The notion that producing content at scale necessarily undermines a brand’s voice and identity is wrong. Yes, it’s fair to say that some shops just “don’t get it” or others “mill” content specifically for search, sometimes leaving the brand’s marketing team scratching their heads, but that’s not the whole story.
The content game is evolving quickly. As a developer of content for some of the world’s leading brands, I can tell you that today there’s far greater emphasis on recruiting talented, brand-savvy researchers, writers and editors and using creative collaboration technology to enhance the human element, relevancy and quality levels required by both Google and the brand’s marketing team. Indeed, scalable content providers like eZdia provide deeper partnership with brands to greatly increase their ability to engage multiple types of consumers, drive relevant search traffic, and leverage their brand assets to message at levels unachievable before data analytics, advanced segmentation or managed crowdsourcing and publishing technologies.
Believe me, eZdia knows how important your brand is. For 10 years, my creative agency helped brands create identities for industries ranging from computer chips to chocolate chips. Ghirardelli Chocolate, Intel and General Mills were just a few of the companies that counted on Curtis Design for identity creation and enforcement. Now, as head of strategic accounts at eZdia, my role isn’t very far off from my agency days, albeit more focused on the textual voice, style and tone elements of the brands we work with. I’m here to help manage customers who need to have their branded content supercharged to maximize their value and reach across the web, mobile, social media or whatever is coming next. I bring the identity mindset to eZdia, which means our team is going to understand each customer’s brand communication goals and content style before we go to work creating and amplifying it.
Empowering brands through vastly scalable content production has obviously taken years of honing processes and technology through trial and error. Today, I can proudly say eZdia can do everything your traditional brand-focused content boutique could. But because of our technology, experience and trained global workforce, we can do it with greater consistency, at higher quality levels, and at 50 times the scale, while also connecting all the dots between your digital publishing channels and creating efficiencies that will save the average team hundreds if not thousands of hours in production and publishing.
Priority No. 1: Understand the Brand
This is where content shops of yesteryear went wrong: They didn’t do the required heavy lifting before writing that blog, guide, product or category description. This type of groundwork is absolutely essential for building and supporting successful brands seeking segmented “one-to-one” communications with their audiences.
A big priority for me is making sure my team does their homework and puts the required effort into understanding each of our customer’s brands. That means understanding any existing guidelines, the team’s current brand strategies, their competitors, and their concerns, needs, wishes and rules. I do a lot of this data-gathering during the sales qualification process, but it also involves a detailed brand audit before the project and scheduling regular project meetings between our team and the customer’s editors and brand leaders.
We like to see brand and editorial style guides before we start building out our workflow and configuring our platform for each project. If the brand doesn’t have content style guidelines, we interview them until we can help document it. It’s time-consuming, but it’s the single most important thing eZdia does to guarantee our content provides positive brand appeal.
Simply put, the brand style guideline phase cannot be skipped, because it is the strategic blueprint that drives configuration of our platform and everything else we do to meet each customer’s unique, long-term project requirements.
Human Creativity Drives Relevance and Quality. Technology Ensures It!
eZdia’s approach is strategic and creative. It’s crucial to make adjustments early and make them quickly so we can evolve with the ongoing needs of any project. Brands live and breath and brand communications are always evolving. This is where art meets science. Project requirements are initially set in the system, but never permanently because real humans must have the ability to override and/or update the rules as needed to produce real work for the real world.
The functionality and flexibility of eZdia’s platform is where much of our ability to scale and adapt to customer needs comes from. It’s designed to accommodate any level of customization, from workflow and scheduling to special editorial instructions, SEO infusion, crowd management and so much more. We make sure that the best, most qualified workforce is going through the steps to ensure that each delivery lives up to expectation.
Transparency means freedom, and we encourage each customer to really dive into our platform and collaborate with their teams, outside agencies, internal creatives, external image producers—whomever is working in the system. This collaborative style is completely optional of course, and strong project leaders are required to make sure that wherever a project takes us, there is a strategic reason to back up the creative choices that are being made.
If your content producer does all of, or at least most of the above, they’ll “get” your brand and you’ll see results measured in traffic, engagement, loyalty and sales! If not, it’s time to look for a new, technology backed content producer.
Brad Curtis is a 20 year ecommerce agency, technology and services veteran and current SVP of Global Sales & Accounts at eZdia.com based in Redwood City, CA. eZdia provides large scale content solutions for 7 of the IR top 10 and many specialty retailers globally.