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Several content marketing and communications experts claim the Australian Labor Party’s contentious decision to launch a ‘Labor Herald’ news service could be a winning brand exercise provided it is backed up by a strong, long-term strategy.
In an email to supporters yesterday, national secretary, George Wright, revealed the ALP’s intention of launching its own news information service and called for donations in order to hire editorial resources.
Describing the Labor Herald as “Labor’s own Crikey”, Wright said the daily bulletin will feature party and community facts, articles and video content, as well as the best content submitted by the public.
According to Wright, the party has significantly grown its online community over the last 18 months, with 10 times the number of people now involved than in mid-2012, but said it was time to do more. He cited the opportunity to deliver ALP’s key messages without mass media filtering as a major driver for launching a dedicated news service, and said the Labor Herald will be “no nonsense”.
“You’ve told us you want more factual information about what Tony Abbott and his government are doing and you want the opportunity to have your say,” Wright stated in his communication to supporters. “You’ve told us that you can see the Labor message isn’t making it through the mainstream media and we have to produce our own news service.
“I agree. The catch is we don’t get the big corporate donations the Liberal Party gets and we need to hire someone experienced as an editor so we can do this properly. It’ll be their job to write useful, interesting articles for the site on issues like cuts to pensions and the Commission of Audit.”
Founder and CEO of Australian content marketing agency King Content, Craig Hodges, said the ALP’s plans highlights how brand of all shapes and sizes – even political ones – need to work out ways to better engage with audiences and consumers.
“We believe that best way to do it – and so it seems does the ALP – is to engage in content marketing and use journalists to tell those stories,” he told CMO. “But I would sound a note of caution: It would be great to be less reactionary and develop a solid strategy to maximise donations for the position.”
Hodges also highlighted the ALP’s reference to developing its own ‘crikey’ as an example of the growing trend for brands to invest in their own channels for communication and engagement.
“This in essence is the idea of brands becoming publishers and developing content that drives engagement on the ‘owned’ assets rather than renting space on someone else's media,” he said.
Director at Sydney-based content marketing agency Edge, Fergus Stoddart, believed Labor’s content plans to be exactly what it should be doing.
“From a content perspective it’s the most obvious play for them since there’s such passion in politics,” he said. “A strategy like this will leverage this passion and create a voice using a central resource that can curate opinion in one place and then use it as a source of influence.”
Stoddart predicted the industry will start seeing this news-led approach to content distribution grow in scope, and cited similar trends particularly among cause-related marketing initiatives.
“There is a shift away from relying on relying on traditional media to share a brand’s messages towards using content platforms that embrace connected consumers and owned content,” he continued.
“One form of this is brand newsrooms. Put simply, brand newsrooms are the answer to the real-time marketing challenge. Today, a brand can create their own media and distribute quality content that engages audiences much more easily and cheaply than ever before.”
But head of content at Sydney content marketing agency Storify, Lauren Quaintance, warned that ALP's success would come down its ability to earn credibility with constituents.
"To be successful the ALP will need to put the needs of their audience first and provide useful, credible information," she said. "Content marketing is not advertorial or PR puffery, but whether the ALP understands that remains to be seen."
CP Communications director, Catriona Pollard, agreed that if executed well, the Labor Herald could be a very successful step in rebuilding the Labor brand.
“When you have a cohesive content marketing strategy, it builds reputation and creates an atmosphere where conversations can take place. Labor needs that,” she commented. “Traditional media filters stories, so content marketing works for brands that need to own their messages and create community and ownership around their stories.”
The ALP is now looking for a news journalist with experience online to run the service, which Wright expected to cost about $95,000 year. To get things off the ground, he estimated the ALP will need 350 people to donate $22.60 a month.
“I believe it’s really important that we do this. We need our own news and we need a place where we can hear each other’s views,” he stated.
The news has already generated a flurry of comments on Twitter under the hashtag, #laborherald, as punters debated what the news service would cover, as well as joked about current and former politicians running its editorial ranks. Below, we share some of the more comical highlights:
Motoring columnist Kim Carr. Only Aussie-made cars will be reviewed. Limited life expectancy #laborherald— Matthew Knott (@KnottMatthew) April 30, 2014
Malcolm Turnbull: Foreign Correspondent. #LaborHerald— Jeremy Fernandez (@JezNews) April 30, 2014
Astrology with Bob Ellis #LaborHerald— Kimberley Ramplin (@Kimbo_Ramplin) April 30, 2014
Mark Latham answers your personal relationship issues. #LaborHerald— Bert Evatt (@DocEvatt) April 30, 2014
Lifestyle and Travel Features Editor Bob Carr #LaborHerald— Drew Sheldrick (@drewsheldrick) April 30, 2014