There’s a great expression sometimes used in business: “A camel is a horse designed by committee.”
I don’t have anything against camels, of course, but I do agree with the underlying sentiment: well-intentioned content and advertising campaigns can go awry when the companies executing them have lost sight of their original purpose.
A recent interview with some of the most successful content creators on YouTube illustrates this point. When asked what the formula was for successfully growing an audience, they explained that they “simply made content that they personally liked and wanted to share with the rest of the world.”
Creating Successful Content
Their process wasn’t to systematically define a target audience and then create content they believed would appeal to them. Brands and marketers can benefit from that simple insight: creating content with a strong editorial voice from a passionate foundation can be a formula for success.
As an individual, establishing your editorial voice and channeling your passions can be a fairly straightforward process — you know who you are, and you know what you do and don’t like. For businesses, however, this process is much more difficult. While corporations may be legally recognized as people via corporate personhood, that doesn’t mean they have the same awareness and emotions as a sentient being.
Anyone who has worked in marketing, advertising or communications can attest to how challenging it is to craft a message for an ad campaign, write a mission statement, publish brand guidelines or establish an editorial voice for a brand — not to mention maintaining and evolving those over time to reflect changing internal and external environments.
Brands and marketers do have experience with this process in that they’ve been doing it for years in media like television, print, radio and so on. But the challenge (and opportunity) in digital and social is that these media call for content to be created in real time, at scale, in a constantly changing world.
Content With Passion & Voice
A number of companies are successfully executing this type of passionate, values-driven publishing. You probably won’t be surprised that I mention Red Bull Media House, which creates culture and lifestyle content for millennials around sports, or Patagonia, which creates exceptional content for ecologically minded athletes and adventurers.
But there are other examples, such as HubSpot, which creates content for B2B and B2C Internet marketers, and American Express, which publishes the OpenForum for SMBs. These show that it’s possible to be successful in subject matter areas that are inherently less “viral.”
Not every business has the same level of resources or experience as those mentioned, but there are tactics that can help everyday marketers find and establish a voice and values. Lightweight activities such as curating content or sponsoring content produced by creative services departments can be a great first foray into publishing.
Growing Your Audience
As you begin to find your narrative and produce original content, you can grow your audience through paid means. In the same way that you would pay for the placement of a prime-time ad, you can pay to place your content in premium positions to gain awareness — be it through sponsored tweets, in-feed placements, native advertising, content syndication and so on.
In a digital, social world, brands and marketers are advised to develop strong human voices to grow and engage their audience. After all, advertising is simply content — and content produced with passion and voice will find an audience.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.