The Branded Content Project
, funded by the Facebook Journalism Project in partnership with Local Media Association and Local Media Consortium, has challenged the project alpha group to create large action plans and take giant leaps toward new revenue possibilities with branded content.

The first projects are big jumps toward revenue growth, streamlined processes that save time and money, and content production for new audiences. The alphas’ innovative plans are already paying off.

These seven teams have jumped into enormous initiatives and are seeing the first round of results come in with exciting success. Graham Media Group’s Taking Off initiative was our first feature; our second was The Dallas Morning News and their FWD > DFW initiative; and our third is Shaw Media and their work toward improving reporting for advertisers. Our fourth is WRAL’s multiple branded content initiatives and their efforts toward a re-branding campaign that will grow revenue, advertisers, awareness and help educate along the way.

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About WRAL

According to their website, the roots of Capitol Broadcasting Co. date back to 1937 when Raleigh attorney A.J. Fletcher and four partners formed a company so they could compete in the growing business of broadcasting. Capitol Broadcasting owns WRAL-TV and WRAL Digital as well as numerous other media organizations and businesses around North Carolina. 

WRAL Digital Solutions is a part of CBC New Media Group, and is a full service digital agency. With over 300 clients, they work to combine exclusive opportunities on WRAL.com and the CBC family of apps, with integrated marketing and creative services. We asked the WRAL Digital Solutions team about their branded and sponsored content initiatives. Chris Weatherly, director of sales and operations for WRAL Digital Solutions and WRAL.com, explained.

“Over the last several years we have been able to steadily grow our sponsored content program, Spotlight. More recently, we have applied our learnings while working closely on a number of cause marketing initiatives, focused on issues that resonate in our community (domestic violence and human trafficking). Leveraging our platforms with our ability to tell compelling stories, we have been able to greatly raise awareness and contribute to meaningful change. Additionally, we have partnered with a number of our surrounding communities, to help tell our large audience about all of the great things happening outside of Raleigh and Durham. We believe being a part of this initiative will allow us to expand our work in both of these verticals, and are thrilled to continue to evolve our offerings.”

John Conway, general manager for new media at Capitol Broadcasting Company, also sees growth potential. 

“Sponsored content has been a rapidly growing revenue source for our owned-and-operated platforms as well as with our digital marketing arm, WRAL Digital Solutions.”

As we got started with the alpha projects, WRAL decided to take a look at their own marketing and materials to help them better position themselves in the market and in front of potential advertisers.

Katie Fulp, manager of client services and operations at WRAL Digital Solutions, explained.

“In 2019 and beyond, it was important for us to firm up our story and how we communicate our values to our audience and our clients. There was a lot of great things to say, but no concrete way of saying: here’s who we are, what we stand for, and what makes us unique and an invaluable partner for branded content and beyond.”

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WRAL’s branded content initiative is unique because they are able to use their expertise in storytelling while leveraging the power of TV, radio, podcasting, OTT, and digital platforms, and make a real difference in their communities.

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In addition to positioning who they are, WRAL needed to rebuild their sales materials and their own brand to be sure it mirrored who they are and made them competitive in the marketplace.

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WRAL needed to overhaul their brand positioning, sales materials, the way they communicated to their clients about branded content, and how they offer four ways to do it within their platforms. This is something that none of their competitors can offer.

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What was the challenge?

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The biggest challenge for WRAL was taking their outdated materials and older branding and not just redesigning those elements but creating a plan to increase awareness.

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The team also realized that they needed to create a system that was easily customized for client needs. “One size fits all” isn’t a solution for every client. The team has been working on adding premium packages to their sales offering as well as setting up a native offering in WRAL’s custom-pricing tool. This will add more customization for the clients and the sales executives.

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Fulp said, “We rebranded ourselves. We gave our logo a modern and simple design, updated our materials to help educate our clients on what branded content is, and simplified our offering to meet our clients’ growing needs.”

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As we have reported in the past, education of our clients and sales teams is a concern and a top priority for our alpha teams.

WRAL has taken an approach to educate clients through video by creating three “sizzle” reels for their branded products and one educational explainer video to help with the sales process. The team at WRAL realized “there’s a lot of value in our branded content products and we want to ensure the materials used to sell them and their quality match up,” said Fulp.

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Their new community sizzle reel is below.

Understanding that everything is media, WRAL put together assets to help in the selling process, like videos, visual explainers, and more. They also added ways to beef-up their offering by ensuring that their branded content was appealing to consumers and that a plan engaged the target audience. Examples include adding infographics, listicles, videos, motion graphics, custom photography and podcasts.

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Another part of their long-term strategy is to get the word out with public relations. With their exquisite new logos, videos and branding, the team hopes the new marketing materials will get them more opportunities to work with large clients and get their work in front of more agencies and advertisers.

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The results

Fulp and Weatherly report fantastic early results.

“We’ve seen great success across a limited time period: 10% increase in Spotlight Revenue from 1H 2019 – 2H 2019, 8 new community partners, and 44% growth in our TechWire revenue from Q2-Q3 2019. We’re excited to see our branded content product continue to help tell our customer’s stories and their unique value proposition.”

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Final words

We’ve learned through the team at WRAL that positioning and branding matter but that education reigns supreme when it comes to ensuring your clients understand branded content and how to leverage it powerfully. The ability to customize based on client’s needs is also a major focus for their sales team going into 2020. They’ve put an emphasis in tailoring each branded content package to meet the individual needs of a business’ goals will continue to make a huge difference in terms of performance and impact.Image

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We will continue to document and share Shaw’s progress with their initiative and the results from all our alpha partners at sellbranded.com.

About the Local Media Consortium
The Local Media Consortium delivers economic value through strategic partnerships on behalf of
nearly 90 local media companies in top markets across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico,
and includes more than 3,300 outlets. By harnessing the combined volume and scale of its
members, the LMC reduces costs and increases revenue with technology and service providers like
Google, Facebook, Monster and others. The aggregated LMC audience footprint spans 1 billion
unique monthly visitors and its member companies serve more than 6 billion pageviews to
consumers. More information is available at http://www.localmediaconsortium.com/.

About the Local Media Association
The Local Media Association is a thriving and innovative association that serves local media
companies (newspapers, TV, radio, directories, digital news sites, and more) as well as research
and development partners in the industry. LMA assists local media companies with the digital
transition via cutting-edge programs, conferences, webinars, research and training. They are
intensely focused on helping local media companies discover new and sustainable business
models. Learn more at https://www.localmedia.org/.

Media contacts:
Christina Gilham, 646-868-5174
[email protected]
Kristin Brocoff, 949-400-4899
[email protected]