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Why corporate businesses are – or should be – becoming publishers

It was smiles all round at Stratton Craig earlier this week as we read Contently.com’s article about why Cisco Systems is hiring 200 content marketers. That’s a puzzling development for a company that makes networking equipment, surely?

Not so much. We’re not surprised, and that’s because we understand how Joe Public is using the very technology made possible by Cisco’s products.

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What’s the thinking?

Every second post you see on LinkedIn or Facebook is a piece of shareable content offering bite-sized nuggets of wisdom. A ‘10 ways to…’ here, a witty infographic there. The ones that really fly are easy-to-digest, entertainingly written and short enough to read between tube stops or conference calls.

So can brands imitate the success of businesses like BuzzFeed by publishing similar articles on their own website?

Why now?

Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute summarises the marketing dilemma of the modern world:

“Your customers don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves, their wants and their needs.”

So the key statistic from Contently’s article – that Cisco’s content mix will be 80% editorial and 20% advertorial – is logical. In 2016 we can fast-forward through adverts, block pop-ups, and have become immune to banner ads when reading articles online. So the article needs to be the advert.

Change begins with a whisper

But nobody would willingly read an advert unless it was genuinely useful or solved a problem. Even then, nobody likes being sold to – how many times have you entered a shop, interested in a product, to then run away from a staff member who approaches and offers their help?

The same principle applies online. Selling messages need to be subliminal. It’s the art of coaxing your target customers towards the ‘right’ conclusions about your brand of their own accord.
Achieving this takes a lightness of touch. And, most importantly, the right kind of content.

What makes the right content?

For Cisco, which operates almost entirely in the corporate world, the right content is the content that gets seen by the most decision makers. Many key influencers and decision makers use social media to present a version of themselves for others to see. That version might be insightful, creative, funny, or a combination of these. The things they share dovetail with what they self-publish to reinforce their online persona.

If you create content that fits this brief, you’re in business.

So I should get started making a viral video, right?

Nope. This twelve-month content analysis of Cisco.com shows which content gets the most shares. Videos are bottom of the list. It’s nigh-on impossible to create a viral video; they are a law unto themselves.

The things that get the most traction – even for a corporate player like Cisco – are snackable written articles: listicles, and those that start with ‘Why’ and ‘What’. Notice how we’ve done the same with this article?

Whatever industry your business operates in, think about your target customer and how your business can solve the problems they face. Imagine what these decision makers would tell their contacts about to seem more insightful, creative or funny. Write that. And if you can’t, employ some writers who can.

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