Become a trusted voice: what content marketers can learn from media brands

Among newsstand titles, what do the Daily Mail, The Economist, and The Wall Street Journal have in common with Retail Week, Slimming World, and Garden News?

Well, love them or hate them, they are all titles that have bucked the wider media trend and maintained strong brands and readerships over the last few years. They have become trusted voices by delivering appropriate content in the way their audience demands – across print, digital, social and video media.

So what can content marketers learn from their success?

In my view, there are three key elements to becoming a ‘trusted voice’:

1. A real understanding of your audience and their needs
2. At least an attempt at commercial impartiality – your audience must want to read your content without feeling that they’re being sold to*
3. A willingness to be wrong, and admit it

These sound like easy things to achieve, but they are a real challenge to most brands. Content marketing is a relatively new field, and businesses often shy away from taking risks with their marketing strategies.

Becoming a trusted voice is genuinely where marketing meets journalism. The ability to be objective, but to control the flow of information; an understanding of your user; and the belief in the power of openness – these are all key attributes to content-makers in the media and should be applied elsewhere.

Content marketing has great potential to elevate brands above their rivals. But it can only do so if it offers something that readers can’t get elsewhere. Genuine thought leadership, perhaps, or insight which allows users to filter other content.

One of the clearest expressions that I’ve heard of how content drives commerce comes from Natasha Christie-Miller, CEO of EMAP.

She says, simply, that “we publish beautiful content which helps people do their jobs better.”

The success of the content is measured in the number of subscribers you deliver. “If the subscriber base isn’t growing, the content isn’t doing its job,” she says. To further monetise that content, Emap will “sell access to the subscribers” through advertising, events, sponsorship and other brand extensions.

The point is that the base of the pyramid is great content: content that people need. Without that, the commercial equation simply doesn’t add up.

Smart companies understand this, and many have recruited senior media figures to drive their content initiatives. While many of these moves are high-profile, most are below-the-radar – yet they still have significant impact on the businesses they join. The more that your brand becomes a trusted voice, the more likely it is to be referred in a positive sense – and that can only increase the potential client-base.

* I can’t think of another way to say this without violating rule 2, but here goes: Our business has helped recruit media skillsets for a large range of clients – including global financial institutions, FMCG businesses, retailers, mining companies and charities. Other search businesses are of course available.