Why the top brands are thinking like publishers

August 24, 2017

Written by NewsWhip
social media monitoring brands

Brands are staking out their own space, creating content alongside publishers. But why should brands bother investing in content themselves? Shouldn’t they leave that up to the publishers?

The answer is in the results. Just take a look at how GE’s brand newsroom compares to its competitors.

As we noted in our recent B2B report, 70 percent of people would rather learn about a brand through content rather than ads, and 68 percent of consumers feel more positive about a company after engaging with the brand’s content.

Even as brands and publishers build out their native channels, it’s still worth to building out your owned space. Content marketing leaders see 7.8 times more site traffic than non-leaders.

We looked at:

  • How globally acclaimed brands are creating owned content
  • How they stack up against top brand newsrooms
  • Key content strategies

As a starting point, we started out by looking at Interbrand’s list of top 100 brands. We used NewsWhip Analytics to analyze which of these brands’ websites drove the most Facebook likes, shares, comments, and reactions on their content in July 2017.

It’s no surprise that MTV, Disney, and Discovery all are in the top ten here. For them, content is their business.

The other names aren’t terribly surprising either. Apple, Google, Amazon, and eBay appear more on this list as platforms for other content, whether its iTunes songs, viral Google docs (and doodles!), or product listings.

Microsoft has emerged as a technological thought leader on social and surely its corresponding 41,610 LinkedIn shares for July attest to that.

Though not on the Interbrand list, there are other brands that are innovating and matching these engagements. Red Bull saw more than 186,000 Facebook engagements on its website content in July, and brands like World Bank (114,000) and airline KLM (32,000) drove notable numbers.

Despite being categorically different, there are clear winners that surface industry by industry. So, are there any broad strategies or tactics here that are making these brands so successful?
We analyzed some of these brand innovators to find out.

1. Find the emotions that work

While clickbait may be on its way out, “emotion-bait” has risen to take its place. There are key feelings that resonate on social media , and some are platform specific.

One that works particularly well is nostalgia. Nostalgia powered the top content for both Ferrari and Coca Cola in July. For Ferrari, a story on the 30th anniversary of a specific car drove more than 13,000 Facebook engagements.

Coca-Cola played to nostalgia as well, sharing the story behind its infamous 1960’s jingle.


There are other emotions that work on social very well too. Consider the success of the Dodo, LittleThings, and BuzzFeed Tasty (because hunger can definitely lead to some strong emotions!).

2. Build a community and go personal

As peer-to-peer sharing becomes more important in social algorithms, many publishers and brands are creating communities of super fans on social. These super fans can then become advocates and even content creators themselves.

REI has done well through creating content intended for like-minded outdoors enthusiasts. Through quizzes, personal stories, and relatable wilderness anecdotes, the brand saw more than 14,000 Facebook engagements this month. That might not seem like a lot, but compare to Dick’s Sporting Goods (78 engagements) and Columbia Sportswear (1,005 engagements).


Ancestry also has done a fantastic job of building community. Activating a niche group of genealogy hobbyists, the brand helps guide those new to exploring family history, and shares personal breakthroughs and triumphs.

3. Show them something different

Catching and keeping audiences’ attention can be challenging. That’s why showing them something out of the ordinary is so effective. For most of us who are glued to our desks and screens, Red Bull’s extreme stunts and thrill seekers can be just what’s needed to keep us hooked.

For KLM, the Dutch airline has been also appealing to readers’ curiosity. Through airplane mysteries, what it’s like to be a flying horse groom, and more, KLM turns its brand into a purveyor of intriguing facts and new technologies.

Another area of content that always seems to do well in our analyses is “futurology”. Stories about new technological innovations or marvels have allowed brands like GE and NASA to shine on social.

4. Inspire them 

Social media has the ability to fuel imaginations. Brands are honing in on this by creating inspirational content.
For Chase, this has come through creating travel guides. Though not directly related to Chase’s financial offerings, the content inspires readers as to what they can do.


Self-improvement is another engaging angle for social media. Everyone’s looking for easy tips to be their best selves. Even Dropbox saw its top blog post come from a list, “5 tasks you should stop doing”.

5. Be reactive

Reactive storytelling is becoming a crucial component of some brand newsrooms. For Reebok, this has allowed the brand to activate around some current stories and make a powerful impact toward the company’s perception and brand awareness.

The key thing is to only get involved when it makes sense for your brand and your audience. This past week’s solar eclipse is a great example of brands getting involved on a cultural conversation.


For NASA, it made perfect sense, but others found ways to join in too. Coca-Cola shared how to make an eclipse viewer, GE Reports explained behaviors during eclipses, and Columbia shared photography tips.

6. Be transparent

Gone are the days of advertising at your consumer. Social media demands full transparency.
More brands are sharing their company initiatives on their websites, and it pays off on social media. Coca-Cola saw more than 18,000 Facebook engagements on this story about investing in U.S. factories.


B2B brands now have an opportunity to dispel some of the mystery about their operations. IBM shares results, new partnerships, and philanthropical initiatives. Meanwhile, Cisco had its most engaging story in July come from sharing its research.

7. Be bigger than your brand

When it comes down to it, you don’t just need to know the unique value proposition of your brand’s product or services, but the UVP of your brand itself.

Many of the brands we shared are going beyond just their offerings. They’re thinking about their customers, what they care about, how they identify, and what would make an impact with them.
While most brands don’t see as many engagements as publishers, there’s a clear impact for those embracing content marketing now vs. their competitors. It’s time for more brands to think like publishers.
To find the best brand newsrooms across any industry, take a look into NewsWhip Spike.  

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