To engage the right audience through content, brands must be authentic, credible, and find ways to leverage consumers’ existing digital habits. On top of that, brands are also charged with becoming storytellers and publishers, according to an expert panel at MDC SXSW, an event MDC Partners hosted at SXSW.

The discussion, called “Startup Innovation and the Future of Content,” zeroed in on how startups can reach and engage their audiences through digital marketing and content. Panelists included WP Engine CEO Heather Brunner, Campbell Soup Company Global Director of Digital Marketing and Innovation Umang Shah, Msg.ai Founder and CEO Puneet Mehta, and Attention President Tom Buontemp.

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WP Engine CEO Heather Brunner (right) speaks during a panel at MDC SXSW featuring (left to right) KBS Ventures Partner Jessica Peltz, Attention President Tom Buontempo, Msg.ai Founder and CEO Puneet Mehta, and Campbell Soup Company Global Director of Digital Marketing and Innovation Umang Shah.

According to Brunner, building authentic and credible content that is also engaging requires all parts of an organization to help tell the story. Bringing together technology partners, both internally and externally, and all other stakeholders early in the creation stage ensures teams are tied into making a project a success and keeps everyone on the same page when it’s time to execute.

“There is more of a need to find storytellers,” Brunner said, noting that all groups within a company now have to think about content as a core competency. “You have to have storytellers by channel.”

With that in mind, WP Engine works with the greater WordPress and open source communities to create content and drive content ideas. Torque Magazine, WP Engine’s WordPress community-focused publication, is a perfect example of that, Brunner said. Startups diving into content creation should ask themselves “How do you pull your community into the conversation?” she added.

For brands, another key to success is reaching your audience where they already have digital habits, Mehta said. It’s about finding where they live and work online and engage with them there. That helps create one-on-one conversations.

Equally important is the ability for startups to try new things and fail fast, Brunner noted. Getting more at-bats, even if the ideas fail, helps startups and agencies move quickly and determine which messages and which pieces of content are working, and which are not.

Shah agreed. He said the mantra at Campbell Soup’s Marketing Innovation Lab is “let’s just try it,” meaning that unit’s sole purpose is to try new ideas and concepts. Shah added that it’s an unwritten mandate that a good number of those ideas and concepts fail. If every idea succeeds you have to question whether you’re trying hard enough.

“Success for me is actually failure,” Shah said.