09 Mar Do This One Thing to Make All Your Photography and Video Content More Effective8 min read
You can feel it … something is missing from your marketing strategy. It’s not so much what you’re doing. You’ve done your research. You know who you’re trying to reach, and you know how to reach them.
Still, the execution doesn’t feel right. The feedback you’re hearing from customers is lackluster.
You ask yourself, “What else should I be doing? Uploading more photos to Instagram? Share more video to Facebook?”
Stop right there. Those are probably the wrong questions.
To solve the mystery, focus instead on one fundamental question …
WHY CREATE CONTENT AT ALL?
We talked to Matt Gallegos, our go-to photographer/videographer, about content and branding earlier this month. In Matt’s experience, conversations about content are often uncomfortable for clients who feel overwhelmed by what to produce, how to distribute it, and how often.
“Social media created a weird shift. It started out as something people did in their free time, then it became a job, an expectation,” Matt said. “We often find ourselves equipping those who feel unequipped.”
Many organizations have developed a sense that they should be putting out social media content (the what), and have incorporated social media maintenance into the marketing plan (the how).
The problem is, without ever fully exploring why they are bothering to incorporate content into marketing, many organizations, from small businesses to corporations, lack a sense of purpose as they create and push out content.
The job is often relegated to an entry-level employee with an iPhone who has little to no guidance.
Matt is more than a content producer, he is an educator. His job as he sees it is to put his finger on the missing piece of the content puzzle. Often, that missing piece is losing sight of the why.
And where is the why? It’s in the foundation for all marketing activity: the brand design.
BRAND DESIGN IS ABOUT MORE THAN LOGOS AND COLORS
Experienced marketing professionals are often more comfortable discussing branding than content. Branding is a familiar word. You can define it fairly well. It’s the design elements inspired by your business identity that went into your logo and other official company artwork.
A closely related concept, you value brand consistency. No matter where a customer looks – web, print, signage, broadcast media – they will see the same logo and color scheme. You understand that this consistency is a comfort. It reinforces the thoughts and feelings you want to invoke.
But where does content marketing fit in?
CONTENT CAN BE A SCARY WORD
Once someone throws the word content into the marketing discussion, you start to sink into your chair. Content production feels burdensome, like something separate from the branding conversation.
But it isn’t a separate conversation. Those same design principles that drive your brand design should be driving your content design as well.
Why produce content? Because it’s all branding. It’s all based on a foundational design you are using to reinforce the message about who you are, and why you matter to your audience.
WHY YOU STRUGGLE WITH CONTENT
So maybe, you start to think, your content goals (like that video series you want to produce or the new photography you want to incorporate into your content calendar) don’t have to feel extraneous. Maybe they can reinforce the rest of your marketing strategy.
Now you have to figure out how to execute your ideas, despite all the obstacles you see standing in your way:
You don’t have the time.
Maybe you’re analyzing your last campaign, executing the current one and planning the next over multiple media. Or maybe you run a small business and barely have time to call your Comcast sales rep back, let alone create blog posts.
You don’t have the people.
You’re lucky if the person assigned to social media puts out two posts per week on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, let alone evaluating content design. Maybe that person is you.
You don’t have the budget.
Hiring a quality freelance photographer/videographer can be expensive. So can losing business because of mistakes made by an unskilled, full- or part-time content producer. Will stock photography be good enough, you wonder?
The solution is not (necessarily) to spend more time, hire more people, or overspend on content production.
Instead, you must first revisit the original brand design to come up with a set of rules to follow for content production.
Once you have that, execution will be much easier.
HOW THIS WORKS IN LARGE ORGANIZATIONS: PURDUE POLYTECHNIC
Purdue Polytechnic opened its Anderson campus in January 2017. Their marketing team recognized that they could use some help from a local design firm to help them connect Anderson and surrounding communities with the Purdue brand.
With Matt Gallegos’ help, Anderson Creative got to work immediately on creating the rulebook for all campaigns to come: a branding guide to connect the Purdue Polytechnic brand with its new audience.
“To have a successful campaign, you have to have a series of small successes. You have to be strategic to appropriately direct people’s interaction with the brand,” Matt said. “For Purdue Polytechnic, those small successes were their events.”
The first event was called Make Like a Girl, a workshop designed to get more women involved in technology. Anderson Creative’s first step was research to define the target audience, their age range, their interests.
“We built a logo that was based on blueprints, 3D printing, CAD, using Purdue’s branded colors. We created a brandig guide for the event. That’s standard, a lynchpin of our strategy,” Matt said. “Incorporating photography is next level.”
Matt applied the branding principles, the rules for establishing a connection with the target audience with original artwork, to his content production.
“When I provided them with a photo for publication, the style was consistent, even though they were taken at different times. I had a set of parameters – color schemes, clarity, contrast – to evoke a subtle, futuristic, sci-fi vibe.
“The goal was that if you saw any of these photos without the title, you would know who posted it (Purdue Polytechnic) and what it’s about (Make Like a Girl), just from the consistent style,” Matt said.
Consistent design that connects the audience with the why at every point of exposure delivers results. In the case of the Make Like a Girl Workshop, attendance tripled over the previous year, among other success indicators.
All because the foundation was laid first. When you have a branding guide that incorporates rules for content production, social media becomes every bit as core to your marketing plan as everything else.
SMB? SAME SOLUTION: COFFEE SHOPS
Matt drinks a lot of coffee in his travels. It’s only natural that when he pontificates on the importance of content design for small businesses, his favorite example is the coffee shop.
“One hundred percent of the time, after I find a coffee shop on Google, I will check out its Instagram feed. I get a look at the inside of the store. If they can communicate their environment in an enticing way, I’ll go there. If not, I’ll go somewhere else,” Matt said.
The only difference between Matt and the average coffee-goer is that he is aware of the image elements that are turning him off. Most consumers will move on without quite knowing why.
“Many owners think, if I put an image on the internet, I’ll get more customers. So they take a picture of coffee and post it, without understanding how to make it look appetizing.
“They also don’t take the character of the environment into account. Is it a quick place to pick things up? Or is it a chill environment? You’ll use sharper or softer tones to communicate that,” Matt said.
But you don’t have time, skilled personnel, or the money to hire a photographer to do it right. It’s easy to throw up your hands and give up.
The solution is simpler than you think.
All you need is a branding design guide to govern, in simple terms, how to produce content that is consistent with your brand.
All that remains is to scale down your expectations for how much you’re going to produce.
Once he convinces small business owners not to hire him to take photos and video for them, because it would be overinvesting in photography, Matt instead helps them create this guide so they are equipped to do it themselves.
“You can set simple parameters to maintain consistency. You can tell someone on staff with an iPhone, ‘This is the filter we use, this is the type of photo you can take,’ then have them take those photos at whatever schedule is attainable. It’s the same with video, for the most part,” Matt said.
START WITH THE FOUNDATION
To be successful in building a following, creating loyalty and ultimately driving revenue, you must stay focused. Don’t ask why you’re doing content. Remember why you exist, and then build your content on that foundation.
The tool that helps you build on that foundation is your brand design guide, your content rulebook. Use it religiously, and every photo you take, every video you shoot, every point of exposure your audience has with your brand will consistently drive home the message you want to deliver.
This is who we are. This is why we matter.
And don’t let them forget it.