Words at work

– 14 min read

4 lessons from media publishers that B2B companies can use in their marketing

Alaura Weaver

Alaura Weaver

Image of a man in black and white saying "Let me tell you a story". He's standing by a campfire while three people are sitting on a log nearby and leaning in to listen.

In 2018, The Guardian won several awards for its 2017 reporting on homelessness in America. It was great reporting, yes, but it stood out for many reasons: the publisher wrote a collection of moving stories, the piece gave readers many informative things to talk about and share with the people around them, and most importantly the content itself was engaging – with the reader getting to consume bits of the story visually (through text and video) and audibly.

And that’s just one example of the thousands (or maybe millions) of ways that media publishers continue to dominate their audiences’ attention. Media publishers are literally in the business of media consumption, so they make it their priority to find the newest and best ways to engage with their readers and to meet ever-changing expectations.

B2B companies that take lessons from the media and apply them to their own content have the potential to reach more readers, boost name recognition, and gain more business. Consider how companies like HubSpot and Buffer have elevated their content to become inseparable from their brand identities: yes, people know both companies for their products, but people also know them for their standout B2B content.

If you want your B2B marketing efforts to perform well, then learn to approach your content strategy like a media publisher: create the right stories that meet your audience where they are – whether that’s something they can read, watch, or hear.

Summarized by Writer

  • B2B companies that take lessons from the media and apply them to their own content have the potential to reach more readers, boost name recognition, and gain more business.
  • Media publishers are literally in the business of media consumption, so they make it their priority to find the newest and best ways to engage with their readers and to meet ever-changing expectations.
  • Earn readership by providing your key point for them with valuable content that goes beyond the fundamentals.
  • Share relatable stories that inspire, make them feel understood and spark their creativity.
Summarized by Writer

Create compelling stories that educate and entertain

For media publishers and for companies that have mastered the craft of engaging with their audiences, the top priorities are educating or entertaining those audiences through stories — sometimes simultaneously. 

Teen Vogue, for example, is a prime example of a media publisher that delivers the news and stories that matter to their key audience – which often results in stories that blend pop culture and public interest, like their 2022 profile on Phoebe Bridgers. It’s this focus on their core audience (predominantly women between the late teens and early 30s) that’s helped to maintain Teen Vogue’s top position among their main competitors. 

According to neurologist Judy Willis, “the four-step structure of narrative—beginning (Once upon a time…), problem, resolution, and ending (…and they all lived happily ever after)—forms a mental map onto which new information can be laid.” Whenever new information is presented to our human brains in the form of a story, we have an easier time remembering or recalling bit of information.

Understanding the reader is also a good starting point for B2B companies when trying to create the right stories that click.

Understand who your audience is

Know your audience. Start by understanding what they need, what they like, and how you can help them succeed.

Does your audience consist mainly of startups that are focused on growth? Is your audience primarily at a mid-to-senior level in their careers and short on time? What does your audience actually need? Are they using computers or mobile devices?

From a tactical standpoint, first learn how your reader interacts with your content. Make sure your analytics are set up correctly so that you can track traffic across your content platforms and that you observe how readers actually engage with the content you publish. 

Then, dig deeper into the “how’s” and “why’s” that motivate them to engage with you. You can also learn more about what audiences like and need by using surveys or soliciting feedback. All this information helps you to understand where your readers are in the marketing funnel and to inform you on the right stories to create based on where they are in their customer journey.  

Deliver value through education

Equipped with these details about your audience, you can focus on educating them. Don’t just teach them the basics of your product or your industry, dig into the insights you’ve gathered from your audience to determine all the talking points that they might find useful. Some helpful questions to consider when planning content that informs and educates:

  • What problems are they trying to solve?
  • What is a business objective that they’re trying to reach?
  • How does your product or service minimize a pain point for them?

Earn readership by providing your key audiences with valuable content that goes beyond the fundamentals.

