Posts by Kea

I am a freelance writer, copy editor, and proofreader. Occasionally, I am an academic, but don't tell anyone, please.

Narratives and Content Marketing Strategies

I may have mentioned this before, but content is where it’s at. Content is becoming so important that the content associated with a good or service is as important as the actual good or service.

It seems truer now more than ever that people want to get a sense of who a company is based on how they sell their products. Sure, we all know the history of the famous Sears catalog, and we know how instrumental that catalog was to Sear’s brand.

But what is it about content that reels people in?

Part of the discussion has to do with competition. If two companies are selling the same product, they have to find a way to get their product noticed. Sure, companies can rely on the quality of their product, and perhaps even word-of-mouth, but that may or may not get people through the door initially. Further, that does not guarantee customer loyalty.  This is where a sound marketing strategy comes helps.

What matters is the narrative a business creates about itself, and the narratives a business can generate for its customers. Content is not just about the object or service on sale. It is about the culture created based on the content of the narratives created.

Advertising is a brand of storytelling.
Advertising is brand storytelling.

The latest round of posts will feature students diving into this storytelling schematic.

For this new assignment, students were asked to create a content marketing strategy for a local business here in Gainesville, Florida. This will be a multi-faceted approach to marketing that will feature a long piece (800 words or more), a short piece (think press release), and a presentation. The end goal is for students to come up with creative and topical ways to sell a business via a stratgic-content campaign.

Our class blog will feature some of their long pieces. It will be interesting to see what kind of narratives they create.

-KRW

P.S. feature image is Photo by Kaboompics .com

It’s the Content, Fool, the Content

We are heading into the last quarter of the semester. While it went by really fast, there is still more work to be done. In fact, it seems that most of the work has been saved to the end.

At least that is what one of my students said. I assured him that we do not plan things this way; It’s just that we are at the more advanced work. I don’t think he believed me.

In any case, we are steamrolling towards one of the final projects of the course: content marketing campaigns. For this assignment, students have to pick a local business here in Gainesville and develop a content marketing strategy for that business. This business should be a local outfit, and it can be a for-profit or non-profit business.

The main things students are going to learn during this project is how to shape content that tells the story of a company and sells the product the company produces.

Content marketing is changing to accommodate the times, and if it feels like we are in some strange public relations time warp all the time, that’s because we are. One thing that social media has made very clear is that narratives are important and not just product narratives. Brand narratives matter and consumers are demanding more and more that these narratives be shaped by some ideology.

The Nike and Colin Kaepernick campaign is a perfect example:

Today, we live in what I like to call a “narrative economy,” one where who a company is or how a company identifies matters just as much as the products they sell. Maybe it is a sign of the times, but companies are increasingly being asked to publicize their values. Companies are no longer allowed to paint themselves as neutral actors. People are demanding that companies have some social relevance, some social good, in order to be accepted.

I am not sure how long this trend will last or whether it is even right to make these demands on companies (that would make an interesting debate). I am sure that content marketing, specifically the kind that involves careful storytelling, is critical to company success right now.


We will talk more about content marketing in the coming days, and I will certainly post more on it. For this week, though, get ready for some trade journal posts from the students.

I have to say: I am very proud of them. These trade journals/press releases are getting better and better every time. Here are some great reads you should check out this weekend:

Vegan Beauty is All the Buzz: A look into the vegan cosmetic industry. Is it a fad, or is it here to stay?
Social Media and Eating Habits: An interesting and slightly terrifying look at the ways social media influences eating habits.
Economic, Racial, and Gender Inequality: A series of press releases that touch on the college admissions scandal involving the wealthy, the corporate diversity rates, and the sexual harassment of female lawyers by their clients.

Good stuff. They have chosen some great content here because, as the title says, it’s all about the content.

-KRW

More Good Stuff Coming Your Way

Having fun scrolling through the Native ads we created? I sure hope so. There is some good material here, and the students are doing a wonderful job figuring out the language of advertising, marketing, and branding in a somewhat unstable environment. 

