By Tawanda Carlton, PR Account Executive
We recently sat down with our Chief Operating Officer, Katie Kern, to get her thoughts on the state of content creation, which brands are getting it right and where she believes the next phase of content is headed.
1. What does next-level content creation mean to you?
I would define next-level content creation as brands thinking beyond the written word and moving more towards short form content such as video and audio channels. This type of content has started to rise above long-form content, simply because, it’s easier to digest, and forces content creators to get right to the point. Audio, for example, is hands-free by nature, highly portable and perfect for consumers who like their content on-the-go. We continue to hear that attention spans are shortening. Why not take heed to that advice? I’m surprised Twitter, one of the most impactful short-form mediums to date, felt pressured to move past 140 characters. Vine, the social media platform with six-second videos, was ahead of its time, and I hope there is a resurgence of the format. Vine made video content digestible, enjoyable and most importantly impactful. I believe today, our younger generation (e.g. GenZ) would appreciate consuming content in this way.
2. What would you say the current state of the industry is as it relates to content creation?
I’ve seen far too many B2B brands, and companies, take a cookie-cutter approach by creating “formal” content they believe will resonate with their target audience, including white papers, case studies, standard blogs and press releases. B2B brands can certainly take a page from consumer brand playbooks and implement interactive and engaging content, whether through an immersive medium such as augmented reality, virtual reality, 360 videos, live videos or even traditional video.
Videos are accessible, widely supported by technology and are easily consumed by audiences. Content in video form also gives brands the ability to elevate their marketing strategies to a new level of sophistication and more importantly, engagement of potentially new audiences. I would love to see brands take risks and shape their content differently. Audiences are looking for authentic stories they can connect with, instead of overly produced, generic content. This is why platforms such as YouTube and Snapchat are popular and relevant, over traditional television and movies. Many of today’s brands are too focused on a “lights, camera, action” approach to content, when the true focus should be getting to the heart of people and what truly moves them to act, engage and be loyal to a brand.
3. What do you believe are misconceptions about content creation?
One of the biggest misconceptions around content creation is the avoidance of mystery. As humans, we are curious by nature and have an innate desire to try and figure things out. When you add a hint of a mystery to the content, your audience will consume and naturally want to unravel it. For example, Red Table Talk, with Jada Pinkett Smith, is a popular Facebook show with 3.5 million Facebook followers. Aside from the success of the show, there are two characteristics I observe most when tuning in:
- The Authenticity: Red Table Talk could have easily been filmed on a set with an audience, with a more “Oprah Winfrey Show” format. However, it is filmed within the confines of Jada’s home. She covers topics that have personally affected her and her family, which in turn makes it more relatable, and people truly appreciate the feeling of authenticity. This past year, I witnessed a discussion about how Gen Z consumes content and learned how this generation seeks content that is genuine and not overly produced; they actually want content they can believe in.
- The Mystery: Jada seamlessly provides short glimpses into her life through meaningful in-depth conversations with her guests. Through deep dialogue, Jada has, ironically, mastered the gift of enigma. First, she understands the appeal of only revealing small doses of her life, not the entire story. Second, she is savvy enough to know that you don’t have to give your audience every single detail. Last, but most importantly, she realizes, you must leave the audience in suspense, wanting more. I’ve seen many companies put it all out “on the table,” (no pun intended), and once they’ve revealed everything at once, there isn’t anywhere else to go. The narrative has completely unfolded and there is nothing left to the imagination.
4. What are some common and unfortunate practices that drive most content creation?
Once someone finds a formula that works, everyone follows suit. This, in some instances, can become problematic when it comes to creating content that different. In retrospect, following a formula is fine, it’s safe and then the inevitable happens – it becomes redundant. Why wouldn’t you want to change it up?
Standard press release formatting comes to mind when I think of “formulated processes”. PR professionals adhere to the same, basic principles when it comes to writing a press release. We’re told 400 words or less, date and city must go in one place, the copy has to look one way and the “boilerplate” has to be in the same format. Why? The first press release was written in 1906. Printing press workers used the term “boilerplate” to describe the standard information left unchanged at the end of every press release because it looked like the fixed plates they saw on boilers. The example alone would bore anyone to tears. Yet in 2018, more than 100 years later, the practice is still alive and well.
5. When you think of radical inspiring content creation, what brands and companies come to mind?
Most people believe content is dead; contrary to this belief, it’s not. Many brands are just missing the mark when it comes to curating content that should inspire.
When I think of inspiring content, brands like Buzzfeed and Twitter come to mind as they are easy to digest. We’re also seeing Amazon beginning to create more authentic content. Most people think Amazon and do a double take at the thought of the global e-commerce giant being content creators, when in actuality, they are. Currently, they are truly winning when it comes to curating inspiring content because it is customer centric, or rather, thinking with the end user in mind. Ultimately, their approach is no different than any other content marketing strategy. They have visuals that are thoughtfully crafted, copy that is meaningful and have created authentic relationships with their customers.
6. With so much content being created, brands have the opportunity to essentially become knowledge centers of their own. Which means they can create their own content and/or become a go-to destination for news. What are your thoughts on this?
Brands usually benefit when they can communicate their value proposition, service offering, mission, and culture without it being filtered through another source. However, serving as your own knowledge center does not relieve a brand of ethical obligations and even risk management considerations. This means among other things, content must be factual and true to the brand.
There is a cautionary tale in recent issues that Facebook is having because its brand and core value proposition were undermined by bogus postings traced to Russian trolls and other disreputable sources. Granted, Facebook is a communications platform, however, any company’s content can be undermined if it isn’t affirmed by customer experience. In general, when brands are able to control your own narrative, they always win.
7. When creating content, most people think: “What should we make?” What will go viral?” “What will grab people’s attention?” Do you believe this is the best place to start Are processes/strategy more important?
The most important place to start is with knowing your audience. Brands must dig deep and through research and analysis, identify their target audience. Questions to consider are: Who is my audience? What type of content are they consuming? Do they prefer short or longform content? Where do they spend the most time digitally (Twitter, Snapchat, Buzzfeed, etc.)? This discovery process is necessary because, believe it or not, everyone is not your true target audience. You need to find your tribe and then fine-tune your content to their preferences. This is the first place to start.
8. Media Frenzy Global recently helped launch the World’s First Holographic Press Release™ with AR/VR Influencer Cathy Hackl and You are Here Labs. How much of a role would you say immersive technologies such as holograms, AR, VR, etc. will begin to play in content in the near future and beyond?
With the World’s First Holographic Press Release™, I believe we’ve just scratched the surface and because of this, a lot of education is still needed. Since the launch, we’ve realized that while the Holographic Press Release™ is revolutionary for our industry, much attention must be paid to educating the end user of the product. Our goal is to build on the immersive experiences developed in the gaming industry, as they continue to set the standards that leave other industries behind. I believe that, undoubtedly, brands and industries will find themselves testing and implementing some form of immersive technology within their strategy sooner rather than later. It’s the way forward.
9. Any last thoughts?
It’s important for brands to understand that risk-taking has become critical across all industries, especially with B2B companies and organizations. Consumers are tired of stories being told the same way. I believe a lack of the “human factor” has become instrumental as to why brands and companies aren’t seeing the traction they want to achieve across multiple platforms. As brands, the human element will always play a vital role in the creation of content because, ultimately, we are trying to reach people who have passions and interests that can be tapped into.