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L&T’s Take on Brand Publishing, Revisited

Oliver Cox

How brand publishing is and continues to be an optimal means for brands to communicate.

In 2014, about a year after Jonathan Allen and Cooper Pickett founded Longneck and Thunderfoot, Cooper penned the original version of this post. He set out our early successes as a company, our theories on brand publishing, and why brands should be publishers. Four years later, we have more and more detailed success data to share, and more advanced predictions for the future.

The Thesis

Our thesis, then as now, is that brands can achieve their business goals (generating more leads, thought leadership, exposure, conversations, and business growth) by sharing their ideas and expertise on a regular basis.

We achieve this by acting as an outsourced publishing team, engaging on the executive level and learning about our clients to the extent that we become experts. We then work to get our clients’ ideas out of their heads and onto the page — whether via writing, design, social media, SEO, advertising, print, or a number of other means.

Four Years on, the Merits of Regular Publishing are Born Out by the Data

In his original post, Cooper described how L&T can reliably double a client’s inbound traffic in three months by delivering on a brand publishing strategy. With more data from client engagement, we can demonstrate that these gains are sustainable and stackable. See one client example below, showing an increase of more than 4x in 3 years of working together.

brand publishing revisitedMeanwhile, we have been tracking other data, like leads generated and deals closed, attributing them to specific articles, collateral, and other digital materials we create.

For example, after working for a client in the industrial supply space for 12 months, we were able to increase their monthly marketing qualified leads generated by a factor of three. This led to $4 million in new business, directly attributed to our work.

Meanwhile, we also proved that brand publishing is a PR tool: by demonstrating this client’s expertise and vision, (the publication of record in our client’s space) approached them to offer a regular on-site column.

brand publishing revisited

Varied Clients

Earlier in the history of L&T, we were faced with challenges like:

  • How can you possibly work in X industry?
  • My space is to complex for an agency to understand enough to write about it.

Since then, we’ve successfully partnered with companies in artificial intelligence, information services, oil and gas, hospitality, human resources, legal services, and medical devices. We count among our clients compact, niche agencies and several Fortune 500s. Among our clients are those that create and market some of the most highly technical and complex products and services in the world. And through it all, we’ve proven that our approach works both for B2C and B2B.

Brand Publishing is More Relevant than Ever

When Cooper penned the first version of this post, online marketers were still reeling from Google’s Panda and Penguin updates: the former punished sites that created high-volume, low-quality content (among other things), while the latter penalized those that attempted to spam Google’s algorithm with fake links. These updates made our approach — embracing quality, complexity, and nuance in publishing — indispensable to our clients.

At the start of 2018, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social network would be limiting the extent to which public posts would appear in people’s news feeds, in favor of posts from their friends. As a result, Facebook will decline as a medium through which companies can connect with customers.

Meanwhile, online banner ads are not making up for the decline in print media advertising due to falling readership, mainly because users are installing ad blockers. Because online ads will not replace the work that offline ads used to do, brands must find new ways to connect with their audiences (for the record, we use digital ad campaigns widely as part of a holistic marketing strategy).

Brand publishing solves both these issues because, in the first instance, it attracts users organically via search, thereby bypassing Facebook’s filters; and, in the second instance, because it doesn’t rely on banner ads that decorate highly-trafficked publications — it is the highly-trafficked publication.

On a positive note, Google has confirmed that 15% of all search terms that users enter every year are unique — meaning they have never been typed into Google before. This represents a field of new, highly specific needs (for help, products, information etc.) to which brands can cater — in other words, new informational niches for brands to occupy.

The Future

Just under 90% of both B2B and B2C marketers are using content marketing. That’s a lot of content, and if more brands start publishing (and publishing more), the successful strategists will be those who find a way to be unique, gain mindshare, and capture people’s attention.

One way we recommend achieving this is through digital storytelling. Digital storytelling comes from the premise that the medium is the message — with this in mind, brands shouldn’t just talk about their sophisticated products and services within a 2D medium (blog posts), but strive to create stories that are commensurate with what they do.

Stories that channel audio, writing, images, UX design, and more allow brands to create immersive experiences, holding their attention against innumerable competitors. Digital stories allow for gamification and facilitate engaging tactile experiences via mobile devices.

Indeed, the majority of internet traffic is mobile, yet many business practices (like white papers in the form of downloadable PDFs) are effectively anti-mobile. Digital stories allow users to engage with brands in a way that doesn’t feel like merely a sized-down version of the desktop experience.

As mentioned earlier, the technology and policies of tech giants like Google and Facebook can make and break marketing strategies (and the companies that use those strategies). But brand publishing has endured during the four years since Cooper wrote the first version of this post.

There are many reasons for this, but foremost among them must be the fact that our strategy does not include attempts to trick people and platforms. Instead, we focus on two fundamentally relevant needs: on the part of audiences, for information; and on the part of business leaders, for expression.

Oliver Cox

Marketing & Innovation Lead

Originally from the UK, now builds custom strategies to share our clients' visions and stories. Novelist and musician in his spare time.

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