We need an iPad app!

We need an iPad app! You’ve heard the request. Perhaps it’s even a demand. iPad apps are emerging at an incredibly rapid pace, creating serious momentum among brand stakeholders. Everyone wants an app. And they’re looking at you to make it happen.

But what? And how? And for whom?

Should you produce a utility app? A productivity app? A game app? The questions come thick and fast. The categories of apps can be overwhelming. And the business need is too often obscured.

If your app is on the line, so to speak, but the options above don’t work for your organization, you may be overlooking an opportunity. Publication apps are an excellent choice for companies that are creating relevant, interesting content for a blog, digital or print newsletter, magazine, or corporate publication.

Here are four steps to get you started.

1. Support your strategy

First things first. iPad apps need to be integrated within — not tacked onto — an existing marketing strategy. Determine the purpose of your iPad app: Is it providing valuable information, telling brand stories, deepening customer engagement, reaching a new audience?

Remember, an iPad app, in itself, is not a strategy. It’s a distribution channel. Be sure to start with strategy: Look at the intersection of your brand goals and your customers’ needs. In that space, does an iPad app make sense?

2. Focus on content

If you’re regularly publishing substantive, interesting content that’s clearly focused on the needs of your audience (rather than just promoting your products and services), creating an iPad app may be an excellent, additional way to distribute that content.

  • Perhaps you publish a content-rich sustainability report each year, in print and on the web. Consider distributing this report as an iPad app, updated yearly.
  • Do you publish a monthly magazine for alumni, employees, or customers? An iPad app might extend your content to new readers or deepen engagement with existing readers.

If you’re not regularly publishing, trying to create an iPad app will be putting the cart before the horse. Take a step back and think about how you can provide value to your customers through smart, relevant content. Once you start creating that content, the iPad will be one channel for your ongoing content marketing.

3. Take advantage of the medium

iPads offer an immersive user experience. Photos on the iPad are quite striking: bright, vibrant, and gorgeously backlit. And videos and interactive tools have an immediacy that goes beyond the desktop experience. To capitalize on the medium, take care not to shoehorn your existing content into the tablet platform and leave it at that. Instead, enhance your content with interactive tools, plentiful photos, rich graphics, audio, and, wherever appropriate, video.

Here are some examples from the fields of education, financial planning, and architecture:

  • Monthly publication or newsletter: The monthly print and digital newsletter for your educational institution features stories about successful alumni. Your iPad app might enhance these stories with audio or video clips of alumni talking candidly about their career journeys and how your institution put them on the right path.
  • Articles: Your financial planning website includes several informative articles to help clients and prospects learn more about investments, taxes, and estate planning. Your iPad app can enhance these articles with valuable interactive content, such as calculators and how-to videos.
  • Quarterly magazine: The quarterly magazine your architecture firm publishes typically features one large photo per article. Your iPad app might become significantly more visual, providing a range of images — set to self advance at a specified rate or presented as a flipbook animation that can be swiped by readers.

4. Commit to updates

Like your website, iPad apps should not be do-it-once-and-forget-about-it endeavors. The work doesn’t end when you launch.

Establish a calendar and stick to a schedule of monthly, quarterly, or yearly updates, both technical and content-specific. Plan publication themes, cover stories, columns, interviews, and articles well in advance. Line up authors, editors, photographers, and illustrators. Upfront planning can be challenging. But the alternative — creating your app on the fly — is not strategic, nor efficient.

Are you ready to find a more enticing alternative to static, slow-to-load PDFs on your website? Are you ready to harness the content marketing opportunities of iPad publishing? Take a look at your existing business content — or commit to producing valuable new content — and give your customers a vibrant new way to interact with your brand.