Day in the Life of a Freelance Writer

Ever wondered how freelancers juggle all their work commitments and still manage to have a life? Writer and Communications Consultant Rachel Kurzyp shares how she does it. 

6:00 a.m.: I’m jolted awake by my alarming going off. What day is it? Oh right, it’s Monday again which means I better get moving. I have a personal training session at the gym to get to.

6:50 a.m.: I use my early morning tram to get a handle on my social media accounts and eat my breakfast – usually a banana. I quickly send a few tweets, reply to a Facebook post, send my congrats to a friend who’s just got a job promotion on LinkedIn, and add my two cents worth to a group conversation I’m having with mates on WhatsApp.

7:00 a.m.: I quickly check my email accounts. I respond to the emails that only require a short answer and make a note of the ones I need to allocate time to once I’m back at my home office. 

7:10 a.m.: I double check my calendar for the week and make a list of everything I have to do for the next 7 days. I include both personal and professional items on my list. But I keep these separate. I also separate consultant work from my personal writing work. This helps me break down my day and ensures I’m making progress on a range of things. 

I then allocate this list across my work week according to my appointments, client calls, and so on. Each day has one main task and two minor tasks. Sometimes I add a bonus task but I rarely get to it!

7:20 a.m.: The last leg of my tram journey I spend scrolling through my social media newsfeeds pretty aimlessly. I like to see what’s happening in the world and what new cat meme has everyone laughing. 

7:45 a.m.: I arrive at the gym early so I can do a few quick stretches before my session starts. I get talking to one of the regulars in the stretching area about their work. They’ve just started a new business and need help writing some marketing material. We exchange details and I make a mental note to call them later in the week.

8:00 a.m.: I try and pump myself up for my personal training session. But it’s not until halfway through my session that I actually start to enjoy it. My trainer Matt works me hard but the exercise helps me feel ready to tackle the day. 

9:15 a.m.: After leaving the gym I walked 15 minutes into the city to meet a friend (and client) who’s a communication consultant too, although she’s fairly new to the freelance life. Over coffee, we have an informal coaching session. 

We chat about how to schedule your ideal work day, how to handle unorganised clients, and when the best time to increase your rates is. It’s always nice to meet people face-to-face because most of my work is online via email and Skype.

10:00 a.m.: I’m back on a tram, heading home. On this journey, I catch up on some reading. I always have two books on the go: one fiction and one non-fiction. I’m currently reading The Dying Beach by Angela Savage and Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger, in preparation for a series of essays I want to write about the intersection of homelessness, mental health and addiction. 

11:00 a.m.: I’ve got my cup of tea ready and the heater on in my home office. Now it’s time to get some work done! I use the Pomodoro technique. I use the five-minute breaks to do house work or make personal phone calls. 

Before I start my main tasks for the day I quickly reply to emails and schedule a few meetings. I then focus on my own marketing. Today I’m writing a 200-word sales piece for my blogging package Fabulous Blog Bundle. Once it’s done, I publish the piece on LinkedIn and schedule a promotional post on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. 

12:30 p.m.: My first task for the day is writing website copy for an HR company. They are currently launching a new website and range of services and need web copy that matches their new direction. It sometimes can be challenging to show a brand’s personality through their content but in this case, I find it easy. The brand has a clear idea of who they are, what they do and who their ideal client is. 

1:30 p.m.: I know I shouldn’t eat my lunch – leftover Sunday roast – at my computer but I’m totally in the zone and want to keep writing.

2:30 p.m.: I’m a feature writer for a franchise magazine so my second task for the day is interviewing two franchise owners and then writing 400-word features on them. I spend 10 minutes interviewing each person (I prepared the questions yesterday) and then I start to write the features. I always record my interviews on my digital voice recorder to ensure I don’t misquote anyone, and so I can play it back if I can’t read my notes!

4:30 p.m.: My third task for the day is starting the first draft of a content strategy I’m writing for an international financial institution. This job requires me to do some general research, look over analytics, write social media posts, and come up with an action plan for how to increase engagement across an important campaign. It’s nice to take a break from writing. 

