Tuesday, January 03, 2023
 
Content is everywhere, and content is king, they say. But what exactly makes a piece of content good or bad? How do you create content to suit a brand's needs? You see, the word content is pretty generic and applies to various mediums, whether it is print, video, or podcast form. 

Content is king by itself is a bit misleading because by adding a simple adjective could modify the meaning greatly;(good) content is king,or  (bad) content is king. It suddenly changes the meaning which is the issue with buzzwords.

Content can be found everywhere you turn, and in this digital age, even bad content finds an audience. But what is very important is tailored content, where the content really connects with the audience it is meant for and will be meaningful and valuable to them, not just a generic fluff piece.

Now apply this principle to branded content, and it becomes even more true. If the content is not suited perfectly to the audience, people will disconnect from the content, the brand, and the publisher. 

On YouTube, for example, too many times we see a generic VPN or mattress-in-a-box company pay for “branded content” but it is always nothing more than a glorified advert. Understandably, the wheel of the industry has to turn, we all have salaries, overhead and incidental to be paid, and some of these brands have limited budgets, so they have to find ways to keep up.

The recipe is fairly simple; combining the value proposition of the brand with what the publication offers. When the offering of the publication and the interest of the audience is combined, true integrated branded content is achieved. You need a strong and extensive understanding of the publication and the brand to get home runs. This is where it pays off to have creative people in your team, as engaging in brainstorming to generate these ideas will help you eventually get the winning idea.

There are a few basic questions that one must ask when coming up with content ideas for a brand. 

1. What does the brand offer?
Why are we here? What is our purpose? Does it resonate with our audience(s)? These are basic questions you need to ask to come up with great content ideas.

There is an old saying in advertising that says “You can’t sell a bad product”. This is the same here because sometimes the client or brand may not be the right fit and other solutions may be best. But on the flip side, if the offer is strong and there’s alignment, then it can lead to strong creative content ideas that can boost the brand image.

2. What is their goal? 
There’s always a motive that makes a company spend dollars on marketing. Do they want to increase app downloads? Do they need to raise their awareness of the product? Drive sales? Etc. Knowing this will help you narrow down your options and figure out what can or can’t be done, how it may be done, and so on. 
 
3. What is their brand tone?
Are they a fun brand or a more serious brand like pharmaceuticals? The kind of tone the brand adopts has a major effect on the type of branded content that would be created. This would help you pair various content ideas with the right team or the right product (show, site, paper…). This way you make sure that each one fits and would work perfectly for the brand. 

4. The most important of all… what is unique to the publisher? 
This is what is often forgotten, and most of the time it is because of a lack of time, creativity, or knowledge. It takes a bit of effort to sit down and ask the right questions to come up with the right idea. What makes this creative idea OURS, and what makes it so special, that nobody else can offer that? 

This is why it’s the most important because this is the creative team or publishers’ edge over everyone else. What connects the brand to your content? It could be as simple as a specific talent unique to that niche, or the ability to ignite an audience behavior that is unique to one provider.

When you answer all of these questions, you come up with a winning idea that would make your content stand out and make for an amazing branded content piece. Ultimately, throughout the years and in my experience from trying out various branded content methods, I realized as long as the content is good, the audience will not care if it is branded or not. Once they get value out of it, that's all what matters to them.


 
About the Author: Jean-Francois Berube
Quebec native Jean-Francois is an energetic and creative integrated media professional and experienced producer. Over the years, JF has cultivated creative branded entertainment innovations, with the CBC and Postmedia, and now with Valnet. His creative experience includes production and film content across both the U.S. and Canada with clients such as Ford, Lincoln, Budweiser, Mini, RBC Avion, Bioré, Honda, and many more brands.
 
 
Wednesday, December 07, 2022
 
Why do Brands take the easy way out when telling their stories?
Brands took to storytelling like the caveman to fire. Suddenly, every brand had to have a story. But then, how many articulate this ‘story’ convincingly? Life was simpler when you just paid someone to string a bunch of words that didn’t offend anyone and called it the brand mission and vision. 
But telling a story, whether it involves a brand or not, is not easy. For starters, youhave to tap into certain established human traits as part of the brand personality and stick to it. Or you’ll be changing the personality and plot lines every time there’s a shuffle in the C-suite. Afterall, stories and storytellers have been around for as long as there were people around fires. Today, people huddle around the cold light of screens that now fire our dreams and our dreads. And that’s where stories, branded or not, are told.
There are very few brands that have a clear storyline. Brands like Nike and Patagonia come to mind as ones that have mastered the art of telling their stories across all channels they’re present in, including their websites.
The website is the Anchor for all the content
 
Since websites are de rigueur for any business, leveraging them to tell a brand’s story is an obvious starting point. The best way to demonstrate a brand’s personality is to design the brand experience into the website. Since a brand’s website is owned-media, the brand owners have the full freedom to leverage this immensely valuable asset. Sadly, many brands take the easy way out and readily use available templates to build out their site. As you can imagine, with this decision, the brand experience or story is the first casualty.
A brand website is the starting point (if e-commerce is part of the customer journey) and the end point as well. If brand owners have a clear vision of the brand experience then designing the user experience around that is the best way to stay true to the brand story.
Today most agencies are more than capable of building such brand centric sites. That is, if the brand owners don’t start out by thinking they can do everything themselves.

