In the last fifteen years or so, print publications have scrambled to reinvent themselves and create content for the digital era. Marketers have also faced a similarly rapid transition. Whereas in the past they dealt with one major change at any one time — think the advent of television — the industry must now navigate a fast-evolving category of social and other digital platforms.
While it can feel daunting to keep up with the changes, marketers can leverage strategies from their counterparts in journalism to maximize the unique advantages of the digital realm. Here are three key lessons to keep in mind for your 2020 content strategy:
Lesson #1: Innovative use of multimedia is an effective way to engage your audience
The Washington Post, the New York Times and ProPublica are among the media that have nailed the art of storytelling for the digital era. Old school formats such as long-form, heavily reported pieces are brought to life with data, photography, 3D, audio, and video.
This interactive ProPublica story about waste removal trucks in New York City, for example, allows the reader to follow one driver’s route throughout the city. This poignant NYT story about addiction uses a high school year yearbook as a key visual to document the plight of members of the Minford High School Class of 2000 in rural Ohio. And this NYT story brilliantly uses video and photography to allow readers to imagine the circumstances of a deadly snow avalanche. The BBC has also been a pioneer in the digital journalism realm.
Marketers can follow suit by adding interactive elements to content. High quality traditional content marketing is already strongly influenced by journalism, with blogs and eBooks, for example, designed to provide readers with useful, accurate and unbiased information. Animated visuals and interactive elements can greatly enhance these digital artifacts.
- When creating content, embed video, audio or 3D in posts.
- Instead of offering eBooks as a PDF, host them on a microsite that features animations and graphics.
Lesson #2: Augmented reality gives customers an entirely new way to experience your brand
In the not-so-long ago old days, people complained it was hard to deal with overflowing inboxes. With the addition of social media and apps, audiences are bombarded with information. The amount of content to consume grows exponentially while attention spans shorten. As a result, journalists experimenting with new ways to cut through the digital clutter have found that augmented reality is a great way to catch a reader’s attention.
Stories like this one about NASA’s most recent trip to Mars are delivered via smartphone app for the best experience. When AR garners audience interest in a story, it’s good for the bottom line in an industry where a major source of revenue (print advertising) has plummeted in the last decade.
Just as journalists use AR to captivate an audience (as the Post did in a story about UNESCO World Heritage sites), marketers can use AR to interest people in their brand. Furniture companies such as IKEA offer AR to enable consumers to envision a particular item in their home, while beauty brands such as Sephora use AR to allow customers to virtually try out makeup at home or instore before purchasing.
- Marketers should brainstorm ideas for AR-fueled experiential marketing campaigns, which are valuable in an era where consumers now often prefer memorable experiences over material goods.
- What ideas do you think would capture the attention of your target audience?
Lesson #3: Leveraging the popularity of Podcasts can grow your audience
It might seem odd that on-demand audio content has become so popular in an era dominated by screens, but a screen is no use when you’re driving or crammed in a subway. News outlets have recognized that podcasts are a great way to draw in new subscribers. The true crime investigative podcast Dirty John, hosted by the Los Angeles Times journalist Christopher Goffard, was downloaded over 10 million times within six weeks of its release in 2017.
There’s no reason that marketers can’t hop on the podcast bandwagon. Start by releasing one-off episodes to draw consumers in.
- When creating a podcast, gauge listener response and adjust accordingly. If the episodes add value to your brand, consider making it a weekly thing or at the very least a limited run series.
- You might feature an interview with a key player in your business, or a roundtable addressing key audience concerns and industry challenges.
- Or try going the narrative route, as General Electric did with The Message, its popular 2015 eight-part science fiction podcast series
Andrew Goldberg, then creative director of GE, described it as “a science fiction story to connect listeners with what the GE brand is about, without selling the GE brand.” In the last few years, Sephora and Blue Apron are among the other brands who have created successful podcasts.
In a nutshell: just as journalists are experimenting with new digital platforms and techniques to enhance their reporting and gain new subscribers, savvy marketers should provide imaginative and satisfying digital content to boost their brands.