As brands become publishers: transition with a CRM twist

Before the advent of the Internet, the publisher-brand dichotomy was
both distinct and complementary. Publishers catered to and created
communities of interest, delivering content and facilitating dialogue
with members. Brands depended on a publisher’s ability to reach those
communities and paid to have their content delivered to those groups.
The role of the brand was passive and non-participatory.

Enter
the Internet age, where the roles are often interchangeable. The online
world is fragmented. Internet search technology has not only empowered
consumers to seek data and opinions from multiple sources, but also to
share and voice their own. Communities of interest are self-organizing,
appearing all over the Internet on social networks, blogs and
discussion boards.

That means brands are now developing
proprietary Web content and experience-rich places where they have
direct access to and can control interaction with consumers. The
Internet as a research and buying engine—and changes in consumer
behavior—has turned brands into publishers.

Bearing in mind the
need for a complete and well-designed strategy, there are a few simple
actions brands can take to begin the transition.

First, brands
need a way to publish. Brands should identify and establish platforms
either owned or third-party for the delivery of community-oriented
content. Facebook and Twitter are examples of existing social platforms
with little barrier to entry that brands can leverage to publish their
message.

Once the platforms have been established, brands must
fill them with engaging content that focuses on the interest of the
community, not solely brand products or services. Objectivity is the
toughest challenge for brands as publishers. The content must be useful
and unbiased to avoid appearing promotional and self-serving. The goal
is to foster customer relationship management.

Next, brands
must connect with communities by facilitating dialogue to deepen that
relationship. Open discussion forums where people may operate as they
please, leave readable comments, view comments from others, and
exchange information, are one way of approaching this. Moderation
without censorship is the key.

Lastly, brands must understand
what is happening in their community by listening to and participating
in its conversations and responding accordingly. By doing so, brands
are able to make adjustments to their offerings and image that will
keep the community involved, while simultaneously attracting new
members. That is customer relationship management in action.

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