A little over three years ago, MasterCard’s Corporate & Digital Communications Group launched a new effort to track and monitor digital conversations about their brand across 55 markets and 26 languages. As MasterCard’s communications leadership gathered more data, they realized MasterCard was exposed to over 30 million people each month through news and social media, but the brand itself participated in less than 1% of the conversation. Even worse, less than .05% of the people talking about MasterCard on social were advocating on the brand’s behalf.

MasterCard leadership was committed to change. The brand needed to stop broadcasting, start sharing compelling stories and helpful content, then systematize its publishing operations across teams and geographic locations.

In the past three years, MasterCard has transformed the way it communicates and engages with its audience. Today, MasterCard teams engage directly with almost 200,000 influencers per quarter, while its brand publishing operations generated 104% growth in organic monthly website visits and a 132% increase in time spent per visit to the brand’s digital communications properties.

How did MasterCard create a global publishing system that delivers content faster, smarter and more cost-effectively? By following this seven step roadmap:

1. Know what you stand for

One of the first challenges many brands face when they try to transition from blogging and broadcasting into more comprehensive brand publishing is knowing when, where and why the brand should take a stance on a key topic or trend.

One of the first steps MasterCard’s team took with its newsroom — rebranded the Global Engagement Bureau in September 2013 — was to define five topic pillars closely linked to MasterCard’s mission and values: (1) innovation and the future of payments, (2) financial inclusion, (3) safety and security, (4) travel, and (5) small business. By committing to make Global Engagement Bureau a thought leadership engine across these five topics, MasterCard’s leadership ensured that its editorial focus was transparent and consistent across the organization, and relevant to its audience.

2. Let influencer and customer conversations inform your content strategy

Recognizing that every piece of content is an opportunity to tell a story, MaserCard began tracking hundreds of thousands of content items and conversations within its influencer audience. Systematically tracking and monitoring conversations around MasterCard and its competitors across 55 markets and 26 languages helps MasterCard’s communication teams stay on top of trends, talk to customers and influencers directly and share relevant news both globally and locally.

MasterCard Social Listening Example

3. Standardize the publishing process

By centralizing planning and publishing workflows for the Engagement Bureau, The Cashless Pioneers blog, LinkedIn and Twitter inside Percolate across 7 regions—U.S./Global, Asia-Pacific, Middle East & Africa, Europe, Russia, Canada, and Latin America—and 11 languages —including English (American and UK), Arabic, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Japanese, Chinese, German, Italian — MasterCard Corporate & Digital Communications ensures its brand publishing operations are aligned and executing against an omnichannel “one voice” strategy.

MasterCard Achieves Brand Publishing Efficiency with Percolate

Taking these steps has also enabled MasterCard to conserve resources, speed up content creation and standardize approvals, helping its teams produce and publish over 2,500 pieces of original content in the third quarter of 2014.

4. Prioritize storytelling over press releases

Brand communications and PR have gone beyond the press release heading into 2015. Through images, videos, digital press kits, blog posts and curated articles, MasterCard focuses not only on creating original news, but also adding fresh perspective to existing news cycles and trending topics. By advocating for the reader and prioritizing content and digital experiences that create value for influencers, bloggers and journalists, MasterCard has pivoted its communications approach from broadcast to dialogue, helping others interact with its stories.

One example of a particularly popular and successful MasterCard story showed how the brand was actively involved in supporting the World Food Program, which gave hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees displaced in Lebanon access to food without the exchange of cash. MasterCard’s efforts, republished by WFP.org and covered by journalists at The Telegraph, CNN, the BBC, Forbes and Mashable delivered a consistent organic media win for the brand.

MasterCard Brand Publishing Case Study Example

5. Make content creation easy

Inside Percolate, Engagement Bureau team members are prompted to create content aligned with MasterCard’s five core brand topics, assisted by recommendations about what MasterCard’s consumers and audiences are passionate about. Each publishing unit is supported by an integrated Percolate Media Library of brand-ready stock assets, as well as a marketplace where MasterCard’s teams can source written and visual content from partners like Getty Images. By providing content building blocks across inspiration, imagery and information in each teams’ local language, Percolate makes MasterCard’s marketers more efficient visual storytellers.

Visual Content Marketing

6. Engineer distribution that scales

By building a publishing portfolio that includes newsroom.mastercard.com, The Cashless Pioneers blog and dedicated social channels, MasterCard Corporate & Digital Communications has established a strong foundation for organic content reach that can be supported opportunistically with paid media. By consistently highlighting individuals, businesses, governments and employees who embrace MasterCard’s five brand topics within its content, the editorial mix is designed from the start to attract organic sharing and syndication.

7. Measure relationship metrics

In addition to tracking reach, shares and traffic, MasterCard makes sure to understand key relationship metrics like time spent per visit and repeat visits. These metrics help Newsroom teams understand how long their readers are consuming their content, how often they come back for new stories and what percentage of readers finish viewing full stories, rather than just excerpts. This more comprehensive approach to publishing measurement has helped MasterCard build better reader relationships, while at the same time providing a valuable feedback loop on content performance that can inform future editorial efforts and corporate programs.

In 2014 alone, MasterCard’s digital community-building grew by leaps and bounds, driven by consistent, organic use of high-quality content. Overall, MasterCard’s journey to establishing itself as a successful brand publisher has taken persistence, dedication and a commitment to recruiting the right resources and technology to scale storytelling.

To learn more about MasterCard’s approach to building a brand publishing platform, download our new case study.