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Brands as Real-Time Content Creators: Expected or Unrealistic?

by Ann Handley, Tim Washer  |  
February 19, 2013

In an inaugural segment of our video series improbably named "Better Marriage Through Big Data," we take on the idea of brands as real-time content creators, by looking at a fundamental question: In our newly social age, is it incumbent on brands to be always at the ready to respond—with content or with creative—to events as they happen, in real-time? Or is that an expectation that requires an unrealistic level of agility?

The background to our discussion is this: Last Tuesday, during the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address, Florida Senator Marco Rubio (his friends call him Paul, BTW) took a long draw of Poland Spring water. Almost instantly, that moment became a trending topic on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Poland Spring stayed silent. The brand's official Twitter accounts, @PolandSpringWtr and @PolandSpringInc, were both quiet—and had been since January 2011.

Hilariously, San Francisco-based writer Jory John (author of the amazing All My Friends Are Dead) tweeted: "Poland Spring Water hasn't Tweeted since July, 2010. Right now, their rep is frantically trying to remember the password."

The brand did respond eventually, posting the following photo on its Facebook page at 1 PM ET, with the caption, "Reflecting on our cameo. What a night!"

The event hearkened to a moment the previous week, during the Super Bowl, when Oreo and Audi famously seized the moment during the game's blackout to create some timely, relevant content in real-time.

So what do you think? Do brands need to act more like journalists—shedding their traditional campaign model in favor of real-time, event- and audience-driven agile communications? Or is that unrealistic and unnecessary, especially in the case of hot-potato subjects such as politics?

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Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Content, and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules. Ann co-founded, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.

Twitter: @MarketingProfs and @AnnHandley.

Tim Washer is a comedy writer and producer who has worked on Conan, Letterman, and The Onion, and at IBM and Cisco.

Twitter: @timwasher

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  • by Daniele Hagen Tue Feb 19, 2013 via web

    I appreciate that a legitimate conversation about content came out of the Rubio water moment.
    The jokes are a dime a dozen. No offence, Tim Washer, I'm sure your jokes are awesome. ;)

  • by pflanigan Tue Feb 19, 2013 via iphone

    'Like journalists' is the perfect analogy. If brands are going to own real-time media, they need to have real time messengers to manage them. I can see the day when most journalism schools have a 'content management' major, blending news, PR and advertising skills for people who want to manage the interactive media of major brands.

  • by Melissa Wed Feb 20, 2013 via web

    LUV that Ann took the call from her daughter in the middle of the hangout, great view of the true life of today's working mom!

  • by shahinaghias_boundaryspanner Wed Feb 27, 2013 via web

    Jokes and pun aside, but I think what Poland Spring did was brilliant whether intentional or not was plain brilliant. In the time when all are talking REAL TIME, on the spot, spontaneous. They infact slowed down let the impact seep in, let the ball rolling and then came up with a brilliantly strong message and the image that would stay with us. I offer marketing services through Boundary Spanner, and I fully appreciate the strategy. Brilliant is what keeps coming in my mind to describe it 'Just Brilliant" (In my opinion the delay in response by Poland Spring was absolutely calculated, strategised, timed and intentional) They delivered their SOCIAL Presence.

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