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Not so long ago, there was some doubt about how well brands could manage content marketing and deliver fresh, original content on a regular basis.
I mean, how much can be really be written about a credit card or life insurance?
In response to these concerns, many brands launched their own newsrooms and started 'brand journalism' programs. And it made sense.
If someone working for a brand could find a story which both interested readers and got the brand message across, both sides were happy.
But like with all marketing efforts, brand journalism takes a lot of work and it is difficult to measure its effectiveness.
And, when budget cuts loom and priorities change, it can be difficult to keep up the momentum on a project which requires so much energy and difficult-to-measure ROI.
So, under these tough conditions it's interesting to have a look at a few of the sites which have survived, see how well it's going for them, and offer a few suggestions on what they could do better.
Site: HSBC Global Connections
Launch date: June 2010 (as Business Without Borders)
"...a unique program and online destination designed to deliver expertise and thought-provoking advice to Canadian business decision-makers looking for authoritative information to help their organizations grow internationally."
The site was then expanded to many other locations and rebranded as HSBC Global Connections over the next few years.
How's it going?
The site is still being updated, but it's a bit patchy. There is a lot of content on the site which is more than three-years-old; a lifetime in finance.
Some articles which are supposedly 'trending now' are from 2014, which seems unlikely.
In the Hong Kong English edition there are articles from this month, January 2016. Some other countries' editions haven't yet been updated this year.
Clean it up. Either remove content dated before 2015 or, as many publications have done, remove dates off of content so that it doesn't look stale. Though this isn't ideal as ambiguously-dated content can annoy some readers.
Also, an easy way to keep content fresh is to write short, 100- to 300-word posts about outside articles and then link to them.
Launch date: November, 2013
"The site will cover Visa and payment-related content from across Asia-Pacific. Topics will include financial inclusion and education, growing economies, innovation, security and travel and tourism."
How's it going?
The site is still up-and-running using its original format. It publishes regular, high-quality videos about solo travellers, regional businesses, and, of course, payment systems.
The Solo Traveller and Economics sections were updated in December 2015. Most of the other sections have not been updated since earlier in 2015.
Hosting the videos yourself or using a service like Vimeo hides the number of viewers, which is often embarrassingly low (low 000s) on content marketing sites.
Visa might want to have a look at the copyright at the bottom, which still says 2014!
Launch Date: April, 2014
A 'thought-leading publication that talks to the people that matter,' including customers, influencers, corporate clients and others.
'We will also be breaking our own stories' and 'work hand-in-hand with (traditional media) journalists.'
How's it going?
Very well it seems. Besides attracting award-winning journalists and winning a few awards itself, the site is very up-to-date with interesting articles which follow the original premise.
There are quite a few posts from the day this is being written, January 27, and many from the past week.
There is so much interesting content on the site, that it might be worthwhile to have a feed at the top.
Also, try having a Facebook page. It can be a very effective way to get engagement even with B2B content.
It seems brand journalism is alive and well in Asia-Pacific, though there are signs of stress.
I suspect tha the sites that are successful now will continue, if scaled back a bit, but that other brands will hesitate before launching their own newsroom and journalism program.
For more on this topic, read: