Strategies & Tactics

Moving From the Pressroom to a Storytelling Hub

March 4, 2019

[joy scott/ikon images]
[joy scott/ikon images]

As communicators today, we are digital ninjas, armed with powerful insights gleaned from a modern toolkit of measurement. We continue to steward company reputation — we can measure swiftly and precisely what people think of our brand and how effective our communications are — and we’re keeping pace with the changing ingredients of what defines reputation. As we forge ahead at Lenovo using data-informed reputation measurement, we’re seeing a new trend develop.

The innovative, high-quality products and services you make are no longer enough. You need to go beyond “table stakes” to build and maintain a strong reputation based on who you are, how you make society better or why you support certain causes.

At Lenovo, we’ve always believed this, but now we have the data to prove it. Operating in more than 160 countries with dual headquarters in the U.S. and Beijing, we see firsthand how different countries value different attributes that define reputation, arming us with the information we need to craft communications strategy tailored to each market.

While reputation is a constantly shifting paradigm, what isn’t changing is the channel driving reputation the most: owned media. Communicators, this is our opportunity to tell a story about our company using our owned channels by moving from the pressroom model of the “announcement of the day” to a human-centered, storytelling hub.

And that’s what we’re doing with Lenovo StoryHub. By drilling a level deeper through stories, we’re showing the people who created the products, how they use them and how we’re personally impacting society through technology. This is how we’re starting to connect with audiences in a way that resonates with them.

From the beginning, we defined our storytelling platform as a reputation-building tool that sits at the top of the marketing funnel to drive awareness for the company and increase engagement. Our guiding framework is to make the user experience as open and easy-to-access as popular technology news websites, without the ads.

While we knew a journalistic publication was the right thing for us to do, putting it into practice took vision, patience and resilience. Here are some of the lessons that we’ve learned along the way that I hope will help you in your own newsroom transformation:

1. Clearly define your objectives. Educating and aligning stakeholders across the organization can be challenging. Moving from one way of doing business to another takes time, and not everyone immediately buys into it. Change often requires people to do something different, to stop what they were doing and to do more work. You’re not always popular as a disruptor, but if you have a clear vision and objectives, then it inspires confidence and people begin to follow.

2. Do your homework. Benchmark against others. Talk to people at companies within — and outside — your industry who are creating the type of stories you want to tell. Let them help you save time and effort by giving advice on what works and what doesn’t work. Understand how they built their strategy, aligned resources and gauged success in order to help you plan.

3. Show your content contributors what good looks like. We created templates and toolkits to train teams on how to create stories, not press releases. We held sessions to educate them and walk through how to find a more human-centric angle and how to think about story- mining. Only when we started holding monthly editorial board meetings and showing content that performed well did we see greater understanding. You have to know before you can do. And we had to show before we could gain support.

4. Plan your resources accordingly. Resources need to be aligned to your objectives, whether you have a dedicated team or are relying on others to contribute content or aligned KPIs. Assess the capabilities in your organization and those you can leverage. Storytelling is different than writing a press release, and readers expect non-text-based materials like videos and podcasts. Decide whether you’ll build your own reporting team or distribute it by using resources in other areas. Your resources go hand-in-hand with your content strategy.

5. Have a unique content strategy. Just as your brand is unique, your content strategy should be too. We are moving to balance everyday content to keep the site fresh with more strategic content mapped to events, milestones, thought leadership and more. We initially focused on the number of stories per month and quickly realized that our expectations on generating content didn’t fit with our resources. 

6. Make sure that your design and functionality intersect with objectives and content strategy. Before you think about design, get a good idea of your publication frequency and the type of content you’re creating. We underestimated our ability to keep video fresh and, in our next redesign, we won’t have a video carousel that reinforces this gap. Users need to see compelling graphics, so plan to capture editorial photos, and avoid using stock photography. Choose a platform with a high degree of flexibility so you can easily make changes.

7. Create an experience. If you want to change perception, then give your readers an emotional experience. Use design, imagery and all the elements of storytelling to build something memorable. This can manifest across a distinct and dynamic homepage or deep in the details of a dramatic profile. Not every story can be immersive or emotionally charged, but build those opportunities into your content calendar as they have a longer shelf life and can showcase your platform at its best.

8. Define metrics that matter to you. You can measure lots of things, but pick a few that you care about. Track them over time and show how they fit into marketing the organization’s goals. If your goal is awareness, then grow the number of new visitors month-over-month. If you’re focused on driving visitors down the sales funnel, then measure the leads generated from the site. Survey your readers to understand why they liked a story — marry the qualitative feedback with the quantitative analytics to get a full picture of your program.

Kristy Fair Ballentine

Kristy Fair Ballentine directs global communications for Lenovo. She loves the variety of work that comes in such a fast-paced environment as the global smart-device industry. Her role takes her from creating strategic communications programs to managing crises and issues in the media, launching some of the company’s most important products, and helping build the brand.

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