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Brands ARE Publishers… But Is This Different?

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The “brands are publishers” line is getting old.

That doesn’t make it any less true, of course. But it’s been batted around for a long time now, with thought leaders and front-line marketing soldiers alike confirming that, in this day and age, it simply is not an option for any brand or organization to ignore content marketing or the power of social media if they hope to reach and connect to their audience of prospects and customers.

But here’s a point some people and brands may be missing:

This is not a new thing.

Brands Have Always Been Publishers

It really just depends on how you define “publishing”. Check out this definition, via Wikipedia:

Publishing is the process of production and dissemination of literature, music, or information — the activity of making information available to the general public.

Notice, while publishing in the original sense dealt more with concrete items like books or music, and today we still think of “traditional publishing” as those huge conglomerates operating out of New York, Los Angeles and London, the true root of the concept behind “publishing” has to do with making information available to the public.

So, in that sense, every brand — every individual businessperson — has always been a publisher.

To stay in business, every organization needs to let the public (or at least their niche market) know their story: what they do, how they do it, and — most importantly — why anyone should care. Why their organization does their particular thing better than the competition, and how a customer can get the most value out of the product(s) and service(s) being offered.

This represents the core of information that every business in history has had to publish: the story they needed to tell.

It used to be told across a marketplace stall while the customer held and sniffed the apples on display.

Or across a restaurant table with matching martinis and firm handshakes all around.

These days, often times, it’s done via a series of e-mails and a video conference via Google Meet.

But the story hasn’t changed.

So now, thousands of years into mankind’s business history, the entire idea — and industry — known as content marketing has arrived and seemingly turned the business world on its head… at least, in the eyes of some brands who misunderstood what they were doing for a lot of those years.

But Today, We Have Far More Control Than We Used To

Previously, brands needed to buy media in order to efficiently and cost-effectively get their story told to all the right people. And, to a limited extent, this is still possible: you can invest money in advertising, sponsoring events, pay-per-click leads, etc., and you can still get some benefits from it if you do it right.

But what’s even more powerful — and was back then, too — is earned media: the positive feedback of your customers, their word-of-mouth referrals and testimonials, their repeat business, positive public relations.

These outlets have always been accepted as the most effective form of advertising there is, any way. So to know that now brands can actually get involved in — and, to some extent, control — these powerful marketing methods should elicit a sigh of relief from marketers who have struggled to do so for centuries.

While the content marketing world and the vast array of social media channels available is head-spinning, without a doubt, the game really hasn’t changed.

We’re still out here doing the best we can to tell our story.

We’re just confronted with a more powerful array of tools at our disposable to make sure the right story makes it to the right people at the right time and in the right way so that we can continue to earn the business we need to survive.

And that’s publishing, just smarter.

What do you think? Are brands embracing their “new” role as they should? What should they (we) be doing differently? Who’s doing it best? Add your comment so we can talk about it.

Justin P Lambert

Writer, author, freelancer; Editor of Timeless Principles Magazine, content marketing expert, and purveyor of short fiction. 

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