Red Bull, Coca-Cola make a splash in brand journalism

A look at how these high-profile brands have transitioned into media companies, and how you can do the same.

You know the Red Bull brand, whether you drink the product or not. For the last several years, Red Bull has been changing the way it communicates with customers.

It’s been fun to watch the shift from “brand positioning” to meaningful and relevant stories about its customers’ passion points. It has told these stories and integrated its products in an authentic, non-intrusive way.

I don’t drink Red Bull, but I subscribe to several pieces of its content—it’s that good. Take a quick glance at its home page; it looks very similar to CNN‘s.

Another well-known brand making this transition is Coca-Cola. It recently launched a site called The Coca-Cola Journey. It’s not its corporate site, but it should be. It’s dynamic, engaging, interesting and much more human than the corporate site.

For one, it has third-party contributors and employees writing about a variety of topics. I can only assume this content did not have to go through some type of “brand messaging” approval, making it much more real. It has aligned its content with topics like innovation, sports, business, health; it also has specific pages for videos and blog content.

It certainly didn’t forget about the brand. Beyond the signature red and white, the site has sections that highlight the sub brands, integrating social conversations specific to each one. It’s very well done.

Why is this important?

All brands (especially B2B) must start thinking, acting, and operating like media companies.

Unfortunately, we can’t turn on the “media company” button and change operations overnight. It requires a change in attitude, behavior, and thinking, coupled with processes and governance models, as well as technology that can facilitate the transformation—all elements that make up a social business strategy.

Here are some tips to help you get started.

1. Establish a centralized team: You can call it a Center of Excellence, editorial team, or whatever you’d like. Those people will be responsible for everything below.

2. Define the content strategy: Identify precisely what you will align your brand messaging with (passion points, community/media perception, search behavior); determine which channels make sense to build community; and devise a curation strategy—who will feed the content engine (employees, customers), the timing and frequency of posting, content measurement, etc.

3. Assign roles and responsibilities: Remember, think like a media professional when designating contributors, editors, and other key players. Who will be responsible for creating content, approving content, and publishing content? More important, who will be the community manager, engaging with site visitors once the content has been published?

4. Build a command center: Yes, it should be like the ones you see in movies like “The Bourne Legacy,” but the collected data will include the terms “branded,” “unbranded,” and “industry-related.” You will not only use the command center for crisis communications and customer support, but also to gain insight into “what’s happening now” in the industry you work in. It’ll help drive relevant and real-time content creation opportunities.

5. Processes and workflows: This will help define the who, what, when, and where regarding content creation, approvals, publishing, and real-time optimization.

6. Technology selection: Tools like Kapost, Compendium, Divvy HQ, Spredfast, Sprinklr, and Hootsuite Enterprise are worthy technology solutions to look into.

It sounds easy, I know. The most challenging part is behavioral change. To make this transition successful, traditional brand marketers (and organizational leaders) must buy into the vision, support it, sometimes drive it, and certainly live it.

Michael Brito is a senior vice president of Social Business Planning at Edelman. A version of this article first appeared on BritoPian. (Image via)

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