Abut The Author: Zach Abraham
 

Zach has spent over 25 years in the advertising and marketing industry in a leadership position. Prior to starting Us Communications, he was Associate Creative Director at Anderson DDB responsible for all the Digital and DTC work produced by the agency. Zach has won several awards for creative excellence including the London International Advertising Award, The New York Festival and RSVP among others.  zach@uscommunications.ca


Friday, October 21, 2022
Podcasts allow listeners to choose when they listen to the recording, they can listen to you while walking, during a load of laundry or even by the pool. When they choose to listen to you, they are highly attentive and disconnected from their screens. Listening habits reveal that listening to a podcast is a personal choice. Listeners typically use headphones to do so. 

 
 
Unlike traditional radio, podcast listening is done alone and not in an open area, with family or with a partner. There is therefore direct contact with the listener, which gives an “intimate” dimension to the podcast and a special relationship with the audience.

Does the podcast format really serve the needs of your project?
 
In the early stages of your project ask yourself why you chose this format? How does the podcast format really serve your project? That’s a question that needs to be answered, because some topics are best covered on traditional radio and others are best covered in pictures or in writing.

What makes your idea eligible for the podcast format? 

These thoughts lead us to the main subject of this article, which is the intimate meeting the universal. Once you’ve determined beyond a shadow of a doubt that the podcast format best serves your purpose, you need to think about the universal resonance of the story being told. 
Who do you want to reach and why is your topic relevant to the intended audience?

I would go even further, how can people connect with your story? Why are people interested in it? It's perfectly normal, even essential, for a quest to start with you and be carried by someone, but there is a clear distinction to be made between a story that is about you (only) and one that is of public interest. 

In some cases, you will have to expose your most intimate thoughts and sometimes even those of your loved ones. Surely, you must be prepared to put your guts on the line and suffer the consequences.

What is intimate? It is a situation that you have experienced personally. 
You must have been there, it’s something that you live with, that you’ve experienced in your flesh and that connects you to your roots. Intimacy is something that you carry deep inside you and that links you to your origins and to your personality.

What is the intimate that is not universal?

It is a story that belongs to you and that cannot be shared, for lack of common bases. In other words, it is an experience that cannot be translated and only understood by the people who were present. What is the universal? It is precisely when there are common grounds that can be shared with others. The others can contribute to the reflection, which is not possible with an intimate history that is not universal. The universal contributes to a collective reflection. All listeners understand the implications. A universal intimate story allows us to see that we are not alone in this experience.

The universal is often political and sometimes even polarizing, but it also reminds us that society needs to share ideas and have proper discussions. Intimacy and universality are therefore inseparable in order to allow a true dialogue. A podcast series for the benefit of all lets an intimate view appear with a universal treatment that favors a collective reflection.

In conclusion, despite the intimate nature of the podcast format, the stories that are heard must leave the realm of individual intimacy. The direct and privileged relationship established with the listener allows for a dialogue based on universal common grounds and encourages individual reflection for the benefit of society as a whole. The direct format of the podcast gives it a societal impact that is both intimate and collective. Next time you have an idea for a podcast, think about what the story you want to tell says about all of us, as a society, not just as individuals.

About the Author: Anik Magany
 
Born in Boucherville to Haitian immigrant parents, Anik Magny studied communications at Concordia University. After graduating, she got her start as a digital reporter while writing about art and cultural diversity on the Quebec arts scene. After a one-year stint as a reporter with Canal Évasion, she went on to join the team at Zone 3, serving in a variety of roles before becoming host of the documentary series L’art érotique on ICI ARTV. Since 2019, Anik has focused on producing feature films and documentary series that promote diversity in all its forms and will make a difference to the collective consciousness of Quebecers. Her credits include collaborations with the National Film Board, Yzanakio, Catbird Productions and Terre Innue. In 2020, she developed a passion for audio art after working on Telling Our Twisted Histories a podcast produced for CBC. 

