We’ll spare you the familiar platitudes: Communication is becoming faster and faster. Communicators need to become increasingly flexible. And more efficient. Also due to the fact that target groups are becoming more and more heterogeneous and because it’s becoming nearly impossible to draw lines between channels – and communication only works cross-platform anyway. This is why many companies have introduced newsrooms. Up to this point it’s all old news. But we believe that this isn’t enough, and we would like to introduce you to a solution that takes the newsroom concept a step further – and simultaneously takes content, technology, and processes to a whole new level. A little spoiler: Today’s communicators aren’t only found in marketing and corporate communications.
Making short work of serviceable content
“Markets are nothing more than conversations.” This central theses of “The Cluetrain Manifesto” is definitely truer today than ever. Because in the transparent world of social media platforms, companies are the topic of discussion for a diverse range of stakeholders. A company’s employees will move in the same conversational marketplaces as customers, investors, journalists and politicians. Somehow everything is one, but at the same time more fragmented than ever before. Because increasingly often, today’s target groups aren’t big “groups,” but individual factions, small-scale communities of convenience or even individual persons.
Corporate communications and marketing are constantly on the lookout for concepts and solutions that promise to help them manage these new challenges. The key aspect here is often the organization of the department itself, because this is the cornerstone for flexibility (for everything you need to know about organizational forms for communications departments, see our 3A model). Others have implemented newsrooms in order to meet today’s cross-platform challenges. This is unquestionably an important step in the right direction, but it’s also an approach you can take even further, expand and perfect. How? By not only involving corporate communications, top management or select corporate influencers in the conversation, but also everyone who shares company topic. Above all, you need three things to achieve this: good content, perfect technology and efficient processes. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just sum this up with a word: Broadcasting station. This may seem like a thoroughly German approach, and it is. It’s exact, goal-oriented, and it works.
The basic idea is easy to describe. If everyone on the web communicates with everyone else anyway, then we as a company should have as many “senders” and dialogue partners on the web as possible. Here we’re not (only) talking about paid advertising partnerships and banal brand messages, but interests and topics that the company has in common with certain stakeholders. These stakeholders may be internal, including employees and management as well as partners (such as suppliers), or entirely external – for example experts from the scientific community. At the very end, of course, you find the end users again, your company’s fans. More on that later.
So corporate communications build up a kind of network for the company consisting of potential multipliers in order to expand its reach over various heads – at heart, the approach is a very “social” one.
All of this is controlled by communications. Communications implements, leads and manages the digital broadcasting station. It develops relevant topics and distributes them itself, while at the same time pushing them through the multiplier network. For this reason it is absolutely indispensable to have solid research and a meaningful way of approaching people and opinion leaders on the web who share the company’s topics and interests. At the core, X number of channels in the company newsroom (which for this purpose are very digital and not focused on public relations) are then multiplied by a number of multipliers. Sometimes these multipliers will simply share posts, but often they will change or spin content – as long as this keeps people talking about our topic, it can only be a win for us.
In order to ensure that these multipliers really multiply the company messages, the content has to fit. Without good content, the concept will die. Here “good” means both topic-related engagement as well as how the content is prepared. A simple discount promotion may not be suitable content for the multiplier network, except for sales representatives or fans of the company or brand who like to share this kind of content or where media pushes are familiar anyway. On the other hand, anyone who develops a PESTLE analysis for their company will find enough content and interests that are also relevant to society. And then “native preparation” is also essential and has to be done right.
Why? Because while content that’s only pushed will find a certain reach, at heart it usually fizzles out quickly. What counts here is content that’s relevant, that people really like and that makes someone who shares it look knowledgeable and important. Content has to be shareable. And now as an exercise: Please go ahead and count the organic shares for your quarterly report PDF on your Facebook page. Bingo!
Native preparation means using available storytelling tools on social media, websites and via email, etc., to shape a story that is both relevant and appealing. What this doesn’t mean is that the contents or the creative heart of the material, or a position or standpoint, have to change – rather, it means making them more tangible, real and relevant for a larger audience.
