Monday, August 2, 2010

Seven Tips To Thinking Like a Publisher

One piece of advice that's offered up a lot these days is that organizations to think like a publisher. The point is that organizations need to produce content that can be posted on their sites, their blogs and elsewhere.

And that's good advice, as far as it goes.

But it may still leave the people who now need to generate more content a bit confused about their role as publisher. There's a good blog on the topic, What Does It Mean to Be the Media? written by a friend of mine, Alison Kenney, that's worth reading.

Here are some tips:
  1. Instead of focusing on advertisers -- as traditional publishers do -- social media publishers need to think about the content that will interest their readers and provides value. So in that way, you need to think more like an editor.
  2. Make sure your content is not like advertorials. Social media is about engagement. Too much sell will turn people off. Your PR staff should have a good sense of what can fit into your content without going over the line. If it sounds like a marketing piece, you've gone too far.
  3. You need to establish metrics, just like traditional publishers, as Alison points out. But you will also have to do some experimentation to determine which are the right metrics for your organization. Newspaper circulation and readership are traditional measures for advertising and PR, and was a good standard for anyone and any sector. But with social media, that's changed. Some metrics may be important for a startup, another for a more established company, and others still for nonprofits. And just because metrics for one organization make sense, does not mean those same metrics make sense for a different company -- even one operating in the same sector.
  4. You have to think beyond text, beyond white papers. You now need to think cross-platform: turn a podcast into an article; turn an article into a video -- but do so quickly, efficiently, without a lot of layers or process. This will require change from a cultural, budget and operational perspective.
  5. You need to regularly publish new content. In the old days, the shelf life for marketing collateral could be years. If you ran out of a printed brochure, you could print more and that was fine. That doesn't work in the age of Twitter. You can't just post one thing in January, and leave it at that for the rest of the year. People expect new content, so you've got to generate new content on a regular basis. (The good news: unlike traditional print brochures, Tweets are only 140 characters so that your one brochure, parceled out at 140 characters at a time could last a long time.)
  6. One key difference for a social media publisher is that it's okay to repeat and repost content. The old days of editors responding to a story idea by saying, we covered that a year ago doesn't work or matter if your organization is acting as a self-publisher. The reason: although messages on Twitter and Facebook can last a long time, it can be difficult to search for, and most people don't search for missed messages. Since both Twitter and Facebook offer timelines, your posts can get lost if people don't log on when you post (especially true for Twitter) or can get lost amid all the other Twitter feeds your followers also follow. So while you have to continue to develop new things to Tweet about, the good news is that you can repeat some content because most people will not have seen it the first time.
  7. You need to encourage your team to think like reporters inside your organization. Like an editor, you need to look at everything the organization does and think about how that can be used to tell a story. When it comes to social media, including on Twitter and Facebook, that may mean acknowledging mistakes and missteps made by your organization. This may be the most difficult cultural change your organization makes to embrace social media.
And now you might understand why all those old movies newspapermen (the term they used before "journalists") drank so much!

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