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Why your brand needs a newsroom

Matt Simpson, international business director at digital agency Zone, reveals why B2B brands should be creating inhouse newsrooms to ensure their content campaigns succeed 

What springs to mind when I say the word 'newsroom'? Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovering the Watergate scandal at the Washington Post? Unscrupulous News of the World hacks listening illicitly to Jude Law’s voicemail? Hunter S Thompson bashing out copy while swigging copiously from a bottle of Jack Daniels?

All of this feels a long way from the world of B2B marketing, right? Well, yes and no. Digital has, of course, completely changed the landscape in which brands operate: it’s now easy for people to filter out the things they don’t want to see; anyone can publish and distribute information; and a single bad customer experience can generate more attention than a multi-million pound advertising campaign.

In this world content becomes the most potent weapon in a B2B marketer’s armoury: give people something of value and they’ll listen, engage, share, recommend, remember…

Thing is: that’s easier said than done. Because your content isn’t just jostling for attention with the content produced by your closest business competitors. It’s fighting against pretty much everything else on the internet.

So that means it not only has to be brilliant, it also needs to be very relevant, very timely and very tailored to individual needs. Tough gig. 

Which is where a newsroom comes in. It’s really nothing more complicated than a small team who can assess real-time trends and conversations, and rapidly create and distribute content in response to them.

Since journalists have been doing that sort of thing for centuries, they’re pretty good at it, which is why at Zone we employ them to run a newsroom for Tesco, so we can react in real time to zeitgeisty events (such as this tribute to Kanye West at Glastonbury).

A handful of other B2C brands have been employing similar strategies since Oreo’s watershed “Dunk in the Dark” moment at the 2013 Super Bowl, including Paddy Power, Virgin Mobile and Coca-Cola.

The challenge for the majority of B2B brands is that they’re still figuring out what to put on their company blog, so the idea of letting a handful of journalists loose to create real-time content on their behalf feels a long, long way from their comfort zone. Not to mention the associated cost of doing this week in, week out.

There is, however, an opportunity for B2B marketers to cost-effectively dip their toe in the water – and that’s to set up a newsroom specifically for an industry conference or event.

Typically these will be brimming with senior stakeholders and the people who influence them. A newsroom can help your brand play a valuable role in the digital conversations, helping to enhance its reputation and open doors with prospective customers.

How? By being useful. There is a thirst for knowledge at such events, and if a brand can help to capture and disseminate insights in real time – with its own point of view and in its own tone of voice – it can massively increase share of voice among its target audience.

The content can be simple and quick to produce – take a look at these Top 5 take-outs we created for Maersk at the recent WTO Aid For Trade summit, for example – and much of it can be planned in advance and then distributed into the appropriate conversations as they pan out.

To make a success of event-based newsrooms such as this takes some careful planning. That means trying to identify the things your target audience will care about, and finding ways to make your brand relevant to them.   

You’ll need pre-defined conversational, tone of voice and crisis-management guidelines. You’ll need to map the digital footprints of the stakeholders and influencers you want to target so you can monitor their activity throughout the event (while remaining open to identifying new influential voices at the event itself).

You’ll need an armoury of assets that you can update and deploy at speed – for example, we often create graphics of the key speakers in advance so we can quickly drop in quotes, then distribute while they’re still at the podium. And during the event you’ll need a quick process for signing off content. 

Above all, you need to employ a skilled team of content creators who are able to react quickly and effectively to live conversations. That’s those journalists again who, in a brand newsroom, are absolutely in their element.