Creating a ‘content brand’ can build your audience, boost the bottom line

Exploiting niche markets and developing talent can help you overcome information overload and create new friends, fans, followers.

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan’s new distance-learning portal, RaganTraining.com. The site contains more than 200 hours of case studies, video presentations, and interactive courses. Learn more about this session.

The statistics are staggering: 17 new Web pages are published every second; 2 million blog items are posted every day.

And the numbers are growing. Consumers can’t begin to keep up.

“We are churning out content at an unbelievably rapid pace,” according to marketing expert Andrew Davis. As the technological revolution generates more and more information, organizations must adopt different communication strategies to keep their messages from drowning in the wave of content washing over us, he said.

“The more information we create and shove down our audiences’ throats, whether it’s a journalist or the consumer we’re going after, we’re contributing to information overload if we’re not being strategic about the approach,” Davis said in this Ragan Training session, How to write digital content that creates relationships that generate demand.

“We have to start treating our content, the content we produce as public relations people, as marketers, like a product,” he said. “You’ve been consultants and service providers forever. This is the opportunity to brand what you are creating and actually add tremendous value to the organization.”

One key to developing a content brand is to create subscribers for your product, he said. Efforts should be audience driven, not brand driven. In our “opt-in world,” fans, friends, and followers are all valuable subscribers to the content brand you are producing.

From digital diva to makeup mogul

Davis used the example of Lauren Luke, a night taxi dispatcher who tried to supplement her income by selling makeup on eBay—without much luck. In the days before social media exploded, she took to YouTube with a weekly video of celebrity-inspired makeup tips aimed at teenage girls.

Within months, the unpolished videos had generated 115 million views and 479,000 subscribers. She eventually became a makeup mogul with her own line of products, a series of books and media coverage around the world. She had created a $100 million content brand, “Lauren Luke Looks,” with zero dollars invested in traditional PR or advertising, Davis said.

This is excerpted from a Ragan Training video titled How to write digital content that creates relationships that generate demand.

Another example Davis cited was the powerful content brand created by Dr. Steven Sussman, a child and adolescent psychologist in practice in upstate New York. Targeting parents of teenagers, he started posting weekly video warnings of dangerous teen fads—smoking Skittles, chubby bunny, planking, polar baring, the choking game, etc. Sussman had established a content brand—and a growing reputation and audience.

High-quality content is key to driving revenue

Davis said his time working for Jim Henson Co., producer of “Sesame Street,” taught him that “quality content, no matter the cost, will drive the right kind of revenue.” A check of Amazon.com will show some 24,000 Sesame Street brand products.

“This is the power of valuable content,” he said. “It inspires people to buy stuff they didn’t know they needed. Nothing has fueled our consumer culture more than the content brands we love.”

“At the end of the day, whether you are in PR or marketing, you’ve got to be able to show me a return on investment that drives revenue,” Davis said. “Fans, friends, followers are all great. Views are fine. But I want to see more people inspired to buy or convert or change their behavior as a result of the content I’m creating.”

Content brands build relationships, relationships build trust, and trust drives revenue, he said, and offered five best practices for generating digital content that creates relationships and drives demand:

1. Get rich—target a niche

2. Exploit content holes

3. Make an appointment with your audience

4. Attach talent your audience trusts

5. Create a hook

Potential in the niche markets

Davis said most marketers are so focused on volume of audience, they overlook the potential of a niche audience where quality, not quantity, may be much more valuable.

Andy Schneider, best-selling author of “The Chicken Whisperer’s Guide to Keeping Chickens,” is a regular on Atlanta-area radio with a program targeting aficionados of backyard fowl. Tractor Supply Co., a $4 billion company that caters to commercial and hobby farmers in stores across the nation, attracts thousands of Chicken Whisperer fans when he appears in the stores’ annual Chick Days events.

Tractor Supply Co. gets people in the doors and Schneider’s appearances generate significant revenue, Davis said.

“We have to stop trying to be everything to everyone and be something to someone, because that’s where the great stories are,” he said. “They’re not generalist stories. They are stories about real people passionate about real things that have access to an audience you want.”

Find talent to fill content holes in market

Content opportunities exist even in the most crowded markets. The challenge for an organization is to find that content hole and develop it, he said. Then make the new product so engaging that the audience will become a regular consumer, opting in to the feature on a regular basis.

The Chicken Whisperer and Laura Luke developed relationships of trust with their audiences. When you look to fill a content hole, find talent that will connect with consumers, Davis said. You may already have talent that has an audience connection. Take advantage of it. Try it out. Find a hook and use it to attract more subscribers.

“Ask what simple twist on a familiar theme will entrap or ensnare my audience?”

Branded content is created for a company. A content brand is created to build a valuable audience and can be a lucrative business opportunity, Davis said.

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