Special Report: The Brand's the Thing
If content branding is now essential and publishers need to step out into the limelight, the question becomes: How? Branding strategies are not universal. Nike—known for producing quality athletic apparel—doesn't brand themselves in the ways Virgin—known for daring and lofty business strategies—does. So what's right for today's (and tomorrow's) content producers?
Branding for Niche Publishers
Publishing houses and imprints with a clear focus on a niche—such as Chelsea Green Publishing (sustainable living), O'Reilly Media (software developers), Harvard Common (cooking, parenting) and so on—will have an easier time establishing themselves as experts than trade publishers or houses with varied lists. These niche-oriented publishers already have an extensive and targeted arsenal of content to draw upon to begin their brand-building. They already have defined audiences, defined content boundaries and a community of expert authors. Also, these publishing houses will not need to select a niche on which to focus at the exclusion of any others. They've serendipitously set themselves up in the same way the Internet has organized itself—by topic.
Shay Totten, communications director at Chelsea Green, a publisher focused on bringing the politics and practice of sustainable living to a broader audience, sees niche branding as the merging of content and company. "I think of branding very simply, which is that our [company] name and our books are synonymous with authentic content written by people who are practitioners in their respective area of expertise—not just writers who have become 'experts' by interviewing others. To me, the branding for a book publisher keeps you more engaged with your community of readers, writers and doers than if you just sat back and looked merely at what is selling and what is not."
In every step they make, Totten and the Chelsea Green crew consider their venerable brand. "At Chelsea Green, we think about branding from the metadata out to the [customer] in a bookstore. It's all about framing the message of the book, presenting the book that resonates a certain ethic and ethos that ties back to the mission, and to keep our name synonymous throughout.
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