Tell a story that keeps readers entertained

If you want to keep readers entertained by your content, then make sure to write narratives that they find enjoyable. Share relatable stories that inspire readers, make them feel understood, or spark their creativity. 

Cisco Security, in partnership with brand studio First Person, created a series of videos that aimed to entertain (and educate) non-IT‌ — ‌ a segment of their audience that needed to understand the foundations of cybersecurity but didn’t necessarily have the technical expertise. Cisco heavily leaned into a key element that’s been core to entertainment for thousands of years: comedy. 

Cisco Security uses comedy to engage with a non-IT audience. (First Person)

Determine your content media types based on your capabilities and the internal processes you can support

News media companies from smaller outlets like Axios to legacy institutions like The New York Times publish new content in various media types every day, throughout the day, prompting readers to come back often – whether that’s watching the latest Reel or reading the evening briefing

While publishing multiple times daily isn’t necessary or realistic for B2B companies, a regular publishing cadence will help your audience know when they can expect to see more from you and keep them coming back. If you’re new to content marketing, even publishing content a few times a month is a good place to start. To get a better sense of what your content output can look like, you’ll need to figure out what content types to publish. 

Figure out what you’re capable of creating

By selecting media that match the capabilities of your team, you can create a plan that will support the success of your content. If a particular content medium isn’t something your team has experience with, either hire someone who does or seek out other options.

Additionally, when considering a media type, think about how long you plan to commit to it before jumping into the creation process. Will the format be ongoing without a defined end, like a blog? Will it be a special video series that’s published over a few months? Knowing this will help you evaluate how much work will be involved and whether a new format is sustainable for your company.

Wistia is an example of a company that’s learned to leverage its capabilities to focus on a core media type in its content strategy. As a video hosting platform, it leaned into its own product and uses it to create its Show Business video series, which teaches businesses how to create a video series or podcast for their brand. It’s a low lift on the team since they have both the in-house technology and institutional knowledge to deliver consistent production. 

The landing page for Wistia’s video series, Show Business, provides an overview of the series, including what topics it will cover. (Wistia)

Establish the right processes for consistent content production

Consistent content production also requires that you create internal systems and processes that can help you and your team maintain output. Make sure that you create well-defined processes that identify key stakeholders who are responsible for taking your content idea into the next step. You can use a decision-making framework like DACI to help better manage these internal approvals. 

For example, who’s responsible for writing or producing the content? Who are the people needing to provide feedback? Where does editing fit into the process? Having these steps figured out and documented can help ease your organization into consistency mode when it comes to publishing your content. 

Writer can help ease areas within your process. If you find that editing is a huge time suck in your process, Writer can help to edit your content for better clarity to match your audience and can greatly reduce the effort you spend on proofreading your copy

Reimagine the ways you present and distribute content

To keep up with the changing demands and expectations of their readers, news publishers like The New York Times have adapted to those preferences. Rather than delivering stories just in print, the Times has leaned heavily into digital, playing around with content formats and with different channels for sharing their content. Take, for example, their visual stories: sure, they’re engaging on their own, but the publisher also makes sure to repurpose the stories in the form of shareable quotes and GIFs through their Instagram and Twitter channels. Just like they had to think beyond the newspaper, it’s important for B2B companies to consider what their audience might appreciate beyond a standard blog post.

Repurpose your content

Once you’ve determined the right type of content format that aligns with your company’s capabilities and resources, think about how you can repurpose that content to take it further and to reach a wider audience. 

Start by revisiting the demographics of your audience and their behaviors and habits – are you noticing trends in their engagement with video? Maybe consider repurposing one of your blog posts into a set of explainer videos. Other possible formats to consider can include podcasts, ebooks, reports, webinars, photo essays, guides, templates, infographics, or workbooks.

Among HubSpot’s content types are free tools like a website grader and an email signature generator. Salesforce’s Resource Center offers content that’s categorized into six formats, including articles, guides, podcasts, research and reports, videos, and webinars. For both companies, these content formats and resources fulfill the needs or expectations of various portions of their respective audience.

