How Brands Are Borrowing From Publishers' Toolkits

Mercedes, Purina, Weight Watchers Among Those Using Editorial Calendars as Storytelling Blueprints

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It's hard to have a conversation in advertising circles today without hearing about "content," the du-jour buzzword for brands that want to engage their consumers via storytelling that doesn't fit into the TV-commercial or print-ad format.

To get there, marketers are increasingly borrowing tricks of the trade from the publishing world. And one basic tool, the edit calendar, has seen a real uptick in adoption by marketers such as Mercedes Benz, Nestle Purina and Weight Watchers, who are using it to organize where and how they distribute content over social-media channels.

"The big "a-ha' for marketers is that you have to think of your social presence as a calendar of editorial events that are dynamic and living," said Razorfish CEO Bob Lord.

Mr. Lord has observed a steady uptick in companies realizing that it's not enough to be on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook; they require a program to manage their presence. Lack of organizational processes for content creation could mean missing out on valuable opportunities to engage with consumers about a limited-time sale for retailers, a new car launch for automakers or for networks building buzz about a new TV show.

"The need here has gone from "Go get me a million fans on my Facebook page' to "Oh my God, I have a fanbase, and how do I keep them interested and engaged with content?' An editorial calendar is a blueprint that 's an expression of the brand's social voice," Mr. Lord said.

Eric Jillard, department manager, digital marketing and customer relationship management at Mercedes-Benz USA, said the edit calendar is a fundamental part of the carmaker's social-media program.

"On nearly every day of the year there is something going on, somewhere in the world of Mercedes-Benz, that we believe our passionate and engaged audience might be interested in hearing about," said Mr. Jillard. "But we cannot bombard them with messaging ... we have to be judicious in selecting the right variety of content that we hope will inform, entertain, surprise and delight."

Still, a calendar can be complex, especially for large global marketers. Mercedes, which plans its calendar a year in advance, jokingly refers to it as a "bedsheet calendar" since a printout would be as long as a bedsheet.

It is divided into three sections: one related to Mercedes-Benz launch dates, new innovations, and stories related to cars' performance, safety, innovation, and design; a second that aggregates all the dates from its various events; and a third related to important dates in the Mercedes-Benz history dating back more than 125 years.

While some clients are creating their calendars internally, but it's also a growing sector of business for agencies like Razorfish and Dachis Group. Said Mr. Lord: "To give you a sense of the growth, it's probably a 50% growth rate for us -- the need is absolutely there."

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