6:00 p.m.: I leave my office behind and concentrate on my making dinner for me and my partner. I’ve never been particularly good at cooking. I manage to get sauce and chilli powder all over my phone as I listen to the Penmanship podcast while I cook. I hope my chorizo and bean stew tastes better than it looks. 

7:30 p.m.: Finished with dinner and bored with TV, I head back to my office to check my emails and plan my tasks for tomorrow.

7:45 p.m.: I’m not completely braindead so I decide to spend 45 minutes working on a personal writing piece that’s been accepted at a literary magazine.

8:30 p.m.: I find myself in bed already, scrolling through social media and sending Snapchats to my brother.

9:30 p.m.: Where did the time go? Social Media is such a time suck! I decide to read one of the million magazines on my bedside table. I feel way more productive now.

10.45 p.m.: Can’t remember anything about the article in National Geographic I was just reading. I must be tired. Time to turn off the lamp. 


Follow Rachel Kurzyp on Twitter and check out her website here. 

Content Strategy Forum 2016 – Keynote Spotlight: Sally Bagshaw

Never one to shy away from making a bold prediction, Sally Bagshaw firmly believes the concept of connected content is what will meet us in the not too distant future.

To her, communication is king when it comes to meeting business goals and those who ignore the signs are set to be left behind by customers fleeing their out of date practices.

Sally has been cutting her teeth as founder of Snappy Sentences for the last 8 years, which coupled with her experience as a Content Strategist, gives reason to think she is on to something.

In her words, “The idea that connecting all of our daily lives through content is an exciting one. We cannot be so afraid of technology and where it’s going to take us (rocket ride!).

“Therefore, as content strategists we need to learn to speak geek a little bit better to have those conversations that will enable content to connect with all those touch points and inform our daily lives in meaningful use patterns.”

In her blog piece ‘Content behaving badly (what to do when the shi*t hits the fan)’ for GatherContent, Sally stresses the existence of the smug strategist – the content first type that worships at the altar of best practices despite the lack thereof of any evidence to support.

A self-proclaimed ‘word-nerd’, Sally started her love affair with the Internet at the dawn of the new century and quickly developed a passion for the behind the scenes action of websites and the copywriting on which they were built.

The aforementioned Snappy Sentences allows her to develop and manage her client strategies and make storytellers out of all of them.

Not afraid of a challenge (in fact the messier the better!), she operates her business out of Brisbane and has welcomed large scale industries through her doors.

But that’s not the only job listed on her resume. Other roles have included stints at the Department of Education and Training, project management with the Queensland Government, founder of the Brisbane Content Strategy Group and a judge at the Australian Web Awards.

It’s safe to say the word nerd has firmly established herself as a foremost voice in content strategy, armed with a belief that “We haven’t run out of ideas of how content can help us.”


This profile is part of our series of spotlights on the keynote speakers at Content Strategy Forum 2016. Use the discount code NEWSMODO-CSFORUM to get $200 off your ticket purchase Hurry! Ticket sales end October 1st!

Content Strategy Forum 2016 Preview

On the Brand Storytelling podcast, we preview the upcoming Content Strategy Forum with Lennie Beattie from Content Ark. The event brings together the best minds in content strategy to explore new ideas and learnings from the past year. 

After stops in Paris, London, Cape Town, Helsinki and Frankfurt, the forum is making it’s way to Melbourne with Kristina Halvorson from Brain Traffic and Hilary Marsh from The Content Company headlining the talks. 

Listen to the full show here: 

Subscribe on: iTunes | SoundCloud | Stitcher | TuneIn | iHeartRadio or an RSS feed of your choice! 

Download the episode here

In this episode:

  • What are the biggest issues for marketers when drawing up a strategy?
  • Why companies need to have a strategy in place. 
  • The differences between content marketing and content strategy. 
  • Preview of the Content Strategy Forum and the history of the global event. 

Preview of the show:

Rakhal Ebeli: You would’ve seen the rise and rise of content marketing and brand storytelling. What of those new clients that you’re onboarding as a content strategist saying that their biggest issues are?

