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April 4, 2017
Content Marketing  |  7 min read

Your Small Business is a Publisher—Here's How to Think Like One

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James A. Martin

Does your small business have a blog? A Facebook page? An email newsletter? 

Congrats. You’re a publisher. But are you thinking like one? 

“The new publishing model on the web is not about hype and spin and messages,” writes David Meerman Scott in his book "The New Rules of Marketing & PR." “It is about delivering content when and where it is needed and, in the process, branding you or your organization as a leader.” To accomplish this, you must “think like a publisher,” Scott adds. 

Small business owners already have a lot on their plates. So why on Earth add "be a publisher" to your endless list of priorities? Simple: When you think like a publisher—by developing an editorial mission and regularly producing great content that aligns with your mission—you can grow your customer base and become an even bigger business. 

There are plenty of examples of small businesses that grew big by regularly producing great content, including Dollar Shave Club and Blendtec. Here’s another: During the Great Recession, River Pools and Spas, a Virginia-based small business, struggled to survive. Within a few years, the company was thriving, thanks to its blog that answered customer questions, as well as other content the company produced. Ultimately, River Pools and Spas became known not just for pools but for publishing, even garnering coverage for its content marketing prowess from The New York Times

How do you think like a publisher? Here are seven best practices and tips, plus resources, to get you started. 

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1. Develop an editorial mission

Your business has (or should have) a mission. Likewise, your publishing efforts should have a mission, too. Your editorial mission should identify target audiences; what content you will publish (whether it’s an email newsletter, blog posts, or something else); and what the intended outcome is for the audience. 

Example: Digital photography enthusiast Darren Rowse runs the Digital Photography School online, which has a clearly articulated editorial mission statement: To publish “a website with simple tips to help digital camera owners get the most out of their cameras.” It’s a good model because it’s concise, clear, and specific. 

2. Differentiate your editorial focus

Your competitors are most likely publishers, too. But what are they not publishing? Is there content you can offer—and that no one else is offering—that will engage your core audiences? What knowledge do you and your team have that your target audiences could benefit from (or be entertained by?) The answers to these questions will help you develop your editorial mission statement. 

3. Create an editorial calendar aligned to your editorial mission

A publisher produces content regularly, whether it’s two blog posts per week, multiple Facebook updates daily, a monthly email newsletter, or all the above. To plan and organize your content, you need an editorial calendar. And along with the basics, such as target audience(s), keywords to optimize for, and publication dates, your calendar should include the desired outcomes for each piece of content. The outcome, aligned with your editorial mission, should focus on what you’re trying to teach your target audience with each piece of content, says Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute

4. Publish consistently

It’s not enough to publish content regularly. You should also do it consistently, especially with blogs, podcasts, and videos. Audiences will know what to expect and, if you’re delivering great content, will know when to seek out your latest updates. In tactical terms, this means your goal isn’t simply to update a blog twice a week but to update it, say, every Tuesday and Thursday at 9 a.m., Pulizzi recommends. 

5. Develop a stable of content creators

Small business owners often don’t have time to consistently, regularly create content. But chances are, there are a few people on your team with something to say, expertise to share, and the desire to build their online profiles. These are the people you want to designate as content creators. But as any publisher would, give them a clear idea of their assignments, access to resources and information, and most importantly, deadlines.   

6. Focus

There are so many different types of digital content you can produce today—blog posts, e-books, email newsletters, YouTube videos, Facebook Live videos. The downside? It’s easy to lose focus. To succeed as a publisher as well as a small business, focus on being great at one type of content, advises Pulizzi, whether it’s blog posts with images, videos, podcasts, or something else. Use other types of media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to publicize that content.  

7. Understand there’s no end date

Marketers say that only about 30 percent of their content efforts succeed in their goals, Pulizzi notes. Why? Because the companies behind those efforts are focused on developing content marketing campaigns, and campaigns always have an end date. But publishing never ends, he adds. It can take a long time to build an audience and, from there, to convert that audience into customers and those customers into advocates. 

So, if you’re going to think like a publisher, stop thinking about campaigns that come and go. Instead, think long-term. Create great content. Stay focused. And above all, give your audience value—so that, in turn, your business will gain value from its publishing efforts. 

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Publishing resources 

Here are a few resources that can enhance your publishing efforts: 

  • WordPress.org offers free content-management system software and layout templates for blogs and websites. Plus, there are plenty of free (or inexpensive) WordPress plug-ins that add more functionality. Yoast SEO, for instance, helps optimize your content for search engines. 
  • Stock photos add visual interest to blog posts and other content. Some sites with free or affordable images to consider include Shutterstock, Flickr, and Wikimedia Commons
  • Video clips from YouTube can often be embedded for free in blog posts. Also, many large companies have "newsrooms" or "media centers" where you can download video clips of their products to use in your articles.

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