I have to say since I have started teaching this class, I do find myself sympathizing with companies a bit. We don’t live in a traditional world anymore, so traditional advertising strategy has to be adjusted to account for all this newness. It is not an easy task. Everyone needs different things and now, more than every, people are vocal about what they need.

This is what makes classes like this Strategic Communications course here at the University of Florida so great. It gives young business, telecommunications, communications, and advertising majors a chance to play around and figure it all out. ( did you notice my little sideways attempt at pitching the University of Florida? Native Advertising!)

We have some good stuff coming your way in the next few days. Take a minute to peek at our Native Advertising tag. A few of the students posted their native ads on the blog, and I think they did some great work.

Also, be on the lookout for more trade press release posts. Last time around, we had some interesting posts on Super Bowl game day eating habitsdocumentaries on Horror Noirand horror films, and a great short series of press releases on scandals in the international business world. Aside from being really glad about the fact that we are not talking about Jeff Bezos any more (there is such a thing as too much information), I am excited to say that the goodness keeps on coming from this class.

So far, here’s what you have to look forward too: If you are into podcasts, check out this writing on investment opportunities in the podcast industry. Interested in streaming shows, films and the like? Ian has a great post on the ways competition in streaming is making lasting changes to how we consume our films and television shows. Alli takes a critical eye to the Southwest strike that no one seems to be talking about right now, and we have another awesome post pondering life without plastic. Then there is this fascinating look into advertising fails committed by Prada, Burberry, and more recently Gucci. 

It’s weird that it needs to be said that Black-face is not trendy or fun, but here we are.

There is more still to come. Be on the look out for some great work!

-KRW

What Exactly Are You Selling?

High all! Everyone is hard at work creating fun and exciting projects. In the next few hours, students are going to start posting their versions of Native Ads.

What are Native Ads? Well, to put it simply, Native Ads are paid advertisements that are designed to look like the surrounding content. You’ve probably seen these ads on someone’s Instagram, framed with the words “sponsored content.” Or this New York Times article asking if college is still worth it, sponsored by Discover Student Loans (of course, they said yes).

And let’s not forget the infamous Scientology ad posted by The Atlantic. That didn’t go well for them, but it did raise important questions: First, how should companies go about the business of advertising in a rapidly changing environment. People are not tuning into television for traditional ads. In fact, I just updated my HULU subscription to get rid of ads.

Second, what are the ethics involved in creating advertisements that blend into regular digital media content? The response to The Atlantic article suggests that people want to, in fact, believe they have a right to, know when they are being pitched to.

Everyone in my class agrees that Native Advertisements walk a fine line of ethics. It’s one thing to have very obvious Toyota product placement in an episode of Bones (which is another interesting conversation), but it is another thing altogether to have major publications like The Atlantic housing a propaganda piece. The academic equivalent of this would be a scientist and professor conducting research, writing an article, and publishing an article on the benefits of Fentynal without disclosing that his or her work is sponsored by a pharmaceutical company.

Well, maybe not that dramatic, but this is serious business.

Another thing we have tried to suss-out in this class is what constitutes a native ad. I have a colleague who believes that anything we encounter that presents a call-to-action, especially a call that involves a product or service, is a Native Ad; this includes book reviews or film reviews.

I’m not sure I agree. It is another aspect of advertising that will have to be debated in our new digital age.

In any case, the students had to compose Native Ads. You will see a variety of content. Some of the ads will be in the form of blog posts, and some will take other forms. There are two main goals for this assignment: Try to sell something, but don’t make it obvious that you are trying to sell something. That was the task before them.

This also gives the students some experience with creating ads in digital spaces like WordPress, which is a platform many news organizations use already. I look forward to seeing what they have come up with.

-Dr. W

Black Panther Needs a Cool Ride

Black Panther

Image Courtesy​ of Walt Disney Pictures and Marvel Entertainment

Ever thought about taking a trip to Wakanda?
Well, don’t forget your Lexus.

