It’s no secret that brand magazines are forging ahead in 2014. More than three-quarters (78 per cent) of CMOs think custom content is the future, and recent research from Seven highlighted that consumers think branded content is best in helping them buy their products and services.
Content marketing isn't just a buzzword: it's what we expect from our trusted brands these days. We want a place to read or watch compelling content about our top brands. We want our brands to be publishers and to entertain us. We want our brands to make an effort and show how dedicated they are to us. How can brands respond to the ever-demanding consumer? By producing a digital magazine with highly sharable content. Giving the consumer a place to go, not just to learn about the brand, but to read brilliant articles that educate, entertain or inspire them.
So, as a brand, you want a cool, fascinating and much coveted brand magazine? Where do brands start? Well firstly, brands should already have decided the tone they need for their magazine before they engage a content agency. Tuning into the demographic is essential for this. This should be clearly pinned down.
Once a content agency has been chosen, it’s important as the brand owner that you communicate the perfect tone for your audience clearly. It’s vital to do this and have a style guide in place, before any headlines are mapped out or articles commissioned. This helps the agency to produce the most accurate copy for your readers (and saves turnaround time and edits!). The first batch of articles will always take more edits to really target the tone, but having a clear vision really helps. You will find after this, the production flows much more smoothly.
Here are our tips to creating the right tone for your brand magazine:
1. Know your audience inside out
I know. How many times have we heard this? But, it really is key. It’s all about the audience! You are not writing for yourself; you are writing for the brand demographic. To do this you have to be absolutely under their skin, knowing their age, lifestyle, likes and dislikes and the types of age-appropriate content and language which will appeal to them. This cannot be underestimated. You need writers in the brand demographic that can tap into the culture and current trends. So if it’s 20-30 years, make sure writers are in this age range and tapped into news and current trends in this arena. Employ the right types of journalists for the copy production. If you want to produce a lifestyle magazine, employ lifestyle journalists not financial ones. If you want to produce a ‘Cosmopolitan’ inspired women’s magazine, then hire writers that have worked on these publications.
2. Know the ‘right’ style for your audience
Buzzfeed is a popular trend but it’s only one style. Articles have to be concise and multimedia used, videos, pictures, copy. To emphasize the video element, YouTube gets more than one billion unique visitors every month. That overrides any other channel, just not Facebook. Articles are becoming more interactive with outbound links to images, videos and websites. Today's online audience is time-starved and everyone is looking for a quick read (or watch) sometimes. Readers with more time will expect more in-depth ‘meaty’ articles.
3. Know what your audience wants from its content
Everyone wants smart copy. Who doesn’t? There’s nothing worse than read drab, bland articles. Readers need to be entertained, educated and stimulated, not preached to or talked down to. Professionals don’t just want the big sell, they want to be engaged with unique and fresh content that inspires them. Hot trends and news should be tapped into and articles must be researched well, providing the reader with unique insights.
4. Know that your audience wants only the best writers and editors
Only the best. Why would they settle for anything less? Use experienced journalists. They cost more but always remember any awful content you’ve read as a stark reminder. Don’t skimp on costs and get anyone to write and edit. Hire professionals that will produce quality copy, not a botch job. That's why every brand needs experts; so people are attracted to the content and it gets shared and found – or even goes viral. Also think about the writers and editors themselves, they have large networks therefore the content will get shared easily in the online community. Remember that you are competing with thousands of top notch publications and blogs, so quality is key.
5. Know that every quality publication has an excellent (and ‘challenging’ for want of a better word) master editor
They may be brutal and not beat around the bush, but the fact is, every excellent publication has one. This person will ensure the brand style and values are reflected and the style is consistent for the brand. They will also keep steering their writers to go beyond their best. This should also be the person to map the headlines each month, and helm the ship. It’s not the 80s anymore and we don’t expect editors to rant and rave, but a good editor will give constructive criticism, help writers blossom and push them to produce the most inspiring writing they are capable of. And that’s what every brand wants for its digital magazine.
Rachel Everett is partner and editorial director with White Horse Digital