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“You would not confuse PowerPost with any agency or software company in existence,” says PowerPost founder and CEO Dan Curran.
“Our mission is to turn modern marketers into publishing powerhouses,” he continues, explaining later that he sees content as “currency” for brands—and an underleveraged one at that. “Offline and online advertising is shamefully ineffective, leverages pseudo-analytics, and, oftentimes, does a dismal job of driving true business metrics or bottom-line results,” says Curran.
Why does this matter? It matters for the same reasons advertising and marketing always have: to build and retain a brand’s “audience” of potential customers. And PowerPost—part software platform, part studio—is at the forefront of the burgeoning field of brand publishing.
Late last year, Curran combined three companies and 100-plus customers to form PowerPost, a publishing software platform joined with the forces of an in-house, newsroom-style team of writers, editors, videographers, and PR specialists (affectionately called “Planet Content”). Alongside co-founder Paul Shirer, Curran developed the SaaS publishing platform to “streamline and accelerate content publishing processes,” according to a company press release. As one company, the two services—software and studio—are helping Curran pave the way for PowerPost to be a leader in the growing category of brand publishing. “PowerPost is the only content publishing software converting brands into power publishers,” he says.
Most clients utilize PowerPost’s platform to dramatically improve their own content organization and distribute their own content, Curran says, although many also take advantage of the studio.
“We believe the best investment brands can make right now is building their own audiences, and PowerPost is the mechanism to simplify this process,” says Curran. “Think of us as the Buzzfeed for brands.”
Building Brand Publishing
A pillar of PowerPost is its company culture, which rejects “’Mad Men’-era dogma” and embraces innovation from the ground up. “We have what I call an ‘upside down culture’, where much of our innovation comes from our 20-something-year-old team members,” says Curran. It makes for a fluid, dynamic work environment that closely mirrors startup culture—even when it comes down to the roles each employee is expected to play.
“New employees are sometimes startled to find out that our job descriptions and responsibilities are not static, but rather fluid,” he says. For example, “a content writer is expected to deliver amazing stories, yet be familiar with SEO, UX and influencer marketing.”
This isn’t Curran’s first startup, by the way: Prior to PowerPost, he owned and sold two marketing companies (Drive Agency and then 4ORCE Digital, which he sold to Manifest Digital). And all of these have given him the experience he needs to navigate building out this new field. “One thing I know for sure as an entrepreneur who owns, or has owned, nearly a dozen companies, is that life will punch you in the gut when you least expect it,” he says. “We therefore expect to face challenges head-on when they rear their head.”
One example is the genesis of PowerPost itself: “I acquired three companies in less than 12 months,” Curran says, referring to those that he combined to start the publishing platform and studio. “The personnel and cultures at these companies needed to adjust to my pace and constant experimenting (‘fail forward approach’)—I’m an acquired taste.” Nonetheless, he says, PowerPost is beginning the year with “an amazing team that appears 100-percent aligned and ready to kick some ass.”
Results, Results, Results
PowerPost’s approach appears to be catching on: “We hit the ground running in January with a significant uptick in new clients, numerous new employees and are actively vetting several acquisition targets,” Curran says. The client list for PowerPost numbers more than 100 and includes major names like Marriott, Buckingham Asset Managers, Ty and Kent Foods.
Part of that roster can be attributed, he says, to a deliberate, sophisticated sales approach where the company uses its own content to attract new business. “We believe this valuable content will serve as a magnet versus a hammer to entice potential customers to hear our story,” he says.
The company is now at 30-plus employees and looking to add another dozen or so more as it continues to grow, especially in Chicago, where Curran currently has 10 people but wants to “exponentially grow” PowerPost’s presence. “Although our customers love the tool, we are going to double down on the customer experience in 2017,” he says. “We are also investing heavily in our newsroom studio as many of our customers need assistance creating the content.”
On Jan. 27, news broke that Curran had been selected for the KC-based startup accelerator Pipeline. And there’s one more announcement in store (for now): “We are excited to soon announce our own media platform that will curate the world’s best branded content and offer guidance on how to become a power publisher,” says Curran.
They say timing is everything, and Curran’s taking advantage of a critical juncture in the marketing industry—and paving his own way forward with PowerPost, which he believes will grow exponentially and take its place at “the forefront of change and innovation.” “I am on a mission to modernize the marketing category,” he says.
“The viewing habits of consumers, the democratization of media, and the ineffectiveness of so-called ‘digital advertising’ presents a major opportunity for PowerPost,” he adds. “In no way will I put a ceiling on our growth prospects. Best of all, our value proposition is very simple and straight-forward: The best investment for brands is to build their own audiences. PowerPost empowers brands to do just that.”