In the spirit of true collaboration, Lexus partnered with Marvel’s Black Panther in what proved to be a highly lucrative product campaign for the redesign of its flagship Lexus Sedan and other Lexus Brand vehicles.

The runaway success of the film allowed Lexus to launch a successful global marketing campaign that had the added bonus of connecting the Lexus brand to a multicultural and multiethnic consumer-base.

Writing for Automotive News, Laurence Iliff notes that Marvel has a long history of working with the automotive industry in their films, and it is a relationship that requires faith in the potential success of a film and trust in the Marvel brand to guarantee success and brand exposure.

For Lexus, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The film premiered on February 16, 2018, which all but guaranteed a premiere Superbowl ad slot, adding to the exposure for both Lexus and the film.

The continuing success of the film, and its subsequent appearance at the 2019 Academy Awards, all but ensures that we will continue to see product collaborations like Black Panther and Lexus in the future because, as Cox Automotive’s vice president of marketing, Greta Crowly notes, “…you start to build a relationship with that audience, […] it gives you the green light to be able to start talking to them outside those platforms.”

-KRW

For more info, check out Laurence Iliff’s “LEAP OF FAITH.” Automotive News, 3/5/2018, Vol. 92, Issue 6819.

Upcoming Works

For the next few days, there will be several posts from students (and me), and we will be posting our trade-press release/journal observations on this blog. This assignment is designed to get students in the habit of reading trade magazines from their respective fields, and it helps students practice the strange and mysterious arts of the press release and the blog post.

Here is essentially what you can expect: students will observe/analyze an article about a marketing strategy or ad campaign and write a press release or blog post about it. There will be an emphasis on brevity, especially if it is a press release. It’s about conveying information effectively. The journal/blog post can be a bit longer. I encourage students to choose one or the other: the press release will give students much-needed practice on this valuable skill, but the blog post can help them exercise their writing muscles a bit.

This is, at heart, a rhetorics class, so we are most interested in understanding the different approaches to writing and how these approaches help us learn the most effective way to inform readers on a given product, service, or subject. The rhetorical conventions and strategies necessary for a press release are very different than what is needed for a blog post.

Oh, but what if the press release is the blog post?

Or, what if you are writing specific blog posts for specific reasons?

Each writing is accompanied by its own set of strategies. It will be fun to see what the students come up with.

Until next time,

-KRW

What We Do

Content is king! I’m sure everyone has heard this little pearl more than once from a variety of sources. The idea is a staple of marketing firms and news organizations across the globe. Bill Gates famously penned an essay about it in the naught ages of the 1990s.

“Content,” he writes, “is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the internet, just as it was in broadcasting.” He was right.

In the early days of the internet, having something to write or promote promised you popularity and financial success. Now, not so much. In the age before social media, content was king; now, it has been demoted. We are living in a time where we are saturated with content, and not all of it is good.

Content can range from very informative to very ridiculous. In between that, you have multiple people peddling the same content over and over again. So, who, or rather what determines the winners and the losers?

Move over content; here comes the Queen: Branding. (Queen B!)

Branding makes all the difference. Think about it: How many lifestyle blogs are there? Why do some deserve our attention and others deserve, in the parlance of the day,  “to be paid dust?”

Branding.

How many ways can you make guacamole? Far fewer ways than there are blogs about it, but there are still people willing to read specific blogs that tell them how to do very generic things. It’s all about the spin.

This blog will not follow that trend. What we will do is observe how it’s done. We will look at various branding strategies and analyze, comment, and, in some cases, critique those strategies.

Since this is a class blog, it will feature posts from people working out what works about marketing, advertising, and branded content, and what doesn’t. We will take a critical approach to understanding the relation between product/idea and consumer.

Hopefully, what we all learn from working on this blog will help us to create and promote branded content that is both useful and beneficial.

Upwards and onwards!

-R