Now that we’re living in the golden age of branded content, it’s time to rethink the role of the copy writer.
We are truly living in the golden age of branded content. In fact, branded content accounted for 37% of total marketing spend in the United States, according to the Custom Content Council’s Spending Study: A Look at How Corporate America Invests in Branded Content for 2013. This year, the council published results from a survey conducted in partnership with Ad Age—according to the report, called Content Marketing: Growing and Transforming Customer Engagement, marketers estimated that, by 2017, branded content will account for a third of their marketing budgets.
With this unstoppable rise, the line between journalism and marketing has become increasingly blurred. Gone are the days when reporting and copywriting were diverging career paths. Journalism graduates, myself included, are now drafted straight into the world of custom content publishing, where the ability to craft a compelling story that grabs consumer attention is highly prized. Questions such as “What’s the hook?” or “What’s the angle?” are no longer limited to the newsroom; they’re just as relevant to a company’s blog.
But writers must now also understand marketing strategy, and be able to harness their journalistic prowess to help brands differentiate themselves through editorial that educates, entertains and engages—the three cornerstones of great content. Here, a journalist’s understanding of media consumption—particularly an audience’s values, lifestyle and desires—will help brands to connect with customers on an emotional level, which is key to driving positive brand perception and loyalty.
It was only a matter of years ago that content was published solely in print, its effect measured almost entirely by the appeasement of stakeholders, whether a newspaper editor or marketing manager. With the dawn of digital, content can now be measured, quantified and compared—and even updated—in real time. It’s not enough to be able to simply tell a story; writers must understand the principles of digital marketing and performance metrics, and be able to optimize their content for search-engine rankings, open rates and click-through rates.
Digital’s impact doesn’t end there. The Internet is a bottomless copywriting landfill, with endless opportunities for publishing and sharing. Writers must now not only be able to compel readers in this clutter, but also be able to map out the appropriate channels to distribute their content—and one size does not fit all. Once distribution has been established, writers must also tailor content for each channel’s audience. A Facebook user is likely to have a different relationship with a brand than a LinkedIn user, after all.
Finally, writers are expected to cultivate and grow these communities—and, most importantly, drive them to engage with the brand. Unlike print, which is essentially a one-way street, digital has opened the possibility to converse with brands. Writers are often required to create content specifically for social media, as well as participate on behalf of their client in any resulting conversations with consumers.
Thanks to the rise of branded content and the endless publishing opportunities offered by digital, the job description of an agency copywriter has grown exponentially. We’ve now become content creators, curators and cultivators—but try fitting that on a business card.
The three Es of great content
Whether your company is big or small, consumer facing or business facing, content will help you build trust and establish value in your customer’s eyes. This helps to drive sales in the short term, and it builds up your long-term credibility and consumer loyalty. With great content, your audience can even become your advocates, sharing and promoting your content to their friends, families and social networks—which we all know is not only the sincerest form of flattery, but also the ultimate endorsement for your brand.
This one’s a no-brainer: consumers want to make informed purchasing decisions. Content can position your company not only as a vendor of products or services, but also as a reliable source of information. Consider how you can help your customers before and after the sale. By continuing to help them post-transaction, you’ll build trust, credibility and loyalty.
This is where thinking like a journalist comes in handy. As any reporter knows, you have to capture the attention of your audience in the first sentence—or forget about them reading the rest of your article. Keep your audience in mind; always be thinking about how each piece of content you produce relates to (or even improves) their lives. And don’t forget to harness the full range of media at your disposal—for example, a how-to tutorial often works much better in video than text.
Think about what kind of content you share with your friends or family. More often than not, it’s something that you found entertaining. Likewise, your customers are more likely to respond to and share your content if it makes them smile. Think outside the box—and this goes for B2B brands, too. Often the most memorable content comes from breaking out of the traditional confines of your industry.