What does a quality brand publication look like? When you consider how much ‘content’ is spewed onto the buying public, getting it right isn’t that easy. Project of the Year is being announced at the Content Marketing Awards in Cleveland, Ohio, this week. My pet project, Traction News, is short-listed to win the big prize. Here’s how and why it got there.
Step 1 – Developing an editorial mission
Traction News is a Tireweb Marketing publication produced by Lush Digital Media. The online magazine launched on 1 November 2015. The guiding light for everything at Traction is the editorial mission statement. It identifies who reads it, why and what they can expect to get from it. This is no different than any traditional media property.
‘Traction News provides tire business owners and their employees with news, opinion and information to run a successful tire business in the USA and Canada. The online magazine focuses on product information, business advice, industry events and original research with new articles published every day’.
Step 2 – Defending the audience
Once the editorial mission is established, it’s essential to ensure the mission is upheld in every single article. Traction’s managing editor, Dan Hatch, is the person responsible for delivering that mandate and it’s no small task. His goal is to make sure Traction publishes articles ‘for’ the reader. It’s a vital difference to many brand publications who tend to be focused on the publisher.
Step 3 – Providing more insight
Because it’s nearly impossible for a brand publication to ‘break news’, every article has to give additional value to the reader. That’s accomplished by providing more insight and additional detail than normally found on a press release. Dan leads the charge on this, a technique used widely in traditional media. He’s taken a deep dive into the tire industry by attending conferences, interviewing business owners and forging relationships with tire manufacturers and distributers. He’s immersed himself in tires to ensure every article is relevant and represents the truth to people working in the industry.
Step 4 – Implementing editorial rigour
Dan leads the charge on Traction, but he’s part of a wider team of writers, editors and social media professionals. The editorial calendar is the central nervous system for the publication, showing the status of every article – past, present and future.
The editor is responsible for writing the brief but the writer has to set up interviews, write to a topic and word count and file on deadline. The writer also sources images and videos and writes social media updates for the article.
Once Dan approves an article for publication, it goes through a final round of editing to ensure grammar, punctuation, spelling and word usage are correct. Because an international team located in five different countries produces Traction, the copy editor (or subeditor) is critical to ensure quality and consistency of language for an American audience.
After the copy editor has made the final refinements, a digital marketing expert loads the article onto the Traction site and schedules all the social media postings. Optimal posting times across a variety of channels are considered, along with tagging influencers and identifying the best hashtags to use on each post.
Step 5 – Eliminating the call to action
Traction News is content marketing play, no doubt about it. But the publisher, Matt Walker from Tireweb Marketing, knows he can’t gain influence with his audience if he’s bashing them over the head with a sales message and a call to action at the end of each article. His commitment to the editorial mission has been rewarded with a healthy email subscription list and the trust of his readers.
Google has also recognised the value of Traction by making it a source for Google News. Bing and Yahoo quickly followed suit. By providing high-quality, original content developed to journalistic standards without promoting a product or organisation, Traction now shows up as a legitimate news source in search results. That means higher organic search rankings and more readers.
Step 6 – Following up with email
In addition to publishing a new article every day, Traction produces an email newsletter with additional content not found in the online magazine. This gives subscribers exclusive information and alerts them to articles in the magazine they might have missed. Dan plans and writes the newsletter content following the same editorial process for a magazine article. (See Step 4.)
The email newsletter is an opportunity to market directly to a list of people who have willingly provided their details to Tireweb Marketing on the back of great content in Traction. The email newsletter is where product promotion and calls to action find their place.
Step 7 – Holding a monthly editorial meeting
Once a month Tireweb Marketing meets with Lush to pour over a variety of metrics and analytics. This helps us determine the best way forward for the next month. It shows us what’s working well and helps identify areas where we need to work a bit harder. This meeting is also essential for mapping out the direction of the editorial calendar in future months including the industry business calendar, feedback from readers and customers, consumer buying cycles and upcoming events. The editorial meeting is run to an agenda but there’s always brainstorming and idea generation that goes on during these meetings, as well.
A winning brand’s publishing formula
To be short-listed for Project of the Year, you have to win your category. I was delighted when Traction News won the Best Transportation Publication category, beating out big brands (with big budgets) like Southwest Airlines and Scandinavian Traveller, among others. Being short-listed for Project of the Year is thrilling, especially given the competition:
Project of the Year finalists:
(includes 7 of the 76 category winners)
#nsfavourites (DutchGiraffe / Digital Creatives & G+J Custom Content)
ARC Magazine (Lincoln Electric)
Lenovo (King Content)
Sainsbury’s magazine (Seven)
Traction News (Tireweb Marketing / Lush Digital Media)
Two Bellmen (Marriott International, Inc.)
The World’s First Magazine with Food (NPO Tôhoku Kaikon / Dentsu Inc)
Awards are wonderful, but the rewards of producing a quality brand publication are greater. Traction has proven a small company with modest budgets can achieve big results if they shift their thinking from marketing and focus on the audience.
- Start with an editorial mission
- Put the right team in place
- Manage your workflows and processes
- Refrain from pushing product
- Measure, report, refine
Once the audience’s needs are met, it’s much easier for the brand to market directly to them. The investment you’ve made in your publication converts to a long-term asset as it continues to drive traffic to your business.
If you’re interested in how you can use your marketing budget to create an award-winning brand newsroom, get in touch. We have a wealth of experience in traditional media and brand publishing to help you gain influence and trust with your target audience.