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Speaker Snapshot: Jessica Novak, Director, Content Strategy, Zoe Media Group

How to preserve your brand identity and effectively reach your audiences

12Jul

Jessica is the Director of Content Strategy at Zoe Media Group, the digital media division of Rachel Zoe, Inc., where she leads growth, optimization, and social strategy across editorial and video. Prior to ZMG, Jessica led the content strategy team at Refinery29, where she partnered with editorial to drive triple-digit traffic growth over the last three years and spearheaded the creation of the Refinery29 Intelligence blog. Jessica comes from the startup world and speaks about data-driven content, video strategy, and viral content.

What do you think are the main components of a successful brand strategy?

A successful brand strategy plays at the intersection of a brand identity and understanding your audience through data. You need both a strong sense of who you are and a strong external radar, to play in the conversations that are most relevant and important to your readers, while also being able to offer a strong value proposition and engaged audience to advertisers. It’s a constant balancing act. At the end of the day, the strongest brands are able to clearly articulate a reason behind everything they do that ties closely back to their brand identity.

What challenges do you face when building brand strategy in 2016?

Data and social media have turned an audience into somewhat of a commodity, so it’s tempting to try to win the audience for audience’s sake. The challenge is in choosing which conversations to play in, even if it means having to say no sometimes, to preserve your brand. On the flip side, the digital space is constantly changing, so brands need to be nimble and willing to evolve with their customers. The challenge is distinguishing the signal from the noise, and knowing which signals are worth listening to.

How can companies remain agile with their brand, and adjust quickly to changing market tastes and emerging communication channels?

Being agile isn’t so much about adopting a different brand identity on different channels, as it is learning to communicate in the language native to different social platforms. Adapting content formats and language is key to reaching new audiences where they are, and tailoring content to meet the needs of different consumers according to a platform, time of day, and intent is the key to standing out. You can’t be afraid to test new things and try something different. Listen to your audience.

How important is social media for brand strategy? How difficult is it to maintain a strong brand identity when you have to maintain a presence on so many different channels?

Social media is the new homepage, and distributed platforms are where the conversations are happening. If you don’t have a presence on social media, your message isn’t getting out there, no matter how strong your brand is. Brands with strong cross-platform strategies change up their messaging in form, not in substance. Adapt to the language of the medium, but don’t reinvent yourself for every new channel. Also, if a channel isn’t on brand for you, don’t use it.

What will you be discussing in your presentation?

I'll be discussing the journey of The Zoe Report from a purely fashion and beauty site to a lifestyle brand, from the conversations we chose to play in (and those we strategically chose to skip), to how we used data to inform our editorial direction. Having an influential person as our Editor in Chief, added an additional layer as well. Our strategy had to make sense from a growth standpoint, it had to be on brand, and it had to reflect well on Rachel. I'll also talk about distributed video and Facebook live, and how different platforms have been instrumental in growing our audience.

You can hear more from Jessica and other industry leaders at the Brand Strategy Innovation Summit, taking place in Los Angeles this September 15 & 16th.

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