 
 
Tuesday, October 18, 2022
In 2010 our company, IT World Canada (ITWC), stopped the presses. It's been 12 years, and the transformations have entered their third reiteration. From print publisher to digital media publisher to an AI-driven digital platform, we continue to evolve in every corner of our mid-size enterprise.  

 www.itwc.ca

We are not a multi-conglomerate. We don't have millions of dollars to invest. We are under ten million in annual revenues and have only been able to continuously tweak our processes, technology, and service offerings because we became an agile shop. On the one hand, we consider ourselves a publisher with a vibrant news organization. On the other hand, we consider ourselves an AI-driven media platform that would likely fall into the MarTech (marketing technology) ecosystem of today's media businesses alongside other web ops and ad ops platforms.

Times have Changed in the Publishing Game

News will always be vital and represent the democratized voice of industries, governments, and citizens. Opinions that don't sell products will always be sought after when making important buying decisions. ITWC does not sell headlines. ITworldcanada.com, ITBusinesss.ca and Channeldailynews.com is a business-to-business technology-focused news organization, our calling card, that makes money selling marketing services, not headlines with paid subscribers. Our organization prides itself on the validity of our data and compliance rules that yield more accurate scenarios for and for specific customer sets.

We package up information based on deep data that can help our customers, the technology OEMs and their partners best understand the buyers' journeys—using data and analytics to pinpoint the right opportunities at the right time. We are not talking about marketing qualified leads handed over through telemarketers dialling for readers to download a content asset or a specific community that walks the floor at a publisher's trade show.

 
Today, we are talking about the art and science of in-depth personas in our targeted audiences that display topic preferences, article engagement, and downloadable content assets married with third-party information from the wider web. In combining first and third-party data as a trusted media platform, ITWC can create a map and journey of intent from start to finish through its AI-enabled platform.

Such a reality has been the most revolutionized transformation in the past 12 years. Step by step, we have experimented and often failed to find the source of our power and meaning in today's B2B media mix. From minimal viable products, responsive design, and an openness to change, we are now simply ITWC offering value in a crowded space of proving ROI in media and marketing investments that demonstrate conversion.

I am expressing more of a tale of how to make profits and stay relevant with the content that matters to your chosen audience. The worldwide web changed the game. Anyone of us can begin a blog and become a publisher. Don't confuse this with publishing amidst the business of advertising.

As I write this blog, I am witnessing the fourth reiteration of data and technology, the new gold for all industries. Publishing sustainability is not plausible if most things remain manual. Automation quickly allows polished editors to amass specific stories daily; data tracking enables better content decisions based on your personas. AI-enabled categories and word usage for your audience take a small publisher to the heightened realms of a multi-million-dollar operation that once required a hundred production personnel.

Publishing is not a profession for laggards. Your people must be highly competent, and their leaders need to be early adopters. Legacy systems and people need to be retired to allow new thinking and blood to take publishing to the next level ushering in a new generation of writers, readers, and marketers. I recognize that I won't be here another 12 years from now to remain bleeding edge. Having 30 years in the publishing discourse, I, too, must mentor rather than lead the next significant charge.

About the Author: Fawn Annan
 
Fawn Annan is the CEO and Chief Marketing Officer of ITWC (IT World Canada), the country’s largest B2B IT digital media house which produces award-winning news channels, accompanied by full video/podcast and content offerings, servicing the technology B2B space. ITWC, has won over 10 COPA (Canadian Online Publishing Awards) and multiple Kenneth Wilson Awards for outstanding journalism, video and podcasts. fannan@itwc.ca
 
Monday, October 03, 2022

After two days wandering around the hordes of diesel RVs and tents and mobile art installations, tanned and naked and nearly naked Californians or the workshops celebrating S&M and/or intergalactic ayauhuasca-fuelled time travel, my daughter Ria turned to me and asked me if I was feeling cynical about Burning Man. Yet.

No more than I was when I arrived, I responded.

That was in August, 2016. One of best experiences of my life. And of course I was cynical. 

Burning Man: Where Paris Hilton and Elon Musk pretend to be hippies for a week. Where no money is exchanged and the outside commercial world is eschewed for idealism and love in the Black Rock  Desert.  Visitors assume fake names and pretend the rest of us going to work and school (the default world, they call it) don’t exist. 


Then, before they Tesla back to Silicon Valley, “burners” clean up after themselves, leaving the desert unscathed. What you bring in you take out, including wastewater, so after the party, the desert’s all natural and pristine again. 
https://burningman.org/

As if.

As if there hadn’t been a private airfield, thousands of gas- and- diesel-gulping RVs, air conditioners and generators. As if, on the final night, they didn’t have the biggest smokiest carbonest bonfire you’ve ever seen.  Me cynical?

