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7 Tips For Creating a Successful Branded Content Initiative

Building a better branded business has its challenges. Which is why every few weeks, the Branded Content Project will give you a snapshot of some of the expert advice you can find inside our branded content guide.

What’s in the guide? The pages are filled with advice for those creating their first branded content initatives, those who are leading sales teams who have branded content in their toolbox, and those that are creating content for advertisers and looking for best practices and techniques. The articles in the guide are written by experts in the branded content space who have built impressive programs and are able to share strategies to help you navigate through this unique and sometimes complicated area of potential business. We’ve also included checklists geared toward sales, content and development to start and grow your initiatives.

This week we’re highlighting Mike Mocklar‘s 7 Tips for Creating a Successful Branded Content Initiative.

Branded content creation is an important tool every local media publisher and organization needs to have in their toolbox in today’s rapidly changing and competitive landscape. Done correctly, great branded content can deepen your relationship with your audience, strengthen your connection with your advertisers, and generate new revenue. Mike Mocklar shares seven tips to help your branded content initiative get off to the right start.

Get support at the top

Branded content initiatives are different from traditional advertising. They involve a different type of storytelling, as well as a different sales cycle and sales pitch. They take time and resources, patience and a willingness to be creative and embrace a new media model.  The difference between having leaders who understand and believe in the project, and leaders who are apathetic or hostile to the initiative, is frequently the difference between success and failure. Senior leadership doesn’t need to get down in the weeds. They do need to ensure there is enough runway and support for the effort to take flight.

Find key evangelists

Branded content initiatives need people who will be the day-to-day leaders of the project. They need to be the subject experts, the cheerleaders, the people who can explain what the project is about both internally and externally. Your sales evangelists needs to keep sales leadership excited in the project. They need to train the sales team on what the project is about and how they can sell it and be experts in explaining what branded content can do for clients. Your content evangelist needs to understand how to produce engaging content which can be very different from traditional storytelling, while making sure the editorial teams in the organization understand branded content is a complementary piece to what they are doing, not a threat. Find your passionate people and empower them to lead and spread the word.

Create a specialized sales package

When you are starting a branded content initiative, it is not the time to simply take an old sales deck or PowerPoint and try to renovate or retrofit it. Branded content is different. Branded content is exciting. And most importantly, branded content needs to be sold a different way from more traditional advertising campaigns. Take the time to make your deck original and unique. It will pay off and add to the excitement around the initiative.

Break down silos

A successful branded content initiative can’t just start in your sales department and live on its own. Your content, marketing, social, and sales teams need to be working together and talking regularly, especially on the evangelist level. Part of this is sheer logistics. Branded content frequently lives next to editorial content. Resources are shared and scarce, and the people selling the initiative and creating the initiative need to be on the same page. However, the real benefit comes when different areas bring different ideas to the table. The sales person trying to pitch a local furniture store gets a great idea from the content person on how to create a great video. The marketing person comes up with a unique way to share the content, and the social person chimes in with a new platform initiative which is perfect. Collaboration and communication breed creativity and increased revenue.

Make sizzles and samples

Ask ten different people what branded content means, and you’re likely to get ten different answers … and that’s just from people inside your organization. Ask your clients, and many of them won’t have any idea of what you are talking about. The easiest way to solve this problem is to show, not tell. Show them an example of what the branded content campaign you are creating will look like, whether that’s a sample article, video, social post, or anything else. Help your advertisers (and your confused internal colleagues) visualize what this content will look and feel like, what makes it special, and why they want to be a part of it. A great sizzle reel of your best branded content gets your clients excited, and will get the team excited about the project.

Simple is better

Branded content is an exciting playground for content, sales and marketing teams to play in. As a result, the temptation is to keep adding elements to the project. “We can do a podcast, and a series of videos, and live social media hits, and 100 different articles, and we can sell it 200 different ways!” and so on. Don’t do it. Start small. Focus on what you can do well, and branch out from there. Don’t ask your content creation wizards to create videos for six different platforms just because you can. Pick the one where you can be most effective and over deliver. Don’t overload your sales teams with 17 different variations of a branded content project when they’ve never sold one before. Create two or three simple sales packages, at cost A, cost B, and cost C. Cost C will have a few more elements than cost A, but they will be well-defined and created in partnership with your content and marketing teams to ensure their success. Focus on delivering a simple, great product and expand from there.

Know your value proposition

This tip is likely the most important one, yet hardest to achieve. At the end of the day, you are trying to create content which will resonate with your audience while creating value for both your advertiser and your media organization. Start with the value proposition of your audience. Who is the audience you and your advertiser are trying to reach, and what do they want? What can you create which will entertain and engage them? What value are you bringing them with this content?  Answer those questions, and your branded content initiative will work for your audience, your advertisers and your organization.

THE EXPERT: MIKE MOCKLAR

Mike Mocklar is President and Chief Creative Officer of Mocklar Consulting, an innovative content strategy and production company based in Atlanta, G.A.  A Peabody and duPont award-winning producer, Mocklar developed The Southern Weekend lifestyle initiative for Raycom Media, which included a television series, broadcast, social media and digital distribution, sponsored content production, and the creation of a central website and 27 local digital franchises. He also oversaw Raycom’s Digital Content Center, which produced and distributed 24/7 national news and lifestyle content to its stations.  Previously, Mocklar was an executive producer at CNN in program and talent development, documentary and long-form programming, and sports.

WHAT’S YOUR GAME PLAN?

Take a tour through the guide to get action plans, step-by-step instructions, advice and recommendations. And don’t forget to check out the checklists before you get started.

If you are taking your first step into branded content or giving your program a refresh, take a deeper look into our “DEVELOPING IT” section and hear from the following experts:

  • 6 reasons why you need branded content now – Eric Brandner – Creative Lab @ McClatchy
  • Corporate Social Responsibility Matters: 5 reasons CSR should be considered as a branded content strategy – Rachel Watkins – Dallas Morning News
  • 3 Reasons to Make Promotions Part of Your Branded Content Strategy – Liz Huff – Second Street

Final words

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/.  

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 http://localmedia.org.

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