Outside Insight: Archant’s Craig Nayman tells us how local brands can connect with consumers through the power of storytelling


We’re being bombarded with content, but are we taking it all in? Craig Nayman, Chief Commercial Officer at Archant, says the regional press can achieve cut-through and help brands secure local engagement across the country.

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Since the beginning of time, humanity’s entire survival and evolution has been dependant on passing on and sharing local information and survival tips with each other through the art of storytelling. The power of storytelling allows us to engage with others and create meaningful connections. However, despite us living in an increasingly connected world, it is becoming more challenging for us to build meaningful local engagement and connections through storytelling than it was when all we had at our disposal were earth pigments and a cave wall.

With a predicted 75 billion connected devices by 2020 it will soon be undeniably easier to for our cars to connect with traffic lights and to talk to our kitchen appliances than it will be for brands to reach real humans through the medium of storytelling. The deafening volume of content noise will continue to make it harder for brands to build dialogue, engage and communicate effectively at a local and hyper-local level across an ever increasing number of channels, so it is vital to find a way to cut through this noise.

Technological advancements increase consumers’ expectation for further connectivity and instant access to relevant and uniquely valuable content, but yet the digital world is a world in which brands can no longer control how, when or even if their content is being read at all. We can see if the content has been viewed but that is a long way from knowing if our content has been truly engaged with.

We know from studies by the likes of Buzz Sumo, Chartbeat and Buzzfeed that even if an article has been clicked on, or even shared on social media, it has not necessarily been read, let alone achieved any genuine levels of engagement. Unread content leaves the brand story untold, and as human beings we need to ‘feel’ the story before we can connect.    

Brands need people to visibly respond to their content so they know a connection has been made. There is a real opportunity for brands to harness the relationships that local media has built. At Archant, we have responded by placing less prominence on page views and ensuring the emphasis is on levels of reader engagement for the stories we tell.  

In order to do this, we have built a scalable ‘content engine’ that can publish uniquely valuable local content that connects and drives real engagement at local and hyper local level.

The nature of the brands we work with at Archant has led to a refreshed editorial policy, which now sees our editors and journalists viewing stories in context of the wider Archant portfolio – what works for London24, our digital-only brand in the capital, might have to be packaged in a different way for the Ilford Recorder, for example.

In this way, we can make one article relevant to 50 different communities by telling 50 different stories – by targeting content to the relevant community, we can form better engagement with distracted consumer readers. This demonstrates the power of local engagement and works in the same way for commercial partners and national brands. We can make our content scalable on a national level, but with a local touch.

Using tools including Brandwatch and NodeXL in our work at Archant, we are able to map and visualise the crowd that forms around any given topic or single article giving us the ability to identify patterns in the content path person by person, enabling us to identify and directly engage with the influencers, bridges and amplifiers in any given local community on any given topic. This demonstrates how we can use the power of storytelling through local brands to connect with our consumers, and thus form deeper connections.

As the content strategy develops, so does our scalable commercial offering. There are plenty of opportunities for brands to achieve local engagement across the country. This is an exciting proposition, and taps into our core human instinct for storytelling.

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