This post is the 3rd in a series designed to help you develop and launch a content marketing strategy. So far, we’ve covered the basic premise of content marketing and gone into some detail about developing your brand identity. While you don’t need to read those posts first, you may get more out of this guide if you start at the beginning.
Your brand lives at the center of your marketing strategy. It’s your big guiding principle, plus the little bits of personality that make your business interactions fun. If you’re going to succeed at content marketing, you must have a healthy brand.
Those subtle bits of branding that permeate all of your content are the key that makes your content into marketing material – whenever someone touches your content, a little bit of who you are sticks in their head. Gradually, that adds up to brand recognition, trust, and sales. The concept is simple:
Your company figures out what your most qualified consumers are looking for, you create that content with your branding intact, and you put it where the right people are likely to find it. Branding your content takes some skill and practice, so let’s get started.
How Do You Get Your Brand Into Your Content?
Mostly, your brand is the overall feeling people have regarding your company and products or services. Every time a part of your business interacts with someone, that’s a chance to work on your branding and create the feeling you want them to have. That means your brand comes from all the moving parts of your company – your social media accounts, your blog, your product descriptions, and even the way you answer the phone and sign your emails.
If you’ve done a good job at researching your audience and developing your brand, you probably have some insights about how you can convey your brand ideals. The standard branding elements are important. To reflect your values, you need to think about things like names, logos, and overall style. Most people stop there, though, and that’s not enough.
You can’t make a powerful brand out of a color scheme, logo, and tagline. Yes, those things need to be there, and they need to be consistent across all your media channels, but you need personality. It’s the brand nuances that take your generic, boring company and turn it into a brand worth following.
Nailing the Nuances
‘Nuances’ covers a lot of ground. The elements that make up your brand identity are just as unique as your business plan and your personal goals. These are the things that bring your brand to life and give it a personality. Maybe your brand is centered around joy and playfulness, so you crack a lot of cheesy jokes and include an inexpensive novelty gift in all your packages.
Brands organized around a cause can enthusiastically participate in fundraising for relevant charities and support other businesses, competitors included, who are likely to further the overarching goal. More on this later. Allow your brand priorities to drive the details.
In other words, this is where you walk the talk. If you say you’re obsessed with great customer service, you had better not expect your customers to muddle through a confusing phone tree before they get to talk to one of your agents, because that’s the exact opposite of great customer service. Here are some of the nuances you can think about to put more personality and brand identity into your content.
Vocabulary and Voice
When you write for or talk to your audience, what you say is of secondary importance compared to how you say it. Did your mother ever scold you for apologizing in the wrong tone of voice? She wanted a tone of sincerity, and you gave her something else. This is kind of like that, except you’re not in trouble.
The people you’re writing for should be one of your top considerations when you’re deciding how to say what you want to say. For example, if this post was written for English professors, that last sentence would probably say: “Your style of writing must be determined by the people for whom you write.” Grammar, vocabulary, use of slang, and paragraph length are all part of your voice. Find your own style while heavily considering your readers. Their preferences are more important than yours.
Humor and Wit
More so than whether or not you have a sense of humor, your brand can be shaped by the type of humor you employ. For example, there’s a big difference between this joke:
A photon is going through airport security. The gate agent asks if he has any luggage. The photon says, “No, I’m traveling light.”
And this joke:
What’s red and bad for your teeth? [A brick.]
Humour goes much deeper than telling jokes and making puns. You can write content that’s witty and funny without ever telling a formulaic joke like these. Think of that friend that always makes you laugh, no matter what you’re doing – it’s like that. Styles range from outrageously funny to just keeping things light, and there are nearly infinite variations.
Your brand doesn’t have to have a sense of humour at all. If it does, though, be sure that everyone responsible for creating content is capable of employing that particular type of humor. Not everyone has a knack for being funny, and brand consistency is more important than the ability to tell a good joke from time to time.
