Is the brand newsroom approach the right operational approach for managing real time owned media? Absolutely, without a doubt. Nobody is a bigger proponent of this idea than me. The marketing operations model has not changed significantly since DDB paired up writers and art directors in the 60’s. Agencies, PR firms, and client-side teams have not evolved operationally with media habits over the years. It’s way past time for change, people… but the concept of the “brand newsroom” is just the tip of the iceberg.
Just because this is the right operational approach for owned media doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea for brands to attempt to do it in-house. Nor does it mean it’s a bad idea. There are lots of good arguments both ways. Like most questions in marketing, it depends on the brand. Clearly the companies that are doing this well in house are very successful with it. They are an inspiration, and they are helping marketers think different. So, here’s to you, Coke. Thank you Red Bull. There are a handful of other companies that have similar efforts going on, and there is a lot of good work starting to happen in this space with those brands. That only leaves… well, the rest of the marketing world. But, just like video edit suites and TV production studios and animation workstations and social media command centers, brand newsrooms and the operational approach and real world requirements associated with them are not the right in-house solution for every brand.
First of all – the “brand newsroom” approach popularized at this year’s Super Bowl that everyone is now so excited about was not groundbreaking… it was just high profile, and marketers were ready to understand it. The most truly interesting thing about it is that it has inspired marketers to take the next step down their maturity path to fully understanding the new realities of marketing ops in the real world. After all this buzz about social media and content marketing and inbound marketing, we are finally starting to understand which questions to ask. We’ve matured from “what’s social media” to “how do I handle monitoring” to “how do I drive conversion” to “wow, it’s really just about content” to “oh, it needs to be in real time”, in about three years. That is fast for our business. Now, we are finally considering the operational implications of all this . . . because the operational methodology of agencies, PR firms and in house marketing teams is failing to fulfill the real world requirements. They’re not staffed or structured to handle it. The newsroom approach was built for it, and gone through a lot of evolution and refinement as media has evolved, for the last several decades. Soon, marketers will mature even further and get to the deeper issues, like the long term implications for traditional marketing theory, the need to totally rethink integrated marketing strategy, and the implications for spend allocation. . . but let’s deal with the operational issues first, since that is where the conversation’s at in today’s reality. The answers will come soon.
So – you may be asking, “why should I listen to this guy about real time marketing and brand newsrooms?”. You probably have no idea who I am. Let me introduce myself. My background and experience is in marketing and audience development for broadcast, broadcast news and production, and I spent some time as an account planner, moving into a VP, digital role on the agency side for a large regional firm. Everywhere I have been, I was always the “digital guy”. Agency people – you know the guy I’m talking about, you all have had one. The go-to person for “websites and email and interactive stuff”. That was me.
Instead of spending the last decade becoming an “influencer” on the topic of content and real time marketing and brand newsrooms, like Armano and Rubel and those kinds of folks, I started a company – I tend to learn faster by doing, rather than discussing. I asked the right question, and solved the right problem. I spent all my time testing and optimizing it in the real world with real clients, and delivering real world business results. My company has a 100% success rate growing audiences for brands. We are structured, staffed, and operate exactly like… an embedded brand news team. And we have been operating like this, by implicit design, for years.
I’m the CEO of a real time owned media services company called Raidious. We found the answers marketers have been searching for… even if they didn’t know they were, even though it was right in front of them the whole time. How do we handle digital? How do we handle social? How do we staff for this? What skills do we need? All good questions in their time, and tough problems to solve. But Raidious was purpose built to solve the only problem that matters in digital marketing – creating and converting audiences on brand owned media channels. Every online channel is real time. Every medium is social. None of them work without content. All of them are dependent on audience development to work. So – the tactical problem is a content problem, because the strategic implications revolve around audience development and motivation. By definition, because media (all media) is an always on, non-linear, place-shifting, time-shifting multichannel multi-device environment – the solution -strategically, operationally and tactically – has to be functional in real time.
We were the first agency specifically created from scratch to take the newsroom approach to real time marketing. In fact, we’ve been working on solving real time content problems using the newsroom approach since 2006. We created the concept of the Content Correspondent, a cross-functional role based on how reporters work – in 2007. I was one of the of the first to use the term “owned media”, helping define its integrated relationship with Earned and Paid months before Forrester’s popular early research on the topic in 2009. We developed the first comprehensive strategic methodology built to address owned media strategy, creating and refining best practices around real time marketing theory, strategy, and operations in 2010. Raidious was the first agency to create our own real time brand newsroom, which we have used for client work every day since it launched in 2011.
Everyone is familiar with the real time marketing efforts for this year’s Super Bowl, and how brand newsrooms were used to accomplish it. My company created and ran the “brand newsroom” for the Super Bowl. We developed the strategy and designed and built the command center. We also executed all of the real time marketing – including all content development, social media monitoring and moderation, email, blog content, web video . . .
Did we do the Oreo work? Uhh. . . no, that was a different shop. I’m not talking about the Super Bowl everyone’s talking about right now, with the iconic Oreo interaction . . . I’m talking about one that happened the year before – Super Bowl XLVI . . . in February of 2012.
We’ve spent the last six years creating and optimizing everything from strategic process to production process to technology all the way down to the psychographics of the perfect employee. We literally wrote the book on this stuff, it’s coming out this summer. We’ve helped organizations like Walmart, the U.S. Government, Turner Sports, Finish Line, Klipsch, and over 40 other brands figure out real time marketing. Along the way, we learned a few things here and there about what it really takes to do this well, both within our company and on the client side. I would like to share those things with you here. Not to scare you off, or discourage you from building your own brand newsroom – just to make sure you know what you’re getting into – in the real world, it is not as easy as it looks.
If you want to take your company in this direction, there are several things you need to consider before you start building out a brand newsroom, and addressing your company’s real time marketing needs with tactics, tools and resources. Considering these real world implications will, I hope, ultimately lead you to the new marketing reality you’ve been searching for… but it can be a rough trip getting there. You have to forget a lot about what you think is reality, and unlearning what you currently know to be true is always harder than learning something new. Some can’t or won’t do this, and will cling to historical operations best practices, and that is okay. There will always be a need for great brand strategy, great TV spots, great relationships with traditional media… there is nothing wrong with taking the blue pill. At the same time, if you’re going to take the red pill, you won’t be sorry – but you should know how far the rabbit hole goes. Here are some current realities that may be a challenge to you and your company as you move to a real time newsroom model in the real world:
#1. You believe you’re in the content business. Actually, brands are not in the content business. Neither are agencies or PR firms or digital shops. More importantly, they are not in the audience development business. That is what newsrooms are about – not creating content in real time – creating audience that can be monetized. Be focused on the end, not the means. Audience development is the newsroom’s sole reason for being. Everything about news organizations, from culture to employee compensation is built around moving the audience needle. If you’re building a brand newsroom to enable real time content production, instead of enabling audience development across all your owned media properties, you’re looking through the wrong end of the telescope.
We’ll be releasing numbers two through ten as we countdown the launch of the new Raidious website.