This media headhunter thinks brands need to enbrace publishing

An interesting article in the Evening Standard today reflects a lot of the preoccupations of my last few blogs, albeit in a social media context.

In an article called Social media is still minefield for brands, Gideon Spanier, the paper’s media commentator, writes:

There is no doubt that brands must embrace social media. Tomorrow, marketing agency UM publishes a major new survey – called Wave – which makes the point that an increasing number of users, particularly the young, now rely on social media as their primary source of news and information about brands . In contrast, many brands’ own websites are seeing notable declines in traffic.

But the fast-changing landscape means that many companies remain confused about exactly why they are on social sites – beyond the usual talk about building a fan base, handling customer complaints, offering discounts and listening to the online conversation.

“Companies’ social media strategies are all starting to look the same,” says Glen Parker, European research director at UM, whose Wave survey was carried out among 42,000 people in 62 countries. “Simply getting consumers to ‘Like’ them is no longer a valuable enough tactic.”

Part of the problem for brands is that paid-for advertising – their traditional comfort zone when it comes to marketing – is not necessarily the best way to communicate in a social space.

Instead, it is about being able to create content which users will discuss, share and recommend.

When Sir Martin Sorrell, boss of advertising giant WPP, spoke at Enders Analysis’ recent conference, he made the point that Facebook and Twitter are about “building brands through editorial” – as opposed to being chiefly or solely about advertising.

However, as Simon Mansell, chief executive of social agency TBG Digital, says: “One of the challenges is creating good content. Most brands are not used to being journalists or publishers. Brands are not publishers.”

This is precisely the point: brands need to become publishers. This media search consultant thinks brands need to enbrace publishing. They are competing in a media world. Social media, while it can be a minefield, can also be a very effective way of reinforcing brand values and creating a brand halo. As Sorrell says: it’s about building brands through editorial. Or, as we call it, content marketing.

And there is no reason on earth why brands – with the right people on board – can’t do that for themselves.


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Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work in the TMT (technology, media, and telecoms) space, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog.