Two years ago today, iQ by Intel was launched, putting Intel in the ever-growing and changing content marketing landscape. Over the last 730 days, we’ve made significant strides in becoming a brand publisher. In fact, iQ has grown into more than a brand publisher—it has emerged as a brand publishing network to include:
- Over 25 regular contributors covering verticals like Sports, Health, and Music.
- 10 premium content partners from PSFK on trends, to KillScreen on gaming, to Creators Project on art and tech.
- Over 60 original posts/month—amassing nearly 1 million monthly views.
Getting to this point wasn’t easy. There were several “Aha moments” along the way; the greatest being the importance of distribution to the success of our content strategy. Without it, your content, no matter how fantastic, will get little to no action beyond the click of a publish button.
The Field of Dreams Approach to Content Marketing = #Fail
In the early days of iQ, we were like a chef who spent all day cooking an incredible meal—only to find an empty table come dinner time. The audience’s appetite for our gourmet content was minimal to non-existent. We were missing two key ingredients: distribution and activation. After putting our self-proclaimed premium content in the fridge as leftovers, we quickly found out that if “content was king,” then distribution and discovery were King Kong.
It turned out creating compelling content is only half the battle in today’s post-destination web. As BuzzFeed founder, Jonah Peretti states here, “Focus on the mechanics of how an idea spreads, not just the idea itself. Quality is not enough, build evangelism into your ideas.”
In order to concentrate on distribution, I moved from my role in production to focusing on how and why content travels with today’s fragmented audiences. Over the last year, I’ve learned 12 key best practices for content activation, spanning the four areas of content distribution below.
- Section 1: Building and Leveraging a Network of Writers for Distribution
- Section 2: How to Bake Distribution into Your Production Recipe
- Section 3: The Role of Paid Media to Amplify and Optimize Content
- Section 4: Improving the Supply Chain: Connecting Distribution Insights to Content Development
I will cover Section 1 in this post, and will publish the sequential sections every two weeks on the Content Marketeer. By June 27th, you’ll have a complete guide to an end-to-end content distribution strategy.
Section 1: Building and Leveraging a Network of Writers for Distribution
In this section, I’m going to explain how to be more proactive during the production phase to determine where, why, and how content will be discovered. This is the first step to getting the most mileage out of your content. So, here we go. Let’s turn your content marketing distribution vehicle into a Toyota Prius.
1.) Quality Content + Built-in Distribution = Sweet Spot:
As a brand publisher, you’re likely going to have challenges getting talented in-house writers. Additionally, they probably don’t possess their own built-in audiences to bring to the content that they create. The solution? Commission external writers, publications and even other brands that align to your content strategy.
“External creators with existing audiences can solve both the content creation and the distribution challenge. If you create a structure where the authors are aligned with the success of the content with tangible and intangible incentive, they will promote to their audiences, who in turn arrive much more receptive and engaged with the brand.” – Andrew Boar, Movable Media
Using such resources provides brands with journalists and production talent to create quality content and distribute it at scale. When evaluating external contributors, look at both their ability to produce content as well as the built-in audiences and distribution channels they possess. Ask yourself what kind of audience they can bring to the table, and if it’s an audience you want to engage and ultimately convert into your own.
For example, to strengthen our music vertical, we researched writers and publications in the music and tech space. We ended up working with Kristin Houser of LA Music Blog. While others covered the topic very well, Kristin offered the best distribution potential with the ability to publish her iQ-authored content to the LA Music blog and social channels. While we also promote Kristin’s content on Intel’s channels, she provides added distribution value that we can measure and incorporate into her performance.
2.) Evaluate and Compensate for Distribution:
Don’t be afraid to try out several writers. Give them a couple assignments as a trial period to refine and test for the best fit. Make it a goal to bring on a new writer every month or every week. Soon you will find that you have a deep bench of external editorial talent. Here’s how to make sure you have the tenets in place to ensure distribution is reflected in the way you work with your writers:
- Incentivize: If you pay external writers, determine how to provide bonus payments for the traffic and engagement they generate. If they’re helping drive your KPIs, don’t you think they should be rewarded for it? You can use bit.ly and other tools to measure and track traffic generated by the author.
- Reporting: Provide frequent performance reports to your writers. Sharing actionable insights will enable your contributors to better create and share future content against what’s driving results. Without consistent visibility into the data, optimization is difficult.
- Reviews: We tend to spend 90% of our time with writers on the editing. Balance that out by creating scorecards (see example below) that analyze and sets goals for the distribution and conversion elements of the content. Review weekly or even daily to reinforce areas of opportunity.
- Caution: Avoid incentivizing link bait and Miley Cyrus posts by putting editorial standards in place. Writers should adhere to your content strategy above all else, not aggregate clicks. Also, don’t compensate solely on traffic. Provide a base per/post to ensure editorial is valued as much as the traffic it receives.
“We’ve found a content marketing scorecard to be a useful alignment tool for keeping different teams consistently focused and aware of progress on the underlying business objectives for the initiative. In an environment where channels, tools and techniques are changing every day, a scorecard model gives teams plenty of freedom to experiment while helping them keep their ultimate focus on the distribution metrics that matter.” – Damian Borichevsky, VP Client Services, OneSpot
3.) The Network Effect: How Storytelling Can Be A Team Sport:
Once you have a team of writers on your bench, think about how to leverage the network as a whole. One way is to create serialized content that can both tap your network’s respective expertise and collective distribution power. These “tent pole” programs can rally all of the troops around a central narrative to build sustained engagement through the course of a series.
“We believe that it’s important to create original storylines that allow a brand to discuss a known topic in a new way. There are too many media outlets already commenting on subjects close to any brand’s heart. It’s therefore important to frame a conversation by researching a subject and identifying the major trends within it then building editorial through multiple voices around those trends.” – Piers Fawkes, PSFK
Having a repeatable format for assignments and themes as well as a distribution schedule is critical to this approach. Develop a user journey strategy to map out where and how audiences are discovering the content through the tentacles of your network. Remember, the end goal is to ultimately aggregate and convert your network’s audiences on your own property. View your network’s distribution as the cheese for mousetrap.
In January, iQ launched the Future of Wearable Tech series in partnership with PSFK. Over the course of 10 weeks, the series covered 10 key trends covering the form and functions of wearable devices. While PSFK lead the editorial scope, six other iQ content partners contributed where their expertise intersected with selected trends. KillScreen covered how gaming is impacted by wearable tech. MedGadget wrote about the role wearables in modern healthcare. iQ content partners also syndicated the content which drove their audiences back to the series for deeper engagement. By leveraging the iQ content network along with other distribution tactics, the series accumulated over 1 million views, 28,000 social shares, and 103,000 views on SlideShare.
The Ultimate Content Distribution Guide: