How to Decide if Your Brand Should Create Sponsored Content

We’re well into the era of sponsored content, with more and more brands recognizing that consumers find content more engaging than traditional forms of advertising. New research from the Content Marketing Institute shows that 83% of marketers expect the amount of budget they allocate towards content marketing to remain steady or increase in 2018. But how should they allocate those resources?

Should budgets be spent on creating and publishing content in-house, or moved towards sponsoring content created by media publishers? At Pressboard, we believe that any well-rounded content marketing plan needs to allocate resources to both. Brands need to begin to see themselves as media outlets while also leveraging the expertise of publishers that have spent years mastering the craft.

However, for each individual piece of content or campaign, the question remains: should this be created and published by your brand, or created with a publisher as sponsored content? While there are many circumstances specific to your brand that should factor into that decision, we created this simple decision tree as a framework that every brand can use to help make that decision.

(This article was originally published in our magazine – The Science of Storytelling Issue 3: Financial Services)

Should my brand create sponsored content?

 

Do I have the resources to create the content?

If you have industry experts and brand ambassadors within your team that can speak with authority on topics relevant to your space, consider recruiting them to support your brand’s content efforts. It’s also important to determine whether your team members can articulate their ideas into a story format. In addition to effective writing, various content creation skills are required to produce and present your stories as a full package, such as photo-sourcing, copy editing and managing the publication and distribution of content. If you currently have these resources in-house, then you should be creating and publishing branded content for your business. Research shows that 92.34% of companies using inbound marketing increase their traffic. It can be as simple as a company blog or as robust as a scripted video series, but either way, content should be at least one part of your brand’s marketing mix if you have the resources to create it in-house.

If you’re not confident you have everything you need to fulfill your content objectives, or if you would prefer to focus your time and resources on other business objectives, then you should consider sponsored content. When you work with a media publisher, you get more than a spot on their website; you get to leverage their content creation expertise. When collaborating, take their advice to heart and consider how you can balance their input with your brand’s needs. After all, the publisher wants your content to perform well as much as you do.

Do I have the authority to speak on this subject?

By giving your audience reliable knowledge about your industry, you position your brand as a trusted leader in your field. If you already have voices within your organization that can offer helpful and interesting information to your audience, great! You can begin by asking them to write evergreen, SEO-friendly content for your blog, create a Q&A section for your support page, or build case studies and customer experience stories for your website.

However, there are many instances where brands can benefit from creating content that falls outside their traditional areas of expertise. A major bank is an authority figure on the topic of financial services, but they might also benefit from creating travel content to promote their new travel rewards card. In this instance, it might be inadvisable for the company to start publishing travel stories on their own blog or YouTube channel, because audiences don’t view them as an authority on the subject. This is where a partnership with a media publisher can provide support.

Chase Bank recognized this when they wanted to promote their Southwest Rapid Rewards Card to audiences interested in travel content. They used the Pressboard platform to create sponsored content that relied on Mashable’s authority on the subject matter.

Do I have the audience I want to reach?

Even if you’re creating great content in-house, it won’t have any effect if it never gets seen. Within the crowded content landscape, companies need to ask themselves the following question for each piece of content or campaign: does your brand reach the audience you wish to target?

If you know your market well and believe you can reach the target audience through your own platforms and properties, then you have a strong case for creating and publishing a piece of content yourself. Since social media and more specifically, Facebook, drives the most traffic to branded content, determine whether the target audience is contained within your brand’s Facebook following.

If the audience you want to target is outside of your brand’s existing reach, teaming up with the right media publisher is a great way to speak to them. By partnering with a publication, brands can leverage the publisher’s established audience to reach more potential customers than ever before. You want to be where your target audience is already consuming content and looking for a solution that you might offer.

When asked why brands should work with media publishers to create sponsored content, Nicola Elliot, Head of Content at BBC StoryWorks, had the following to say,

My best piece of advice would be to really take the time to listen to what publishers have to say about their audience, and the type of content that works best on their platforms. One of the key advantages that publishers have in this area is their extensive knowledge of and relationship with their readers. This knowledge can help shape your content strategy on their platform to achieve maximum results.

A good example of reaching new audiences through sponsored content comes from Mastercard, who wanted to raise awareness for a contest that was catered to small businesses. They knew they wanted to reach small business owners in the Boston area, so using Pressboard’s platform, they partnered with The Boston Globe to sponsor an article that gave the target audience business advice. By doing so, Mastercard was able to reach a specific audience and offer them engaging and informative content. Once you’ve captured the interest of the publisher’s readership, your brand will be better positioned to earn their trust – and, hopefully, their business.

For almost any content campaign, examine your brand’s resources, authority, and audience when determining whether the content should be created and published by your brand or as sponsored content with a media publisher. Every content marketing plan should contain both, but this framework will help your brand find the right balance between the two.

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