Lennie Beattie: It’s a very good question. I think one of the biggest issues is their understanding of what it actually is and what they need. I think I’m trying to sell a headache pill to somebody that’s never had a headache. I think … Again, other than discipline, it’s really incumbent on us to be able to better communicate what content strategy is and what content marketing is, and how they can help businesses succeed. I think that is a pain point. The pain point is the misunderstanding.

Rakhal: You define strategy very different to content marketing. The content that you planned for, would you say it’s always marketing collateral, is it storytelling or is it content across different platforms we don’t cover typically in the content marketing conversations?

Lennie: I think it’s a bit of both. I think there are some very clear differences between content marketing and content strategy. They’re very complimentary. We need both. I think content marketing when you say it it’s quite obvious, content marketing is a function of marketing. It’s content that’s used as a tool for marketing purposes. Correctly so. The people in the content marketing industry are generally marketers and perform a very important function for a business in that arena. Content strategy addresses content as an asset across the wider business. I think that’s a critical difference. Content strategy would look at other ways businesses use content such as across the sales function, across customer service, across corporate affairs, even internal comms, user experience, which is obviously a growing discipline.

How do we holistically create a framework that makes sure content is consistent across all those areas of a business, particularly so that it’s a consistent experience for the customer at the end of the day.

Resources: 

Audio – Coach Carter – Timeout pep talk (Audio Intro) 

Content Strategy Forum 2016

Follow the event on Twitter 


Content Strategy Forum 2016 – Keynote Spotlight: Hilary Marsh

It’s hard to find an expert who knows as much as Hilary Marsh does about content, from planning and creation to implementation.

For more than 15 years, Hilary has been a content strategy specialist. Through a multitude of senior strategist, communications roles and even running her own consultancy, she has become a highly influential voice in content strategy.

Starting in content before the Internet was a thing, Hilary entered the workforce as an editorial assistant at Condé Nast’s Glamour Magazine, in 1980. Here she had her grounding in researching and writing articles for print audiences.

But it was copywriting for multinational beauty product company Avon where she began to excel in commercial oriented content, five years later. At the time, Avon was reliant on its door to door sales reps, known as,  ‘Avon Ladies’ being successful. Among her responsibilities was writing advice articles for these often inexperienced Avon Ladies to help them sell more.

After 10 years at Avon she became a senior communications specialist at R.R. Donnelley, a Fortune 500 company, where she managed a complete overhaul of the company’s website with an aggressive six week deadline, winning the praise of senior management in the process.

Always the pioneer, Hilary scored the rare job title of Senior Content Strategist at a large marketing and consulting company, Sapient. Here she implemented the first content strategy practice for the company’s Chicago office and built a team of seven content strategists, managers and editors working across the US.

In 2001, content was still an afterthought for most web projects, but when she heard content strategy being defined as ‘applying a publishing mentality to a website’, it was music to her ears. As an established content strategist with remarkable pedigree, Hilary was able to start her own consultancy, Content Company, as organisations became attuned to the importance of content.

In 2005, Hilary put her consultancy on the back burner for a several years, to take on her biggest challenge yet, an opportunity to direct the digital team at the National Association of Realtors, the US’s largest membership or trade association.

She excelled and moved up through the company before deciding to reignite the Content Company, where as President and Chief Strategist she now helps associations, nonprofits and corporations create, manage and promote their content.

The role of Content Strategist is not as common as Hilary believes it should be, but she’s now teaching the next generation of UX designers about content strategy in Kent State University’s UX masters program, with the hope more industry professionals will come to recognise the value of the role.

Hilary has become an influential speaker and regularly speaks at content and communications forums, including Confab Content Strategy Conference, ASAE Annual Meeting and Content Strategy Forum where she has become known for sharing her own experiences to illustrate her points in a conversational style. She’s always hoping to inspire conference attendees to use content strategy to make a difference in their organisations.

