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Timely, Newsworthy Images Will Be the Big Differentiator for Brands in 2013

In 2013, as the social media battleground becomes ever more fierce and competitive, and as brands vie for that all-important consumer attention, thinking like a media owner, and more to-the-point, a news outlet, is going to be the big differentiator for brands. Having the ability to create and publish timely, newsworthy content, as it happens, will help to create more of a level playing field between brands and publishers.

Most savvy brands out there already realise how important a strong content strategy is nowadays, for engaging with customers in a meaningful and relevant way. So much of the content that does best online is often associated with current news or highly relevant social issues. Nothing captures the here and now better than an image. This is why tweets using photos are six times more likely to be engaged with. The other advantage of images is that they are honest (if not tampered with!), they tend to be factually accurate, meaning faster sign-off and approvals processes, and they can be incredibly quick to produce.

Oreo’s Daily Twist campaign, to celebrate the brand’s 100th birthday, was a great example of a brand tapping into current and topical news and issues, in a very visual and timely way. For one hundred consecutive days it cleverly newsjacked a popular item within the news, creating a simple, striking image to represent the event. The content choices were designed to spark conversation and sharing.

“Current events tend to be of strong interest to our community," said Sarah Hofstetter, president of 360i, which formed part of Oreo’s integrated agency team. "The content performs at its best when the relevance and timeliness come together, so we're not too late to the meme.” Consumers are increasingly hungry for timely content, that’s delivered instantly. What format can better achieve that than the humble photograph?

Red Bull is frequently cited as a brand that’s embracing the opportunity to become a media owner. Its recent Stratos campaign, which saw one man successfully skydive from the edge of space, breaking the sound barrier - and various other records - on his way down, created a trailblazing media opportunity for Red Bull. At every stage, Red Bull gathered content, from the testing of suits and a meeting with the current world record holder, to meetings with NASA, and content was released regularly to its online community in a timely fashion.

At its core, this whole experiment was a commercial endeavour, but it simultaneously enabled Red Bull to become a media empire in its own right. Eight million tuned in across the world to watch the record breaking moment on YouTube. Red Bull's Facebook post-jump photo of Baumgartner gained almost 216,000 likes, 10,000 comments and over 29,000 shares within 40 minutes.

On a less dramatic scale, fashion etailer Net-a-porter has revealed that it will be publishing a major fashion magazine within the next 12 months. The retailer already has an online magazine and a tablet app, but has recently revealed that it has ambitions to compete on a much broader scale, and take on existing media owners in the fashion segment. This year the retailer has made some significant hires in the media space including the former group publishing director at Hearst Corp and the former editor of Harper’s Bazaar UK, who has assumed the newly created role of editor in chief of

Traditionally, brands have outsourced their content creation, but those, liked Red Bull, who embrace the opportunity to become media owners are likely to make similar moves to Net-a-porter.

Richard Sambrook, former director of global news for the BBC, told PR Week earlier in the year: “The forces shrinking traditional media are the same that are feeding opportunities in brands. There will be a transfer of skills from journalism into PR agencies and direct to firms.”

It’s certainly an interesting space to watch, and one that is likely to shakeup the brand and publishing sectors alike.

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