Brand Hearth

PR and brand storytelling. Gather around the fire

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Does your content matter?

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Here’s a disgustingly clichéd phrase for you: content is king. Except, this often regurgitated marketing line is flawed. It assumes that by simply making content you’re going to rule the rooste your competitors sup upon your mighty dust cloud. Nah.

Some brands have truly mastered the art of the shoehorn - creating content that doesn’t make sense in their space just because they believe that creating content is going to help.

Take a step back. Think about what your customers would expect to see from you. What helps them solve a problem? If it’s a piece of earned content for the media, what is going to get you in the most relevant publication for your audience?

William Faulkner said it best: “In writing, you must kill all your darlings”. He may as well have started with: “In marketing…”. If your content isn’t doing the right things to address audience pain points then savagely...

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Use data to create stories with media cut-through

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Anyone who shares an office with me knows that spending hours combing through data in Excel is my idea of a dream. In my line of work, I need to be creating great stories that the media want to cover - something easier said than done, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Financial restraints mean I can’t opt to do an awesome video with a celebrity or organise a stunt, which means creativity and a keen news sense is key. This is why data is my constant ally and I’ve managed to use all kinds of data research to power some amazing campaigns that get results. In this post I’m going to explain how to get the most from your data in order to pitch a stellar story to the media.

Figure out the story you want to tell

Obvious, right, but crucial. There’s a lot of data out there, so before doing anything you need to understand the story you want to tell to allow you to hone in on your...

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Content as product

It’s a common thought that creating branded content is all about mashing prospective customers down the funnel as quickly as possible. Never mind nurturing your leads, it’s all about the bottom line.

To some extent, that’s true, but only in that branded content exists to make customers from your readers. But an article that begins as something genuinely helpful then suddenly attempts the hard sell isn’t going to be attractive to many readers.

Content should be a product in itself. Media publishers don’t yammer on about themselves all the time - The Atlantic doesn’t create articles about how great The Atlantic is. Great content marketing digs into a customer’s lifestyle - it empathises, educates and empowers. Much of the time, brands do this badly. A reader can smell insincerity from a mile off and it’s going to send them running for the hills (or at least to make a snarky comment on...

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Here’s why your content strategy isn’t working

On the face of it, creating content seems easy, right? You tap out some articles on a regular basis with some tie to your brand and the job’s a good ‘un. No doubt the masses will flock to pour over your magic words and be instantly moved to empty their wallets. Of course, this isn’t the case.

It’s true that anyone can do content, but few brands do it well. The number of sad-looking company blogs and 'knowledge hubs’ I’ve trawled through is testament to this. Surely you don’t need a big old strategy for hashing out a bunch of blog posts - that’s for the direct marketing guys and those SEO wizards. Nope. Here are some pitfalls that are all too common when brands are trying to create content.

 You’re doing it because the boss said so

Want to know the worst reason to do content? Because upper management wants it. Vanity is big in marketing and chucking out lumps of grotty articles because...

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Mozilla gets into brand publishing with The Open Standard

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Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox browser, has launched a brand new publishing platform covering technology in all aspects of our lives.

The Open Standard not only wants to look at consumer technology, but also big data, citizen’s rights and technology policy in government.

Categories includes Learn, Innovate, Engage, Opinion and Live - so a broad range of article types. In this way Mozilla want to position themselves as a primary resource for consumers.

“Our lives are infiltrated [by the Internet] at all levels; at work, at play, in school, when we go to the hospital,” said Anthony Duignan-Cabrera, The Open Standard’s editor in chief. “We want to explain both the pros and the cons of this.”

“We’re an advocacy news organization, advocating on behalf of the philosophies and ideas that helped establish Mozilla,” said Duignan-Cabrera. “We’re not “fair and balanced” — that’s...

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4 Things Etsy Can Teach You About Content Marketing

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I have an unhealthy obsession with Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame. He just strikes me as the kind of person I want to be: cool, smart and can rock a pair of black frames like there’s no tomorrow.

So when I was Googling Adam to trawl through any interviews he had done, as I am wont to do when I develop a liking for a particular public figure, I came across a blog post on Etsy’s US site about Adam’s love for the brand. I noticed that not only was this an interview, but it was also a community discussion opening up Etsy fans to ask Savage questions. Even more interestingly, it doesn’t seem that the author of the post, Karen Brown, actually works for Etsy - rather she’s the creative director for the Centre of Ecoliteracy.

This, I thought, was pretty savvy marketing. On the one hand you’ve snagged an interview with a celebrity to essentially gush about your brand, and on the other...

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Transmedia Storytelling on a Shoestring Budget

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Right now, people are going mad for Ingress.

Google came up with a stunning idea for an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) which has players the world over storming suburbs and circumnavigating cities connecting virtual grids anchored in material objects such as sculptures or historical signs. Ingress seamlessly integrates GPS, web chat, video, email and real-life events to create a game with a story larger than the sum of its parts.

Ingress sits firmly in the category of transmedia storytelling, a phrase that has cropped up in recent years to mean a narrative told in a non-linear fashion over a variety of mediums. For content marketers, it’s a dream. Engagement is intrinsic to the transmedia storytelling method, giving people a chance to unravel a narrative themselves; going down the rabbit hole, if you will.

“You can work with the bare minimum to launch a transmedia campaign”

The...

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Doing Content Marketing The Marvel Way

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Image attribution: Marvel Comics

When marketing blogs refer to companies who have completely killed it at content marketing you see the same names popping up again and again: Red Bull, General Mills, Virgin, American Express are among the most cited. But as a huge comic book fan, I see Marvel creating some incredible marketing content that’s seriously worth taking note of.

It’s hard to believe that in 1996 Marvel found itself filing for bankruptcy protection as the once-lucrative comics bubble burst. Fast forward to 2014 and Marvel is stronger than its ever been, with amazing creators like Matt Fraction, Jonathan Hickman, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Warren Ellis making amazing comics and a huge movie universe that is constantly netting them record box office sales.

While there is a tonne of reasons why Marvel has managed to claw its way back to the top of the tree, their approach to...

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How Your Brand Can Become its Own Media House

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One of the biggest successes in content marketing in recent years is Red Bull, which has become one of the few brands to take its storytelling to the next level and create its own media house. If you asked anyone 10 years ago whether an energy drink company would have its own TV channel I’m guessing 70% would say no and 10% would laugh you out of the room. But it’s 2014 and Red Bull not only has a TV channel, but a music publisher, a widely-read magazine, games and even feature films. They are the current kings of storytelling and just like the bull in their namesake they’re a force to be reckoned with.

But you don’t need to have the financial backing that Red Bull has to be able to become your own media house. Sure, it really helps, but if you want to effectively tell your stories then you can work with the platforms you’re probably already using, and you can do this for little cost.

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How to Increase Traffic to Your Brand Blog and Grow Your Audience

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The first thing that I do with any new client is to see if they have a blog. If they do, I read it to gauge what they are doing correctly and what they could improve. Much of the time brands, especially smaller ones create a blog as a taken because they read somewhere that they should be doing that sort of thing. These ‘token blogs’ often serve as dumping grounds for company news, sales pitches and SEO-fodder. They tend to have little to no engagement and a quick check on Analytics shows a mere trickle of traffic.

Having a well-read blog is now a cornerstone in gaining new customers and forging loyal ones out of your current customers. It shouldn’t be written for search engines - it should be written for people.

“They don’t want to be force fed your latest products - that’s what the rest of your website is for”

Begin with looking at the sort of content you are putting out on your...

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