That would be an accurate description, though, of one of the latest content marketing projects I worked on. The feature story on Strictly Bicycles, a Ft. Lee, NJ, bike shop shown on the page above, is the first in a four-part series created by American Express OPEN Forum, the website for small business, to showcase successful local companies.
What’s new in content marketing writing
Content marketing writing may have started out as SEO-driven blog posts. But in the past couple years it’s evolved to being much more, including long-form narrative multimedia storytelling – in plain English, that’s feature stories told through text, pictures, graphics and video.
The OPEN Forum series on successful local merchants launched to coincide with Small Business Saturday, a promotion American Express started a few years ago to encourage holiday shoppers to visit local retailers the day after Black Friday.
I was managing editor on the project, assigning and editing stories and managing the contributors, including writers, videographers and photographers. A design team OPEN worked with built a new section of the website for the project.
The story, by award-winning journalist Amy Cortese, shares how Strictly Bicycles has become a community hub for cyclists in the greater New York City/northern New Jersey area – a detail that’s highlighted by a map showing a bike route popular with cyclists who frequent the shop.
Eric Ryan Anderson, a New York-based photographer and videographer, produced the images and video. What the story package doesn’t include is any mention of American Express (although in the video, Strictly Bicycles owner Nelson Gutierrez does briefly mention participating in Small Business Saturday). The only links to the company are the OPEN Forum logo at the top of the page, and a small Small Business Saturday logo near the end of the piece.
Other big companies are doing this level of content marketing storytelling as well. Energy drink maker Red Bull created an in-house media division, called Red Bull Media House. According to an editorial in the November/December 2014 Columbia Journalism Review, companies like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Chipotle and Volkswagen and are shifting more money away from traditional marketing, public relations and TV advertising and into content marketing programs of various types.
As they do, expect to see more of the kind of long-form storytelling that OPEN is doing with the local merchants series, which in turn, will provide more opportunities for freelancers willing and able to do the work.