This drive to educate others on the importance of content strategy has also led her to co-organise Chicago Content Strategy Meetup, which brings together 1200 members to talk content. Her efforts don’t stop there; she also runs the international Content Strategy Group on LinkedIn, which has attracted almost 28,000 members.


This profile is part of our series of spotlights on the keynote speakers at Content Strategy Forum 2016. Use the discount code NEWSMODO-CSFORUM to get $200 off your ticket purchase – Hurry! Ticket sales end October 1st! 

Planning your Christmas getaway? Plan your content marketing first

Christmas is the time that people take time off work to enjoy the festivity. But the lead-up to the holiday is usually a race for both consumers and brands.

However, last year’s statistics show that not all businesses had holiday strategies in place. To avoid last-minute panic this year, it’s important to start planning your seasonal content marketing now. 

 

Some key stats

The most successful content marketing campaigns were three times more likely to have emotional elements. With Christmas being filled with emotions such as joy and happiness, it’s only natural that brands come up with content that elicit those feelings.

Extra tips: content that include pop culture references or rankings/comparisons also perform well. Think about topics such as “The most popular holiday destinations: pros and cons”, or this 12-day email campaign from HBO.  

Source: HubSpot
Source: HubSpot

Another Christmas-related statistic is consumers are looking for a mix of promotional and informational content. That means, businesses shouldn’t just think about sales, but see the holiday season as an opportunity to establish their brands as helpful and genuine. 

 

Gift ideas

This is the most common content topics as there is a large audience that demands such content. In order to avoid the “salesy feel”: 

  • Talk about gift ideas that are relevant to your business offerings and the audience
  • Add demographic/psychographic information, e.g. gifts for millennials/busy moms etc. 

Moreover, don’t forget to incorporate with email marketing, such as last-minute gift buying reminders with special offers. 

Show the human side

This is where you can share stories created from within your business. Tap internal ideas and talents, such as getting staff to talk about their gift ideas. 

 

Holiday guides and tips

This strategy works well for both B2C and B2B businesses. It can be standalone blog posts, or series of useful articles around the theme of holiday preparation, but still keeping in mind the relevancy factor.

For instance, brands in the finance industry can write about money saving tips like the example of NAB below.

 

 

Microsite

If there is enough unique content that is seasonal and highly targeted, then consider building a microsite. For example, REI – an outdoor equipment brand – had a microsite around the campaign “OptOutside” which featured hiking trails and adventure ideas.

 

Advent calendar

As Christmas is more about giving than taking, brands can create content campaigns that feature giveaways/contests. Benefits include:

  • Building brand affinity
  • Potential for user-generated content

For instance, the online fashion retailer ASOS organised a user photo contest that had a different prize each day. 

 

 

Looking back and forward

Retrospective

Tying to the end-of-year sentiment, brands can create content that reviews the whole year, e.g. industry trends. This is a good opportunity to mix informational and promotional content.

Another way is to look across space instead of time. Examples include round-ups of ideas across the world, like Food52 and their holiday cookies recipes (with links to buy ingredients).

Source: Food52
Source: Food52

Future

Indeed, brands can also look forward by creating content around trend predictions, or look through the angle of New Year’s resolutions.

For example, fitness-focused consumers would be drawn to blog posts such as “10 Ways to Jumpstart Your New Year’s Resolution” by brands like bodybuilding.com. 


Follow Linh Dao on Twitter

How to develop your audience personas

On the Brand Storytelling podcast, we are joined by the biggest name in content marketing in Brazil, Cassio Politi. Cassio was named the content marketer of the year in 2015 and authored the first book in content marketing to be written in Portuguese. He is the founder of Tracto, a content strategy consultancy that builds audiences for brands and companies. 

At Content Marketing World this year, his keynote, How Small Differences In Buyer Persona’s Behaviour Impact The Global Strategy, touched on customer environments, perceived barriers and how they help you make wise strategic decisions. 

We also talk about how brands are building audience personas through storytelling and the influencers that map a buyers journey. 

