In its many forms, sponsored content partnerships between brands and online publishers are customizable, scalable and effective vehicles for reaching an audience online. These activations can range from a branded listicle with a couple integration/messaging points throughout, to a co-created collection of thought leadership material, to custom recipes on highly visual culinary sites and everything in between. The eruption of online content varieties that speak to and satisfy consumer interests and needs also benefits brands–aligning consumer interests with topics your brand can add value to can effectively engage a core audience in a natural setting.
Producing and distributing content on channels besides the brand’s owned properties adds credibility and a fresh voice. Additionally, millennials have increased trust in all digital media (including but not limited to owned) according to the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, scoring even higher than the survey audience.
Here are five considerations for working with publishers to create and promote sponsored content:
1. The Right Publisher/Partner
While renowned publishers (Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, New York Times, etc.) have sponsored content offerings, niche audiences could be better reached and more engaged in born-digital publications. Take your audience’s media consumption habits into consideration – natural user experience and authentic content formats are key for engagement. For example, if your topic is best addressed through visuals and your target is the older half of Gen Y, look for a partner with a strong mobile and social presence with interactive infographics. Third-party data (comScore, MRI, eMarketer, Iconoculture, etc.) can identify potential publishers in the ideation phase, as well. Finally, think outside the site itself and survey the publisher’s overall social presence. Do they share content on Facebook? Are they active on new platforms? How much overall site traffic is driven by social sharing? With more screens and social sites than ever, and publishers striking deals with social networks, a publisher’s overall presence is critical.
2. Supporting Assets
Some partnerships include supporting media spend for branded or co-branded banner ads during a campaign. If the publisher isn’t scoped for creative development (many have in-house creative shops for content and media production), consider your existing display media from other initiatives before starting from scratch. Create tracked URLs for banners and links within the content itself to consistently measure site traffic and conversions driven by the campaign. Unbranded images, campaign videos and spokesperson contributions can also be leveraged to support the content.
3. Content Longevity
With some partnerships, content included in the contract becomes owned content for the brand. Consider how a piece can be repurposed in the future and take an evergreen approach when possible, especially with high-quality productions such as videos.
Most partnerships include media spend to promote the content on the publisher’s site to reach contracted impressions, and some include social amplification on their channels. Use a native advertising platform (Outbrain, ShareThrough, etc) to surface content to more readers on other sites and use promoted social posts to ensure you’re reaching a broader portion of your audience off the publisher’s site.
In most cases, impressions is the only guaranteed metric outlined in contracts for these programs, though partners can report supporting figures such as page views, social shares, banner click-through rate and time spent on the page. At the beginning of a program, confirm which metrics the partner can measure and report, establish a reporting cadence if clients expect mid-campaign updates and request available benchmarks for final reporting purposes.
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