Marketers across the board are adapting to an environment where traditional print publications and distribution channels are dying out. Digital marketing might as well encompass all of marketing in today's social media rich and mobile consumer world. In an age when a single Twitter account or blog can hold sway over a multi-million dollar marketing or advertising campaign, traditional marketers need to adapt to the digital landscape or face trouble down the road.
In light of advances in digital marketing, branded content has emerged as a viable option for increasing brand notoriety and attracting prospects. Whereas search engine optimization was once a very effective means to garner attention and new business, subsequent revisions to Google's page rank algorithms as well as the widespread use of SEO has made it less effective.
Branded content essentially takes content strategy to a specifically qualitative direction where a single well-produced article can have as much of an impact on notoriety as dozens of keyword optimized back-page articles. Landing a thought provoking branded piece on the front page of Forbes or Mashable can be costly and time consuming, but the subsequent credibility, exposure, and notoriety are well worth it.
Marketing for the discerning user
Where marketing departments struggle, there is a corresponding team within the depths of the traditional media industry stressing out even more. News on the web has fundamentally changed in light of mobile news apps, search analytics, and social media. Traditional banner based advertisements and videos that once funded many new sites are growing increasingly ineffective and expensive. The consumers targeted in today's world are tech savvy and discerning, making the jobs of marketers even harder.
As news outlets have struggled to keep revenues up, editorial teams have opted for a new digital strategy incorporating branded or sponsored content. Big name sites such as Mashable, Forbes, and BuzzFeed use sponsored content to increase revenue and sustain their business. Editorial writers are put in charge of writing sponsored customized content (with specific rules about no sales-pitch or marketing language and definitely no shameless self-promotion).
A true two-way street
Sponsored content serves to benefit the reader and the brand by providing useful thought leadership and analysis regarding a topic. For instance, Qualcomm sponsors a piece about the chips in the Hubble Space Telescope or Oakley sponsors a piece delving into speculation regarding Google Glass. As it relates to social media, branded content stories will undoubtedly gain more viral attention than a company blog post written by an intern. Branded content specifically fits nicely into social media strategies, given that Twitter and LinkedIn are content-focused channels.
The idea behind sponsored content from the brand's perspective is to establish thought leadership and exposure regarding a specific area related to an industry. Mobile application development companies would ideally comment on the new Facebook Home release, the iWatch, or some mobile related news story. By offering perspective and insight regarding a specific trend, the brand works to establish thought leadership and real-time credibility with consumers or prospective clients.
New model for new media
While some news outlets use their own editorial writers to produce the sponsored stories, other news sites continue to take contributor submissions from executives within companies. Insight zones of websites from corporate thought leaders are similar to the approach of branded/sponsored content, but contributors gain coverage for free. For instance, sponsored posts for Mashable are six figures minimum.
Sponsored content goes beyond the goals of SEO writing by focusing on establishing credibility on top of gaining brand exposure. By positioning your brand to communicate valuable content to your customers or potential leads, your business will win the debate regarding who is more intelligent and on top of trends and innovations when compared to competitors.
New opportunity for valuable journalistic talent
It should come as no surprise to marketers that the increase in branded content may correlate with the decrease in available journalism jobs. As newspapers cut staff, there is a viable pool of high quality writers to use for the purpose of establishing an in-house team of content writers and editors to maximize the value of branded content.
An altruistic view would be that these individuals now have an opportunity to still work in writing. The bottom-line perspective should acknowledge the potential for increased leads and brand notoriety that can result from successful branded content. Former journalists especially are a valuable asset for your content marketing team thanks to their inside knowledge of the processes of editorial teams.
It is highly likely that the future marketing team of many companies will begin to resemble an in-house newsroom.
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