In order to be instantly recognizable, your brand should have a consistent look and feel across all channels. Styling your brand visually includes the basics like logos and color choices and extends to the more artistic side of your look. For example, take a look at this picture:
It’s a nice portrait of a lovely woman. You’ve probably seen a lot of those, haven’t you? Now, compare it to this portrait of another attractive lady:
The look and feel is completely different.
Your visuals can be very stylized to create a certain impression, or they can be a subtle background that lets your words and actions shine. Choose a visual style that makes sense for your brand identity.
Procedures, Processes, and People
What you do is far more important than what you say, especially when it comes to service. Part of your brand is the commitment you make to your consumers and whether or not you live up to it. Infuse your brand into the way your business is operated, the way your team interacts with customers, and even the people you hire in the first place.
In other words, if your brand is warm and friendly, you should find ways to inject warmth and friendliness into everything you can reach. That includes the way you answer phones, the packaging you use to ship products, even the way you treat your cleaning staff. Branding is a reflection of who you are. If you’re not the kind of people who live up to that branding, the message you’re trying to send won’t stick.
Most companies have a goal. Some have a passion. There are just a few that have a cause. A cause is a higher purpose, something that drives you to succeed because it’s more important than you or your business. How do you know if you have a cause? Answer this:
If you knew that closing your company to help a competitor succeed would greatly benefit the cause, would you continue competing, or would you sacrifice your own business to help them succeed?
When you have a real cause, the achievement of that purpose is the single most important thing to you. That kind of motivation and fervor is contagious – you won’t be able to keep it a secret, and it will become your brand whether you intend it or not. Don’t try to manufacture a cause if you don’t already have that kind of obsession. You’ll come across as manipulative, and it will turn people off.
You can always talk about your passions, do good works for people, aim for great goals, and even donate some of your profits to charity if it’s important to you. Just be cautious about branding yourself around a cause unless you’re 100% committed.
Other Branding Nuances That Create Distinction
You’re limited only by your imagination (and perhaps your budget) so be willing to embrace creativity. Branding is an art, and since your brand will evolve over time, your mistakes probably won’t be big enough to cause lasting harm. Even if you do make a huge mistake, you can recover. Fear shouldn’t hold you back.
Do any of these ideas inspire you?
- Sharing your interesting backstory
- Creating characters
- Finding new ways to help your audience
- Practicing leadership
- Reaching out to others in your community
- Partnering intelligently with complementary brands
Brands come in all shapes and sizes, and anything you do consistently has the potential to become part of your public image. Be bold. The worst thing that can happen to your brand is that nobody notices it.
Consistency Across Branded Content
Whatever elements you choose to add vibrancy and life to your branding, be absolutely sure that you can carry it through – it goes in all kinds of content, and it’s the same on all platforms.
That doesn’t mean you have to do the same things on each platform. That means that you must always remain within your brand’s style, voice, and priorities. It’s easy to drift into a different voice on a social network where people are responding, and change is okay. If you make a conscious change, just be sure to change it everywhere.
When your brand is rock solid and consistent, all of your content becomes marketing material. Each time a consumer comes in contact with any piece of content you’ve distributed, they get to know you a little better. The emotional impression of your brand begins to gradually build up in their mind, and since your brand was intelligently developed, your most qualified prospects are likely to come back for more. You’re speaking their language. They’ll respond.
Above All, Provide Value
Value means that your branded content is the kind of stuff that your audience is actively searching for, and you’re giving it away for free.
Lots of things are generally valuable – entertainment, how-to information, and community come to mind – but not all of those things are specifically valuable to your potential followers.
Be very conscious of what your most qualified prospects want, and you’ll position yourself to start attracting droves of new customers.
If you’ve ever started a content strategy in the past, you know that this all sounds rather exciting, but building up your traffic isn’t as easy as publishing a blog post and watching the readers flood in.
Even with perfect content, you need a strategy to get people to read it.
In the next post in this series, you’ll start building your traffic strategy so that the right people find your published content! We’ll talk about where to find your readers, how to get them to visit your site, and what to do once they get there.