Translated by Zoë Lettry
Giving Brand Content its Rightful Place
Brand Content is going places, but where exactly? It certainly has a place in today's business world, and yet it often seems to be in two – if not four or five – different places at once. Sometimes regarded with (misplaced) derision, it's found all over the place. But what is its place exactly? And just how important is it?
Enough of the wordplay. There's a time and a place for that. But the point I'm trying to make is that no one seems to be really sure what Brand Content is exactly. And I'm well placed to know, after more than six years spent navigating the choppy waters of marketing. I've headed for digital horizons, abandoned ship after a stint in hospitality, and got swept up in the world of beauty – which I loved so much, I decided to stay there. And every time I've come to the same conclusion: the definition of Brand Content is not very clear. At all.
► Brand Content is a catch-all term. From a strictly semantical point of view, it's the content of a brand. But what is that content? Social media, websites, packaging, advertising materials, press releases, newsletters, leaflets, catalogues, posters? They're probably the first things that come to mind. But what about customer services, television and radio? Are there no limits to what this term encompasses? Is it "simply" all the different forms of media used to talk about a brand? That's too vague. Too ambiguous. Too confusing.
► Brand Content is everywhere. Given that it overlaps into countless sectors, this is hardly surprising. After all, it's never really found its own place. Different companies and agencies will define it intuitively, in the way that suits them. Sometimes, it finds its way into the Digital Department, where it's incorporated into digital and brand content strategies. Or it might be welcomed into the Press Office by the PR & Brand Content Manager. If those two doors are shut, it can turn to the company's Communications Department. Internal Communications & Brand Content, anyone? You may even find it living happily in the Marketing Department. Should it be loyal to Marketing or to Communications? Does it have to cheat on one if it wants to be with the other? Does it really matter?
► Brand Content has to be able to multitask. It's omnipresent, it's everywhere, so of course it has to be able to deal with anything. In the world of e-commerce, it's often employed for SEO-friendly content and blog articles to talk about the benefits of a product, or to deliver the brand's messages. It's employed in social media, guided by editorial calendars, so the right content gets posted at the right time. If it's employed by Internal Communications, you'll find it working on the company's weekly newsletter. It may even join the HR department and contribute to its platform, giving more meaning to everyone's work and inducing lots of feel-good vibes. Whatever it gets involved in, it's always interesting, but why should these departments be using the term "Brand Content"? Yes, they have to deliver content. But is it Brand Content, or just content?
► Anyone (supposedly) can create Brand Content. Increasingly often, Brand Content is being added to job titles, as if it were a natural extension of that job. You only have to look at LinkedIn to see that the term "Brand Content" is often accompanied by the "&" sign. Of course, a Communications Project Manager will add words to an advertising campaign. No doubt a Digital Project Manager will do some content writing on social media. Naturally, people working in the Internal Communications department may have to compose the odd newsletter. And let's not forget all the Marketing people who have to find names for their products. But Brand Content is not an add-on. It's not an accessory that complements your professional wardrobe. It's a full-fledged suit, tie and all.
► Brand Content is a profession in itself. So no, it shouldn't ever be accompanied by the "&" sign. You might be a "Brand Content Specialist", a "Brand Content Manager", a "Brand Content Creator", etc. Just keep that "&" sign away. So what is Brand Content? It's actually very simple. The Brand Content Manager is to a company what the strategic planner is to an agency: a strategist. A strategist who strategizes through words and a tone of voice. A strategist who ensures that everything the brand puts out there is put out in the right way. That it looks right, sounds right, feels right. The Brand Content Manager intervenes before any article is published on the brand's blog, before any post is published on social media. S/he is there from the very start, creating and channelling content so that it flows smoothly, never choppily. The Brand Content Manager carefully orchestrates the vision and mission of a brand. S/he crafts the words that describe its commitments, its principles, its pillars – all the things that give it meaning, that make it make sense. S/he ensures that regardless of the communication channel used, the same precisely defined tone is always employed. Thus the Brand Content Manager is also a brand ambassador – one who nurtures the brand and is nurtured by it. The content s/he produces moves through all the brand's departments. And it unites them.
► You don't have to be a copywriter. But it helps! Copywriting skills can be the Brand Content Manager's secret weapon. If s/he knows how to write (really) well, it's definitely a valuable feather in their cap. Having said that, it's not because you're good at writing that you're necessarily good at reading, and the job of the Brand Content Manager is, in some ways, to read between the lines of a brand. Most importantly, s/he must have a real feeling for words, and be able to choose the ones that fit perfectly without hesitation. So sometimes, close collaboration with copywriters will yield even better results.
► Not a job just for an agency. A brand's content strategy does not have to be handled by an agency. Or if it is, there should be joint custody. Why? Because the true parent of any Brand Content is the brand itself. Assigning this task to someone else is as risky as asking someone who's never lived in London to write a city guide about it. Or asking someone who's never set foot in New York where the best cocktail bars are to be found. Brand Content should reflect the people, the sensitivities, the passions of a brand. And the best content is inspired by impassioned debates between impassioned employees (watched over by a note-taking Brand Content Manager!).
The Brand Content Manager is not an agency. Nor is s/he a Project Manager who already has a designated function. The Brand Content Manager is an expert – either working in-house or freelancing – who knows a brand's deepest secrets, knows what happens behind the scenes, in the factories, backstage. S/he has a deep understanding of a brand: its strengths, its weaknesses, its appeal, its reputation, its DNA, its raison d'être. Armed with all this knowledge, and driven by the enthusiasm of dedicated employees, s/he captures the brand's personality through engaging campaigns that give it a voice – and a soul.