There was a time when the only way a company could hope to talk directly with real people was through the medium of advertising or public relations. Companies felt distanced from consumers and they worried that people wouldn't take them seriously unless they could broadcast a big campaign or get their PR agency to persuade a journalist to write about them.
Social media changed all that. Today it's a cliche, but a truism nonetheless, to say that every company is a publisher in its own right. Consumer brands flood Facebook with magazine-style infographics and funny photo captions. B2B companies proffer "thought leadership" through LinkedIn while small and medium businesses have turned to Instagram, Twitter and YouTube in order to reach new and existing customers.
Perhaps the most compelling example of editorially driven corporate communication is growth of the company online magazine. These well-resourced sites, mostly written and edited by teams of journalists who once did the same work for traditional media outlets, cover the type of company news and stories that might not always fit into major marketing campaigns but nevertheless appeal directly to online and socially savvy audiences. It's no surprise then that companies that have swapped the turgid press release for vibrant social media magazines find themselves with a great platform to communicate sustainability and innovation in an in-depth way that is both intelligent and engaging.
As a corporate editorial approach grows within business, and as small and medium-sized companies create their own storytelling projects, we've devoted our latest Sustainly Trend Briefing to highlighting 10 companies that have created a successful magazine mentality.
Along with GE, Coca-Cola and Danone we also profile Intel, Herman Miller, Schneider Electric, Samsung, Johnson & Johnson, Swiss Re and Allianz. Together, these companies are establishing a potentially powerful direct rapport with consumers, NGOs and the general public sharing knowledge and showing a human side to the company rarely seen in big-budget advertising campaigns.
Yet with that access comes increased accountability and a commitment on the part of those companies to tell those stories in a way that can be trusted. Most, but not all, encourage conversation and dialogue around the topics they talk about and it's clear that the companies that do come across as transparent and committed to doing good business.
Ultimately, online magazines and editorial content offer companies exactly the type of platform they require to demonstrate how their work and research is beneficial both for consumers and greater society. Telling these stories effectively can help companies establish trust and authenticity with an often-skeptical public. But, as any editor will tell you, a story is only as good as the narrative and reporting that drives it. If companies don't have authentic work to communicate and stories to tell, it won't matter how good the online magazine looks.
You can download the Magazine Mentality Trend Briefing by joining Sustainly.com