The Key Differences Between Brand Publishing and Content Marketing

If you’re in the marketing industry, you’re no doubt familiar with content marketing. You might also be familiar with the term “brand publishing.” Even if you’re not that familiar with it, you’ve probably heard it mentioned in passing once or twice.

Now, you might also be under the impression that these are interchangeable terms for the same thing—kind of like “pop” and “soda.” However, that’s not quite accurate. A better analogy would be squares and rectangles because all brand publishing is content marketing but not all content marketing is brand publishing.

Let’s explore the key difference between brand publishing and content marketing.

The Basics

Before we can start examining brand publishing’s relationship to content marketing, let’s establish what content marketing is. The Content Marketing Institute defines it as such:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

They also note that the benefits of this approach include: increased sales, cost savings and better, more loyal customers. This is attributed to the fact that quality content can be valuable and connect with people in ways that other forms of information cannot.

Ultimately, the difference between content marketing and brand publishing comes down to how you’re producing and distributing that relevant content. In PowerPost’s eBook the Brand Publishing Roadmap, we note several key distinctions of brand publishers:

  • They embrace the idea that they are a media company and adopt an organizational governance around the principles of journalism.
  • They rely on owned media channels to serve as the epicenter of all marketing communications.
  • They make an uncompromising commitment to consistently creating, publishing and promoting useful, entertaining and inspiring content to draw potential buyers closer to their brand.
  • They organize their operation to produce quality media at scale.
  • They commit to using data to inform all strategic decisions.

Now, we can delve into the three main distinctions further.

Journalistic Principles

The fundamental difference between the average content marketer and brand publisher, is that brand publishers treat their operation like a media company. That starts with hiring—specifically writers.

Brand publishers look for writers that have journalism degrees or experience as working journalists. These people have been trained to craft compelling narratives while also being beholden to objectivity, research and truth. These are also people who take sourcing and attention to detail seriously.

In an interview for PowerPost’s upcoming brand publisher series, Andy Crestodina says journalism is more than regular content. It has to meet standards of credibility and authority. This is done by including research from credible sources and also, when possible, by working with or quoting experts in the field.  

With that foundation, brand publishers are able to create quality, useful content that actually connects with their audiences—rather than insincere content that’s clearly selling something.  


Aside from writers versed in the principles of journalism, an editor or editors are also necessary for brand publishing. Again, you must meet a standard of credibility, which means a formalized review process. Content must be weighed and vetted if you’re going to establish yourself as an expert. If you’re just hitting “publish” without a second thought, it’s a sure way to water down the quality of your content. And, more importantly, it’s something a publisher would never do.

You’ll also require standard style guidelines much like a news organization. Kate Abrosimova, co-founder and CEO of Kaiiax, a copywriting agency, has this to say about it:

“Creating content without a style guide is like baking a pie without a recipe—especially true if you have a large team of writers and you need their collective work to look and sound like it comes from the same company.

A style guide is the bedrock of marketing communications for any brand that does marketing. It lays out a set of rules and writing standards that ensure your audience recognizes your brand in various formats across all channels.”

A style guide does more than keep content uniform, though. It also aids the content creation process by saving valuable time on writing and editing.

That’s how you create content as a brand publisher, but where does it go once you’ve created it?

Investment in Owned Media

As a brand publisher, your own blog, website, email newsletter or publication should be the center of all your marketing communications. Essentially, anything that you control without the involvement of third parties or paid promotion constitutes owned media.

Of course, many content marketers have blogs or other owned media. However, without brand publishing guidelines and procedures, they’re often updated infrequently and haphazardly with content obviously meant to benefit themselves—not the reader.

As consumers become more savvy and confront the realities of the digital age, owned media offers the best and most authentic way to connect with them. The Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising report has found that owned media is the second most trusted advertising format among respondents, with 70 percent saying they either somewhat or completely trust brand managed channels. This follows only recommendations from friends and family.

Your owned media also offers your audience a better experience. Rakuten Marketing’s recent survey showed that a majority of consumers, 82 percent, find too much advertising interruptive, “…Particularly ads that pop-up and cover content, pre-roll video ads and ads that are delivered through push notification.” This sentiment seems to account for the uptick in ad blocking, which continues to challenge marketers. According to the Association of Online Publishers, the median revenue loss attributed to ad blocking for publishers in the United Kingdom alone clocked in at $640,000 annually.

Considering this fatigue, brand publishers work to make their owned media a fundamental resource and regular destination for their audiences. Sometimes, this is accomplished without even focusing heavily on their own product. For instance, Red Bull is a perpetual example of quality brand publishing.

The company’s Red Bulletin magazine, and associated content efforts, doesn’t focus on energy drinks but the lifestyle and interests (action sports) associated with the product. A more contemporary example would be Harry’s and the Five O’Clock Magazine, which does cover men’s grooming but also focuses on fatherhood, community and culture.

With an investment in owned media, brand publishers control their own narrative, and in turn, their own success. But that quality content doesn’t appear out of thin air. Here’s how brand publishers plan their content:

Data-driven Strategy

Truly engaging in brand publishing requires a premeditated strategy that relies on solid data. This starts with SMART goals that are: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-oriented.

A SMART goal is not vague. Simply saying that you want to “generate more leads” is not especially helpful. Instead, a SMART goal would look like this: Generate 50 organic B2B leads per month for six months. Brand publishers use these SMART goals in tandem with data-driven content planning.

We use the term “content intelligence” to describe the use of content and social media tools that reveal analytics about specific websites, keywords, topics, authors, etc. The idea is simple enough: you employ digital tools to discover content that has gained traction as measured by search volume, links, social shares, or other desirable engagement metrics.

In fact, PowerPost’s platform has integrated content intelligence tools that measure share of voice and allow brand publishers to see what industry articles are over performing on social media. This saves them time and makes it easy to plan content around topics that they know will resonate.  

You should also use standard analytics tools such as Google Analytics to monitor your content once it’s been published. The customizable dashboards can tell you what pieces of content your readers are actually consuming and what they’re passing on.

A Group Apart

As you can see, brand publishers engage in content marketing…They just do it a little bit differently. Brand publishers go the extra mile to operate as a new organization might, while holding themselves to strict standards. In the end, this creates owned media that authentically connects with people and is genuinely entertaining and useful.

What do you see as the differences between brand publishing and content marketing? Let us know in the comments! If you’re interested in becoming a power publisher, sign up for our entertaining and always insightful webinars!

By | 2018-09-19T21:52:55+00:00 September 19th, 2018|Articles|0 Comments

Join Over 50,000 of your Peers!

Get weekly articles and news delivered to your email inbox and get PowerPost’s exclusive e-book The Five Pillars of Power Publishing!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Leave A Comment