Listen to the full show here: 

Subscribe on: iTunes | SoundCloud | Stitcher | TuneIn | iHeartRadio or an RSS feed of your choice

Download the episode here

In this episode: 

  • Key takeaways from Content Marketing World 2016.  
  • The importance of developing audience personas. 
  • Steps marketers take to identify their audience’s persona.
  • Mistakes to avoid when mapping out an audience persona!
  • Who is influencing the audience and how are they engaging them? 

Preview of the show: 

Rakhal Ebeli: It is almost exclusively what we say as the first step with content marketing is putting the audience first. Let’s go through the actual process of identifying our audiences and then how we can start to nut them out into different personas. What steps should marketers follow?

Cassio Politi: I think the first step is to list some hypotheses. Okay, we avoid to use assumptions. Assumptions are very useless for us. We have to really discover something about our buyer persona. Anyway, I would recommend to list a few hypotheses that you can get from people that works in the company and employees and partners. Once you have this hypotheses in a list, you really should talk to your customers.

This conversation is not like an interview, a formal interview. Sometimes we get scared about the idea of calling someone and asking some questions. What do you do? We really prepare and pre-script some questions. Then we feel safe by having those questions in our hands. It’s a mistake, I think. I think you should really have a conversation and just pay close attention to what your interviewee says. Then you can ask other questions.

Really try to understand what his journey was from the moment he first considered to buy something that your company sells up to the moment that he really made the decision to purchase or to purchase from your competitor or just given up the purchase itself. I think it’s all based on a conversation in which you try to make your interviewee tell how was his experience? Don’t ask what he thinks. Don’t ask what he feels. Just ask what he did.

Rakhal: You mentioned at Content Marketing World that it’s almost better to ask them, what did they tell other people that their experience was, rather than tell you. Is that right?

Cassio: Yes. They can tell other people. They can tell you, but it doesn’t matter who is having this conversation, actually. We just want to know if you could really record that experience. Take me back to the day. That’s the kind of question we usually do.

Take me back to the day when you first considered buying something or you first considered resolving that problem. Tell me what happened. Tell me what kind of decisions and pain points. Tell me everything that crossed your mind in this bath. I think this is the best way to do it. You can do it yourself. You can ask someone to do that. The most important thing is that the interviewee reproduces the whole story.

Resources

Cassio Politi on Twitter

The Price is right – Come on down

Why you need a persona-based content marketing strategy

How to find your target audience & create content that connects


Content Strategy Forum 2016 – Keynote Spotlight: Kristina Halvorson

Kristina Halvorson is one of the most influential voices in content strategy. She’s started her own company, has her own podcast, and founded her own conference — she’s written the book on content strategy, literally.

It was working as a copywriter when Kristina first realised businesses needed to think more carefully about content strategy. She was frequently brought in to write loads of content towards the end of large web projects only to look at the heap of ad hoc material dumped on her desk and realise there had been no consistent strategy from the outset of the project. Inspired by frustration, she began researching her book, Content Strategy for the Web, which was published in 2009.

It was the only book published on the topic at the time, and filled a glaring gap in web content literature. The second edition was co-authored by communications and content specialist, Melissa Rach and is now considered an essential read for people working in content.

Kristina is the CEO and Founder of Brain Traffic, an internationally-renowned consultancy specialising in content strategy and writing for the web. Since 2002, Kristina has built a remarkable team of content strategists who share her passion for good strategy. They form a team that serve heavyweight clients such as Coca-Cola and Hewlett Packard.

Through Brain Traffic, Kristina also founded the content strategy conference, Confab, which has sold out every year since its 2011 debut. This success has attracted sponsorship from some of the world’s largest companies, including Facebook, MailChimp and PayPal. What Kristina touches turns to gold.

Proving her versatility and ability to communicate effectively, Kristina also hosted her own podcast, Content Talks, where she interviewed a range of content experts offering perspectives on UX, IT, app dev, marketing and business strategy.

The conference circuit soon recognised Kristina’s strengths as an engaging and inspiring communicator. In 2010, she travelled to Paris to deliver the keynote address at the world’s first Content Strategy Forum. Her skills as a presenter have taken her to conferences all over the world and she is recognised for offering practical and humorous insights to industry professionals.