Last Sunday, to fuel my skepticism, I Googled “What’s Burning Man’s Carbon Footprint?”  

I love reading stuff that proves I’m right.

But no.

Turns out the B.M. brass are putting great effort into making the fantastic — and I used the adjective advisedly because fantasies can be realized in Black Rock City — event as carbon neutral as possible. Without of course sapping the festival of its magic. I was kinda sorta hoping to find out they didn’t care, but of course they do. 


What’s more, they’re going one better. Here’s a quote from dezeen: “Burning Man has acknowledged the carbon emissions it causes and called on attendees to consider alternatives to burning as part of a plan to become carbon negative by 2030.”

Dayam! Out went my skepticism. Hate when that happens.

And why am I, a COPA judge and general observer of human comings and goings telling you all this? 

Reasons 1 to 7:

1) I hadn’t bragged about going to Burning Man in weeks. 

2) You want to see a great online publication, check out dezeen. But prepare to get distracted. After learning about Burning Man’s carbon-negative plans, I found myself deep into a feature about a new Dubai resort that’s going to replicate life on the moon and, in another article edible architecture

3) Now there’s something that hasn’t changed since forever. Getting distracted during research. I’m  freaking weary of curmudgeonly old farts like me complaining about how nobody has any attention span any more. I’ve never had an attention span. Back in high school, 100 years ago, I’d go to the library to research the American Civil War but end up reading about Greek pottery or the bumblebee’s mating dance called waggle; i.e., ANYTHING but American history. In the old days, the only reason we went with   long-form journalism is that’s all there was. My grandfather Patrick Carter working on his farm in the Ottawa Valley wasn’t distracted by his phone ONLY because they weren’t invented yet.

4) And the Internet didn’t invent algorithms neither. Remember when I said I wanted to learn about how bad Burning Man’s carbon footprint was because I liked journalism that supported my own views?  People have always read material they agree with. The Internet hasn’t changed that.  Remember Grandad Carter? He was a devout churchgoer, might have read the Catholic Register newspaper. I’m dead certain he stayed away from the United Church Observer, now recast as Broadview. Prove me wrong.

5) This is fun. Also. While he was tromping around the back 40, farmer Pat sported thick boots so he didn’t have to worry about stepping into something like this: “Back in the day, people used to pay for news.” Nobody EVER willingly paid for news. Sure they subscribed to newspapers, but a: they cost pennies; and b: they delivered entertainment: Local hockey scores; TV listings, classified ads, death notices horoscopes and comics. Private broadcasters would never have created news departments unless the government agencies that oversaw them forced them to do so. News itself—what city council is doing with your taxes, never made money. What people PAID for were magazines that entertained and helped them and — pay attention here — supported their already-established world views. Sound familiar? 

6)  In fact web journalism has exposed us to countless more voices and viewpoints than ever before. Plus small and large share centre stage. I bet you hadn’t heard of California Sunday Magazine until Canada’s own Nadja Drost scooped a Pulitzer in 2021 for her “brave and gripping account of global migration that documents a group’s journey on foot through the Darién Gap, one of the most dangerous migrant routes in the world.”

7) Back to dezeen. It reminds me of a few years ago when as a judge in the COPAs, I came across HAKAI which I’d never heard of until the awards night and which of course went on to sweep every stinking category it entered. There’s more terrific journalism going on than any time in the past. From Vice to Belling Cat. And getting exposed to this is one of the reasons I sign up to be a judge every year. 

It’s not easy, being judgy. Especially when there’s so much terrific work out being created in this country. It’s subjective as hell. And I get distracted easily. 

I’m a Libra. Like that’s helpful. 

So I turned to my older sister Mary for advice. She’s smarter’n me and I asked her what she thinks makes for good journalism and Mary, who is no journalist but who is bilingual, was like, “Good journalism is the kaleidoscope of opportunities to create, define, illustrate, and make positive differences in this world never mind the medium. Cette information est disponible en francais."

Mary said it better’n me.

I hate when that happens. 

Best of luck  at the COPAs and keep up the great work.

About the Author: Peter Carter

 

Toronto writer/ editor/ one-time magazine owner and publisher---35 years experience in Canadian magazines; currently Analysis Editor at The Lawyers's Daily; an online daily news source for Canadian lawyers; Winner of Best Business Blog at COPAs 2014 for Pete's Blog&Grille; National Magazine Awards finalist; accordion player and motorbike enthusiast.

 


About Me
Guest Blogger
 
This is a guest column for the COPA judges so they can share some of their wisdom with the industry. The COPA Judges are the who's who of the publishing industry in Canada.  COPA Judging Panel Link 
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