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Ben Baer

Executive Editor at Fast Company

At the heart of Fast Company’s culture lies good storytelling. Editorial’s best practices in entertaining, educating and engaging readers have made their way into branded content. After all, both speak to the same audience.

“Our audience expects stories to be told,” says Ben Baer, executive editor at Fast Company. “It’s about sharing thought leadership, not just selling something.”

Telling stories isn’t as simple as putting pen to paper. Fast Company’s content studio leverages data analytics to understand what kinds of stories resonate well. Content marketers work closely with social media and consumer marketing teams to figure out why some stories are more successful than others.

A poorly performing story, for instance, might not have itself to blame. Did the headline miss the mark? Or maybe the story wasn’t promoted well. False signals show up, too. A high-performing story might have done well because of a marketing push that isn’t repeatable with other stories. 

Stories need to match the form and platform they’re distributed on as well, which can be challenging with so many channels available today. A story on Twitter, for instance, shouldn’t be the same story on Instagram. Podcasts, which appear to be making a comeback, must be distributed on social platforms that make sense for the medium.

“We’re seeing a maturity in the audio and podcasting space,” Baer says. “Because technology and platforms are giving rise to more opportunity to tell stories, podcasting is hot again... We’re looking at voice platforms and trying to find the sustainable strategy versus the one-off execution.”

Content marketers need to be focused and “not chase the newest, hottest thing,” Baer advises. While it’s good to experiment with different content forms and distribution channels, marketers should be careful where they put their dollars. It’s important to test regularly in the places where your audience clusters and consumes content.

Amid these challenges, there’s a silver lining for storytellers.

“A renaissance is happening because of the number of platforms that you can distribute your content on,” Baer says. “It’s a great time to be a content creator.”

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