In 2011, she was recognised as one of the industry’s top thought leaders at the SXSW Interactive conference. Her home state of Minnesota also acknowledged her achievements by including her in a list of 200 Minnesotans You Should Know.

Apart from her success in book publishing, Kristina is also known for her published articles on .net Magazine, UX Magazine and Interactions. Most notably her highly influential article, The Discipline of Content Strategy was published in A List Apart, in 2008.

Kristina is the doyen of content strategy and to top it all, she is the mother of two kids who are the real stars of her Twitter account. 


This profile is part of our series of spotlights on the keynote speakers at Content Strategy Forum 2016. Use the discount code NEWSMODO-CSFORUM to get $200 off your ticket purchase Hurry! Ticket sales end October 1st! 

Photo credit: Creative BLOQ

How to write with authority

There are many ways you can build authority as a writer: deliver quality work on time, charge premium prices, and develop a personal brand to just a few name. However, many writers overlook one important element: identifying a core area of expertise. 

Knowing what you’re great at will allow you to focus your time, effort and resources on the area that is the best fit for your business. Here are my tips for how to choose your area of expertise and start writing with authority. 

Great writers know they can’t be known for everything. But how do you go from a generalist to an expert? You need to choose your area of expertise. It’s not as simple as choosing a subject area at random either. It has to meet the below requirements. 

You’re an expert in the area or field

You have formal qualifications and extensive work. experience. You don’t need to 10+ years’ experience but you do need to have clocked a decent amount of hours in your field. 

You enjoy the area or topic

You have a lot to say about the topic and you feel passionate about the area. You find yourself bringing it up at events or always coming back to it in business meetings.

You find yourself drawn to the area or topic

You could read about it for hours without getting bored and you actively seek out information about the topic wherever you can. 

People come to you for advice about the topic

You get asked questions daily and you can answer them! You also find yourself wanting to educate others about your topic.

You can offer something unique to the topic

You think about your area differently than the crowd and you feel you have something constructive and interesting to add to the conversation.

The area is niche but can scale

There are plenty of people who care about the topic and the area is of general interest to many. 

Try a few topic areas. The one that meets all these requirements is most likely your area of expertise.

Once you know your area of expertise, you’re able to clearly define who you are, what you do and how you help others. Being able to position yourself correctly not only helps you attract the right kind of readers, it helps you choose which topic you should write about to start building your authority. 


Follow Rachel Kurzyp on Twitter and check out her website here. 

Content Marketing World 2016 with Joe Pulizzi

Subscribe to the Brand Storytelling podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, TuneIn, iHeartRadio or an RSS feed of your choice – leave a review and tell us what you think about the show! 


On the Brand Storytelling podcast this week, Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the Content Marketing Institute joins the show to talk about the build up to another year, predictions for the industry in 2017 and what we can expect at Content Marketing World 2017. 

His keynote at the forum reflected the industry moving into the future and the keyword, Commitment. Brands need to take a fully-committed approach to their content and audiences. Mediocre content will hurt your brand more than it helps. 

The message is: It’s all about commitment, there is no half way, you’re either in or you’re out. 

Download the episode here

Keen for more content marketing? Check out Joe’s podcast This Old Marketing which he hosts with fellow content marketer, Robert Rose! 

Some happy snaps from the conference! See the full gallery from the event here!


Preview of the episode with Joe…..

Rakhal Ebeli: What would you say are the big themes that are coming through? Speaking of your podcast, you guys have seen incredible success but you still approach with humility and you do look to try and improve what’s going on within your own space. You don’t just say, “This is great, it’s great. Let’s set it and forget it.” Robert Rose has a really interesting title for his session. Content marketing is broken, this is how we fix it and this is it how can affect your business. What’s Robert’s take on things, do you think, coming out of this event?

Joe Pulizzi: We’re on our 154th podcast or something like that together and we’ve been fast friends for the last decade. We think a lot about these issues. The quote that Robert has that I think is really key is he said, “You actually don’t want to create more content. No enterprise actually sets out to create more content. You actually want to create the minimal amount of content with the maximum amount of results.” Think about that; we actually don’t want more. In the research, we see that actually most companies are creating more content.