Content requires sales planning. This may sound insanely stiff – especially because we just spoke about the importance of being shareable and relevant. But the two are by no means mutually exclusive. Does this planning require technology? You bet. The sheer variety of types of self-organization, home office and content creation as well as the corresponding communication points – social, websites, emails, telephone, fax (and fax is used a whole lot more often than many of us think), as well as many marketing and communication channels – make a technological communications and broadcasting system an absolute necessity.
The most important point here, and one that has to work inwardly as well as outwardly is this: Technology always has to be an enabler. Just like content. Technology isn’t something that requires an adjustment of processes and procedures – instead, it follows them and supports them. Technology makes the broadcasting station’s work easier and reduces complexity – for both the sender and the receiver.
Technology helps editors largely automate the operation of all digital channels and provides helpful ideas and suggestions for structuring their work. At the same time, it facilitates targeted communication and makes reach measurable.
The key technological requirements for the “broadcasting station” are simple and intuitive usability combined with extensive flexibility and automation. With the help of statistical and dynamic building blocks, new content like images, videos and postings, but also press releases and mailings, can quickly and easily be created, adjusted within the broadcasting station or shared on any number of further digital channels such as social media or email. Optional access restrictions allow for the release of published content strictly to authorized professional groups or communities of interested followers.
For increased company reach, multipliers should have the ability to quickly and intuitively share or modify all messages and media files. Which means: Whatever comes out of your broadcasting station should be adapted for each touchpoint (there it is again – a quarterly PDF report on Facebook) and then published, monitored and further pushed in this form (e.g., community management or social media advertising).
For your broadcasting station’s “professional end users” – e.g., journalists – e-commerce offers a fine display sample: Content retrieval, just like an online shopping cart. When users find material interesting, they can store it in a “shopping cart” while reading. They can then either download it or have it sent to a specified address immediately or after research is finished. All content in the shopping cart is bundled in the form of a ZIP file and stored on the computer in a folder hierarchy after the download. This allows journalists to send articles and images they look at on the go to their work computers and process them later. Yes, this is “relevant content” too: content that can be provided in a form precisely adapted to the professional reality of one of your target groups.
When you have a set of content that can be supplemented, changed and flexibly expanded piece by piece, and the technological platform for creating, sharing and editing content is in place, the content will still have to be transported. Because a “multiplier network” sounds great, but it’s also hard work and means a lot more than “I’ll just go ahead and post this” (see process snail diagram).
We recommend assigning a person responsible for driving every topic who then prepares the topic and attempts to anchor it in the multiplier network. To this end, they will constantly have to provide pushes and new momentum. During this constantly repeating and – ideally – self-optimizing process, it’s important to maintain speed as well as quality and output. This won’t work without motivated employees. This means creating modern incentives that fit your company and your staff. Encourage your team and give them room to experiment. Keep a constant eye on your environment. Orient yourself in line with the communication market and try to always be better than the competition. “Better” doesn’t mean faster. Sometimes the apt use of an expert or a supplier in communication is worth much more than being the first.
And on the point of being worth it: Once the broadcasting station is established, this can and should reduce costs in the long run – and should even help boost reach and impact. This requires having the right KPIs as well as the ability to determine and understand them, because the optimizations that flow from them are precisely what will provide future communication success. This means very exact, very deep knowledge of content and the corresponding ability to adapt it for targeted distribution. If this doesn’t happen, you’re simply throwing content in the wind. And that’s fatal.
Only these three pillars can carry the approach: good content won’t help without a technology platform for mapping the content and adjusting it together. The opposite is also true: The best technology in the world can’t produce good content. And even if you have both, you’ll still need to establish a clean, clear process for transporting and evaluating your messages. A challenging task for challenging times. But it’s also a task that can succeed – with a working “digital broadcasting station”.