Target’s ‘Show Don’t Sell’ Content Strategy

Social media has forced brands to be transparent because consumers now want to know more about the companies they patronize. That means the pressure is on for brands to develop a robust content strategy that tells their story.

Eighteen months ago, Target quietly began “A Bullseye View” as its “online magazine.” The site is meant to tell the stories behind Target’s products, events, partnerships and other happenings at the company. One thing it doesn’t do: pitch products. Instead, the site adopts the old journalism mantra, now co-opted by public relations: show, don’t tell. 

“We’ll never write about a specific product, but we will do a post on tips around decorating a home with our newest collection, for example,” said Eric Hausman, senior group manager of PR and social media at Target. “We’ve also done pieces around how a product came to life. It’s less promotional and subtle and makes ‘A Bullseye View’ more of a lifestyle site.”

Last year, the site did an interview with interior decorator Nate Berkus on why he chose Target and also what inspired him for the collection. Target has also tapped into Web-wide trends like nostalgia. Last year, Target wrote a piece that was a retrospective of what Target was like 50 years ago. The story was shared 1,500 times on “A Bullseye View.” The content isn’t exactly hard hitting and clearly sticks to promoting themes Target wants to push, but it’s not exactly boring either.

There are lines, of course. In addition to the no-hard-sell philosophy, Target tries to get out of the way of the experts it has marketing relationships with, including designers, decorators, makeup artists and celebrities.

Target’s digital agency, Group SJR, writes the content for the site. Target PR has editorial meetings once a week to discuss what’s going on at the company. The content is typically planned two to four weeks in advance. However, holidays and other important times of the year, like Black Friday, for example, are planned months in advance. In fact, Target is already talking about Christmas 2013.

“A Bullseye View” gets about 100,000 unique visitors each month, according to the company. Target takes a broader view of the metrics, however, taking into account content that spills over into news outlets. Hausman claims that a video that Target did last year featuring its CEO led to a Fast Company profile on the company.

The content strategy is complemented with an influencer program. Fashion bloggers like Katie Hurley and Gina Homolka will write Target-infused posts on their own blogs and also occasionally write for “A Bullseye View.” They cover design partnerships, style makeovers, store openings and community events. Target is currently working with 16 bloggers.

“The entire brand ecosystem is moving towards building relationships with consumers through various means like content and social media,” Hausman said. “We aren’t moving away from selling, per se. ‘A Bullseye View’ is our way to build relationships that will eventually lead to sales. Consumers want to connect with brands. They want to understand who we are and what our stories are.”

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