn’t, however, for lack of trying.
According to new research from Marketwired, nearly eight in 10 marketers are already using content to support their PR and marketing campaigns. Even more are planning to implement content-creation programs in 2016. The research revealed the usual suspects as the most popular channels they’re using to share their content: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube. It should be noted, however, brands are increasingly doing interesting things with other platforms such as Snapchat and shopping app Wanelo.
To get themselves thinking more like media companies/publishers, many corporations have set up brand newsrooms staffed with the likes of former journalists, visual artists, graphic designers, photographers, and IT professionals. Many newsrooms have editorial calendars so they can identify holidays, events, and milestones the brand can potentially be part – or, put a less flattering way, “hijack.”
However, there are indications the excitement around brand newsrooms has waned. Last October, the PR Council found the concept of brand newsrooms was deemed the most overhyped by 49% of the 56 senior marketing executives surveyed. But that shouldn’t be read as a knock against content marketing; far from it, in fact. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed considered it their number one strategic priority, and 13% ranked it in the number two spot.
The problem lies with how brands are approaching and implementing their content marketing. That point was underscored by Chris Graves, Ogilvy PR’s global chairman, at a recent client talk in Hong Kong. “Brand newsrooms are great for companies that have something relevant to say,” he said, “but for companies that don’t, what do you do in the downtime except create landfill?”
By their very nature, newsrooms are meant to produce a constant stream of content. Perhaps in an effort to stay relevant brands have adopted an ambitious publishing schedule. It is not hard to understand why. The proliferation of social, video, and image-based networks has created the temptation to produce content solely just to fill up those spaces. In the best-case scenario, inevitably what happens is brands spend a lot of energy on content for people who are already fans. In the worst case, they are only adding to all the needless noise.
A content calendar is not the same as content strategy, which should take into consideration customer insights, business objectives, and reputational issues. And yet it seems so much of content measurement is about impressions. Certainly, there is value is looking at expanding your audience through content marketing, but the ability for the content to also shape, shift, and challenge the opinions of your key stakeholders should be measured. At Ogilvy PR, we call this the measurement of “earned influence.”
It’s time for brands to relax the pressure they might feel about creating the next buzzed-about piece of social media content whether for the Super Bowl, the upcoming Academy Awards, or whatever other event is on the immediate horizon. As Graves pointedly remarked in his client talk, “How many of your neighbours are famous novelists? Acclaimed script writers? Award-winning directors?”
It is very difficult to create something that makes its way into the cultural zeitgeist. However, creating content that is informative, insightful, and thought provoking is very much in PR’s wheelhouse. It will reward you with earned influence among your most critical stakeholders – and there is no better outcome than that.