I think that if you are a smart market toddy you should really take a look at your content creation and distribution. I think if you’re smart about it you’re probably should maybe be doing less, or more of the right stuff. It’s not less, it’s more of the right stuff where I’m going to say, “I’m not going to do that blog anymore. I’m going to continue to do this e-newsletter. I’m not doing this in social anymore, I’m going to do this print magazine or this event.”

The average company uses 13 to 16 different tactics for their content, webinars, eBooks, e-newsletters, social, whatever. I think that’s too many. I don’t think you can be great at 13 to 16. What can you be great at? Three to five, maybe, you can be great. I think we really have to start making decisions. That’s strategy. Strategy is saying no to things.

Start saying no to doing some things and say, “No, we can’t be great at this. We can be the best in the world at this over here.” I think that’s, when Robert’s talking about that, it’s about that same commitment idea. You really have to start saying no to a lot of things because this takes commitment, it takes times to do it right, and, if you’re serious about it, let’s start making some decisions to say no to a whole heck of a lot of other things that you’re doing.


Links/Credits

John Cleese speaking at Content Marketing World 2015

Kevin Spacey closing Keynote highlights – Content Marketing World

Nick Offerman speaking at Content Marketing World 2015

CMI University – Why content marketing? 

Mark Hamill tells Content Marketing World about embracing Luke Skywalker’s optimism and tenacity: #CMWorld


The best of VR and branded content so far

Not that long ago, Pokemon Go has caused a stir with an augmented reality game, which excited both consumers and brands. What about another emerging technology – virtual reality?

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said this has the potential of being “the most social platform.” The race to reap early-adopter benefits is on for marketers. 

What is so special about VR? 

The immersive nature of this technology is a key differentiator. This is the next level compared to other forms of visual communications such as illustrations and videos.  

However, one of the two key factors that helps this technology take off is content. This is where brands jump in and start thinking about content creation for the new platform. Let’s now look at some successful attempts so far.  

Storytelling

This goes back to our innate desire for stories, and of course, applies to any good communications. With the help of VR, the narratives and characters come to life in front of your eyes. 

The New York Times has produced a VR app, which was deemed its most successful product launch. It even has a VR editor, just like in any normal media company. 

Source: NY Times
Source: NY Times

HBO’s famous Games of Thrones series also has its own VR experience. Although most brands don’t have fiction-like stories to tell, they do have real life anecdotes (e.g. from clients) which can be turned into engaging VR content. 

Provide value

Some brands have managed to cut through the noise by providing value in a novel way. For instance, Hacienda Patrón – a tequila distillery – has created a VR experience to showcase their production process. “The Art of Patrón” provides both educational and entertainment value, which is often hard to achieve with other forms of marketing. 

New York University tried to stand out from other education institutions by allowing students admitted into their engineering program to have a virtual tour of Mars. This provides value by showing what the school can do for students and the skillsets they’re likely to gain. 

Source: Digiday
Source: Digiday

Product demonstration

Used as part of the sales process, VR can help make purchase decisions easier for potential customers. 

Existing technology such as interactive showrooms doesn’t allow for the full immersive experience. For instance, IKEA has built a virtual kitchen that goes beyond their usual store display. The VR experience lets users modify, interact and try out various home furnishing solutions. 

Source: Brandchannel
Source: Brandchannel

Another noteworthy use of VR as product demo is from Marriott Hotels. They have offered newlywed couples the chance to experience what it’d be like to stay in their accommodation during the honeymoon. Moreover, the hotel chain also used VR to show how their offerings fit into the whole travel experience, by “teleporting” users to beautiful destinations.

Avoid the hype fallacy

To truly make VR work for your brand, you need to pay attention to user experience. The normal content standards still apply, such as relevant, engaging, useful etc. 

Otherwise, we might see a new breed of ad blockers developed for VR devices, just like the need to avoid branded content on existing web channels.