Branded content is the latest, greatest way to engage your audience and boost interest
In the November/December 2014 issue, we discussed native advertising being the answer to keeping audiences engaged in the face of growing banner ad fatigue, as well as strengthening publishers as they navigate a changing media landscape. In publishing, native advertising takes the form of branded content or sponsored content. The two terms have varied meanings: sometimes they’re differentiated by authorship (publishers write sponsored content, brands write branded content); sometimes they denote message focus (sponsored has a more brand-centric focus); sometimes they’re used interchangeably. In any case, branded content allows a brand to leverage a publisher’s talents in crafting stories. If properly executed, branded content can outperform traditional advertising in terms of reader engagement. To create effective content, publishers and brands should consider four basic guidelines.
KNOW YOUR BRAND
What is your brand’s core value proposition? What is its purpose? The answers to those questions will define the very essence of your content and the extent to which it aligns with your brand. The further a piece of content is out of alignment with a brand, the greater the likelihood that an audience will be confused at the connection between the brand and the content.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
It’s one thing to identify a target market, and it’s another to understand it. Brands that thoroughly profile their target market are better informed about their interests, wants, and needs. Publishers will be able to shape content around audience specifics in order to maximize relevancy. If the content isn’t relevant to a given audience, they’re not going to read it, or worse, condemn it.
CREATE COMPELLING CONTENT
Don’t waste your audience’s time; provide them with something worth reading. Better yet, provide them with content they’re eager to consume. The more they’re engaged with a piece of content, the more likely they are to share it. Underlying this notion is the importance of the creative department’s role in telling engaging stories and creating appealing visuals.
DELIVER ADDED VALUE
So you’ve got a reader engaged–now what? It’s simple: give them more. The end of the story shouldn’t really be the end of the story, so to speak. The great thing about branded content is that it can be elegantly actionable. Content should be crafted to leave the reader wanting to know more or take action, which functions to both qualify readers and get them into the sales funnel.
These guidelines may be easy to understand, but they can be difficult to execute. While some brands have the talents to produce their own content, creating engaging content is a resource-intensive endeavor, which is why most brands work with publishing partners. However, as we saw with The Atlantic example, the wrong partner can produce undesirable results if either party allows the project to stray from the basic branded content considerations. With that in mind, it’s critical for brands to work with publishers that not only have creative expertise, but strategic expertise as well. Brands must build relationships with publishers that will work closely with them on every piece of content, and have tacit knowledge of a given audience or industry–don’t forgo due diligence. •