In 2017, the media business bore witness and weathered a year of fake news and inauthenticity that has taken an industry based on facts and turned it on its head. Through the false application of what is and isn’t fake news, trust in media is unfortunately no longer what it used to be. That is a fact.
In 2018, it’s crucial to understand how media brands can set themselves apart in a time of endless choices, information overload and misleading news sources. In my view, three easy steps must be taken in order for media brands to differentiate themselves in an overcrowded digital ecosystem and maintain not just trust, but relevancy, with their audiences.
Know What Your Brand Stands For. Shout It from the Rooftops.
In 2018, knowing one’s point of difference will become a must for media brands.
To succeed in today’s crowded digital space, brands and marketers need to take a moment to determine exactly who they are, what they stand for and how they can create a community-like bond with their audiences to overcome the trust issues facing media today.
Consumers need to see that media brands are paying attention to the causes and subjects their communities care about. The reporting and content covering these topics must find alignment with readers and their passions.
For example, Conde Nast recently created a “Next Gen” campaign targeting digital-focused millennials. They added digital accompaniments for a few of their older titles and launched social strategies, like Vogue’s Snapchat Discover and British Vogue’s Facebook Messenger bot, for personalized fashion news. This move from a veteran media company proves its investment in the new generation and drives interest among that target audience.
Whether a brand’s focus is social justice, lifestyle content, sports, etc., own it within the content produced, partnerships and interactions with target audiences. If asked, a reader should, without hesitation, be able to say what a media brand stands for.
Stop talking about platforms and focus on activating your “tribe.”
Through the upcoming year, media brands need to ensure they show up in authentic ways for their audiences. Too many times, media brands are fighting the perception of the platforms where they are housed, particularly print or digital, instead of differentiating their brands through their storytelling voice and where they show up.
The focus in 2018 that will set brands apart is creating these activations that speak to an audience, or “tribe,” in the manner that is most authentic. When brands see themselves as being more than a website or newspaper, so do their tribes.
For example, The Next Web announced they changed their entire conference format this year to appeal to a significantly wider audience. They built in custom networking technology that supports their tribes of entrepreneurs, marketers, developers, etc., in making connections. Creating experiences that resonate with your audiences and seeking to meet their needs pushes a brand ahead of its competition and keeps them both relevant, and more trustworthy in this world of digital overload.
Have your tribe represent you.
Keeping your audience engaged and making them natural brand ambassadors is an essential final step in staying competitive in the industry. Brands must surprise and delight their tribes to get them to advocate for the brand
At the USA Today Network, my company, we do this in a variety of less traditional, more unexpected ways. To get a variety of tribes engaged we host events around the country, including food festivals and awards for high-school athletes.
To drive community across our local tribes and national audience, we recently refreshed and aligned the look of our more than 100 properties to deliver a sense of solidarity throughout our national and local publications.
2018 is the year for media brands to own their point of difference, building a social connection with their audiences. It will be essential to zero in on the brand’s commitment and own it from every angle, from content to events to partnerships and beyond.
In the next year, brands must give their tribes more, before someone else wins them over.