Salesforce’s resources page breaks down formats into categories that readers can choose from. (Salesforce)

Funnel your content to the right channels to meet readers where they are

Regardless of the content format that you deliver, make sure that you distribute that content to ‌channels where your audience can engage with them. Say that the core of your audience is made up of busy, mid-level managers who are often on-the-go and not always at their computers. Instead of having a recorded webinar live on your website, why not try repurposing that into smaller clips that feature main highlights that you distribute on Instagram or TikTok? Or maybe turn it into a podcast episode that your audience can download and listen to on-the-go? 

The recaps feature in Writer is one tool that can help repurpose your video (and audio) recordings so you can redistribute them to your audiences. All you need to do is upload previously recorded video or audio — like a webinar or podcast — and recaps can piece together a summary and key highlights, and can even redeliver video clips with quotes from the recording. 

With recaps in Writer, you can get tailored summaries and clips for webinars, podcasts, events, large-scale meetings, and more.

For more insight on how to distribute your content, Semrush has a great, comprehensive guide on the three main types of distribution channels (owned, earned, and paid), and gives ideas on the best kinds of content formats to use for each channel. 

Start conversations, build community

If readers go out of their way to respond to content you’ve produced, then that’s a sign that you’re capturing their interest. Letters to the editor are an example of this: readers want to engage with you about your content. The Atlantic aptly publishes these types of feedback from readers under the category “The Conversation”. These conversations help to build community around your content

Make it easy for readers to engage with you

To create and encourage conversation, make it easier for your audience to engage with you. Consider creating a more open environment by having a comment section available wherever you publish content. Use these areas as opportunities to let people share their thoughts and questions. For example, if you decide to publish video content on YouTube, open up comments to see what viewers think of your content. Do they find it useful? Are there questions about your product that you can answer directly? 

This type of feedback can also inform you on what you’re doing right and where there are areas of opportunity. You can use a tool like Ask Writer to help you easily analyze feedback on any given page. 

A sample prompt in Ask Writer that utilizes reader comments.

Also, make sure your content is easily shareable. Provide readers with space to discuss your content with others in their network. If you publish a newsletter, for example, is there an easy way for your subscriber to share your newsletter with the people in their network? The more involved and connected people feel, the more they’ll come back.

SEO software company Moz facilitates community in a few ways. They frequently post helpful videos to YouTube where viewers give feedback and talk to each other in the comments. Their website includes a robust Q&A forum where users can post questions for the community to answer. Moz also asks its followers questions and publishes polls on social media sites like LinkedIn.

Screen Shot 2022-03-31 at 1.03.04 PM.png
A Moz post on LinkedIn asks a simple question of its followers and received 34 comments and three shares. (LinkedIn/Moz)

Let your customers and partners be a part of your story

Regularly incorporate your customers and partners into your content. Share your client’s success stories in a podcast series or case studies — use them as subject matter experts, quote them in articles, and celebrate their industry wins on social media (or in other online community spaces). Encourage customers to share their experiences with your products on social media. Incorporate this user-generated content into your larger content strategy to help drive growth metrics. 

By spotlighting your customers and business partners, you’ll create deeper connections, and they’ll be more likely to share your content, which means reaching new audience members. Additionally, your regular audience will see that you’re invested in the success of your customers, and that you care about more than just making sales.

Create memorable content that grows your audience

When you apply a media-publishing approach to your content, you enable trust with your audiences. Through a storytelling approach that serves readers with the types of content they want, you can replicate the kinds of conversations that often take place around big new stories when they’re expertly reported & published by big media folks like The New York Times

Strengthen your value prop and elevate your brand by being ‌trusted by your audiences.

Growing your content this way may seem daunting due to sheer scale alone, but don’t feel like you need to offer eight formats and publish daily. Start small and use tools to address any variables you can to streamline the process. A tool like Writer helps you maintain brand consistency across all channels, whether you’re writing an article or creating a template. 

Illustration by Natalie Nelson