We've all witnessed the exponential increase in quality of branded content throughout the past five years. Gone are the days when publishing a blog post meant writing short-form editorial about your latest product -- including how and where to get it.
Today's articles are sophisticated, are often data-rich, and many are written by former journalists with the core knowledge of what makes a compelling story. Through content analytics and social listening, we've learned what our customers (readers) want and it's clear: they don't want to be sold to. They want an ad-free environment where they can explore, discover, and engage with others if they feel so inclined.
Whether you write or create content for a media outlet or brand, take some tips from these content all-stars who have pushed past the predictable, and offered their audiences what they want to hear about, not what a brand wants to tell them.
Asana's Blog and Workstyle Content
Finalist for the first-annual Contently awards, the Asana Blog and its brand-agnostic spin-off, Workstyle, offer readers professional-life advice ranging from the perils of imposter syndrome to best practices for collaborating with team members while working remotely. Asana itself is a project management platform comparable to that of Basecamp or Trello, but you wouldn't realize it when scanning the blog unless you dig deep given that the content is relatively shout-out-free.
Head of Content Marketing, Kasey Fleisher Hickey comments on Asana's editorial strategy, "We don't talk about how to use Asana but rather focus on interesting takeaways from various teams and leaders-both internal and external. By creating a separate space for Workstyle, we also left the possibility open to spinning Workstyle off as its own destination eventually," a sound strategic move given the evolution of branded news sites like Amex OPEN Forum, Dell's Tech One Page, Coca-Cola Journey, and more.
To boot, the Asana Blog packs a fresh, inspiring color palette and the posts' accompanying imagery are cohesively designed.
Key Content Takeaways:
- Designate a specific category, or sub-blog, for sharing corporate news so that your readers understand where to consume unbiased content
- Cohesive visual eye-candy can add extra oomph to a blog's branding/overall feel
Seattle Children's Hospital's Seattle Mama Doc Blog
Practicing pediatrician and mother of two Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson became a brand journalist without intending to. She started the Seattle Mama Doc blog with the sincere intent of trying to answer the How-What-Why-Who-questions of parenting based on her own experiences and curiosities. Her blog is now the voice of authority in parental guidance for Seattle Children's Hospital. Readers can explore topics spanning what parents should know about energy drinks to whether or not baby bumpers are a good thing.
Everything is written from an authentic perspective and many of the pieces are accompanied by simple photos that could have been snapped with a smartphone. As fancy as some blogs' graphics can be, Swanson's blog, and her posts' impressive number of social shares, are proof that you can't always judge a book by its cover. This audience wants helpful content. Frills? Take 'em or leave 'em.
Key Content Takeaways:
- When articles are written from an authentic place, trust is an inherent byproduct
- High-quality content doesn't always require fancy imagery
Headspace's The Orange Dot
Maybe you've watched Andy Puddicombe's TED Talk on mindfulness, but have you heard of Headspace? Through a series of online meditation packs, Headspace strives to make mediation simple and easy to partake in on a regular basis. Headspace's blog, The Orange Dot, explores life's big and small questions through a range of multimedia: editorial, video, podcasts, photography, and art, all with a sprinkle of lighthearted humor.
Managing Editor Kelton Wright, comments: "Matters of the mind can be heavy stuff, so we maintain a sense of playfulness. Everything we post comes from a place of wanting to make the world a healthier and happier place, whether that's through meditation, through learning something that will help you make a small improvement to your lifestyle, or just a moment of feeling like you're not alone with a particular question or problem."
Wright gathers content from a range of expert contributors including Headspace's own Resident Neuroscientist Dr. Claudia Aguirre. "Who better to explore the brain than a neuroscientist? Meditation has been shown in hundreds of studies to benefit everything from relationships to productivity to happiness, and Dr. Aguirre is one of our best resources to interpret those studies and share that information in a way that's helpful to Headspace users and general readers alike."
Key Content Takeaways:
- If your editorial team is lacking the right type of experts for loading your content with useful insights, find one externally and invite them to guest-post
- Don't be afraid to explore the whole spectrum of topics available to you, from the light to the dark (i.e. don't shy away from taboo topics just to shelter your brand voice and keep it all "positive")
Wright adds, "Try to move people. There's no point in just filling up the internet with more stuff."
How will you push your own editorial limits this year, and how can you make your content stand out from the crowd?