Earlier this week, Coca-Cola declared the corporate website dead.
Take one quick look at their new corporate website and I think you will see an example of the future of quality content marketing. They are clearly displaying how the art of storytelling not only can influence our preference for a brand or product, but surely their intent is to also reach a search engine position of respect and power.
Sure, maybe many of Google’s widely discussed big algorithm changes this year with Panda and Penguin — which Neil Patel calls out in his post “How Google’s Move to 100% (Not Provided) Helps You Become a Much Better Marketer” — may have something to do with Coca-Cola placing so much focus on quality content.
But they have accomplished something big, and that is successfully turning their corporate Web site into something that looks more like an online news channel and less like a company Web site. Whether you want to make this shift yourselves, there’s a significance taking place here that’s worth noting. They have given their brands an amazing opportunity to use their Web site to turn readers into fans and customers simply by sharing their point of view.
Coca-Cola’s approach begs the question: Will the future of all corporate Web sites rely on a publishing model that looks more like The New York Times, USA Today, Huffington Post or the entire TechMeme leaderboard — compared to a traditional corporate Web site?
If Coca-Cola is right and the corporate Web site is dead, marketing’s world just got rocked into requiring more of a narrative mindset where brands must become great, fast-paced storytellers.
This is great for PR, since we’re in the business of storytelling. But there is absolutely no way any one team can be a sole driver of strategy or execution, nor should they want to be. If anyone says they can do it all, they don’t grasp the full workload or they are going to require big budgets. That would be the equivalent to thinking websites like TechCrunch, Wired, GeekWire, etc. happen on their own — purely based on the narrative power of reporters. Yes, it’s the reporter’s narrative that wins the hearts of the audience, but an amazing team is behind them pulling many levers.
Similarly, any brand going down the Coca-Cola route will require an ‘all hands on deck’ approach. Not only must everyone agree that content is king. But like Coca-Cola says “content is social at the core, digital by design, and emotional.” I would also add the importance of creating a bond with the customer and acting intelligently on data at the center of every published item.
That means the Web site template of — “About Us, In the News, Services, Products, Contact Us, FAQ, a Search Box, Blog, Shopping Cart” — will no longer work. Obviously, Coca-Cola’s model isn’t for everyone. But for the market segments where it will work—likely retail, consumer tech and some B2B—we all have to start thinking more like publishers, reporters, bloggers, reviewers and authors.
It also means we need to focus and excel in our core areas of expertise and understand the challenges faced by our marketing peers, even if that means collaborating more closely with other agencies that today might seem more like competition. We need to understand the talent and time required to write several quality posts a day.
We need to understand broader marketing challenges taking place where pay-per-click and search engine optimization competition is getting bigger everyday. We need to understand the struggle to spend enough money to generate positive return on investment out of advertising, how hard it is to create viral content, how time consuming it is to leverage social media, and the difficulty of creating a storyline that secures the interest of reporters when they receive 50+ pitches daily.
Basically, pulling off Coca-Cola’s content marketing strategy requires amazing alignment where everyone is equally obsessed with the power of the narrative and the lines of ownership are made clear. It will require someone who can play the role of editor-in-chief who understands all the moving pieces and how to weave them together, but also a team of amazing writers, storytellers, SEO, social media, community managers, and software developers who are marching to the tune of an integrated content marketing beat.
In addition, it requires knowing how to work with people outside the walls of your company who are known to be great storytellers and strong leaders.
Take for example this week: Wired editor-in-chief Scott Dadich outlined why they pulled in Bill Gates to explore new storytelling possibilities.
Not just anyone can attract Bill Gates to help get the storytelling juices flowing, but you can invite plenty of relevant guests within your industry to contribute content that adds incredible value. If you open up writing opportunities to more people in your company, you will also find your content bench to be very deep.
In the end, if Coca-Cola is right, and I think they are for many industries, we all need to figure out who should be on the team and define their roles and responsibilities. We all need to understand that content marketing is a living and breathing ecosystem that will flourish or perish based on how well we put the power of the narrative at the center of the strategy and how well we work together.
If Coca-Cola is an example of corporate Web sites being dead, then long live the new corporate Web site.
Michele Mehl is the co-founder of Buzz Builders, a Seattle public relations firm.