That's a great point, Millie.
Thanks Kaylee! And sorry, that's Kimberly Lau*
Now that we have some sense of what sponsored content is, what does a sponsored content team look like, what are its essential parts?
First and foremost, I think it's incredibly important to have an editorial director.
What does a team look like? Our office looks remarkably like any creative, editorial, design team you'd see in a traditional media. Same work-flow. Same equipment. Same titles. It's merely a different business model. Our content is developed for companies, associations, etc., who have a business model other than the media-business business model.
Project managers are key as well. Those folks keep the trains running and make sure all projects are delivered on time.
Kaylee: Why is an editorial director so important?
An editorial director drives the conversation in each project. I also think it's incredibly important to have someone who came up through journalism. They are our gut-check to make sure projects are storytelling driven.
Our goal is to bring Big 'J' journalism to the masses because we believe there is only one way to produce content - the right way. To add, Kaylee, I agree that an experienced point person on the buy-side of the content marketing experience is as important as a CMO is to a marketing team.
While we don't call ourselves an "agency," when working with clients in creating sponsored, etc., content, there is a need for someone to have the role of account service. You can't product effective content unless you understand the marketing objectives of the client. There is the need for someone to be able to serve as bridge with editorial needs of the reader viewer / and expectation / project manager needs of the client.
So what are the advantages to hiring people who have journalism backgrounds for sponsored content teams?
I think journalists are great -- most of our staff has that as a background. However, not all content is journalism. Some is teaching. Some is producing great how-to videos. Some is comedy. Some is great illustration and visual data.
Journalists (or former journalists) have a real sense of what a good story is. They can take a brand's objectives and turn them into something driven by human interest.
We believe that people who have covered a beat and worked in a newsroom environment can move up and down the content spectrum with a rigor and approach to the craft that often times SME's are unable to manage. That's not to suggest SME's aren't valuable resources in the content marketing equation. But rather, we have seen first hand how journalists are able to easily navigate the dynamic demands of the content marketing arena. In our view, it's makes a big difference.
For those readers who have submitted questions for our panel, we'll be addressing them toward the end of the chat. Keep 'em coming!
What advice would you offer to journalists who might be considering the world of branded content? What are the challenges to hiring journalists?
I'll go with Kaylee's point in such advice: Be a great story teller. I'd add that journalists should also call on their skills of being great "explainers." Much of the content that works best for marketers is not the time-stamped kind that journalists love. It's more that contextual, how-to, helpful type of content. Journalists have the research and writing skills to do this well.
What is the advantage to brands when working with sponsored content teams? What sort of common pitfalls exist and how can you avoid them?
Real Quick... Journalists: Don't lose that hunger and thirst to produce a quality story just because you are hired by a non-endemic publisher. Quality matters.
I think sponsored content gives advertisers the opportunity to expand explanation of their brand promise. Once you get an understanding of what the brand promise is, you can work from there. I always ask brands what emotions they want users/readers to feel when they see the sponsored content. Once you have those emotions, you have a lot of room to work with.
I'll take the reverse of that question too: what's the advantage for news orgs?
I agree with Bill. Quality is what creative people strive for. Getting the chance to do great work, no matter if you're doing it for a big company called a media company, or a big company called a technology company, or a big association, etc.
So, why it works, from a news org's view: 1) It fits better with news -- something that Rebecca Davis, a EVP at Ogilvy, mentioned was that consumers operate in two diff modes at diff times. One involves interaction and conversation, the other is "direct response buying mode." News audiences tend to be in that former mode, so sponsored content makes it easier to reach them than transaction-focused display ads. 2) And for brands, half the battle is creating the content, but the other half is getting that content to where the people are. My last two points are that 3) it better fits with mobile and 4) that the native part can command higher prices, versus commoditized display ads.
I think one of the challenges a media company faces can be that of "perception" when doing work for competitive brands. Or, I'll ask that as a question: Is it?
So building an in-house content marketing team isn't easy. You need to really have a leader with newsroom management experience to be successful. The common pitfalls we see are: inability to foster ideation, challenges with management of assignment and pitch flow and the ability to hire and pay quality journalists to produce these assets. This is why we tend to recommend a virtual newsroom environment for those companies who don't have editorial domain experience. For our media partners who broker content marketing it's less about domain experience and more about cost structures and preferred strategies.
I think GE does a good job of showing how well it can work by moving back and forth between their own branded platforms and media brands. Their recent "launch sponsor" with Vox.com was fascinating to watch. I think it worked to accomplish the company's marketing aim much better than any tradition online ad effort would have.
What do the various business models look like and what are the advantages/disadvantages?
We've defined four separate biz models: the underwriting model, the agency model, the platform model, and the aggregated/repurposed model. I'll try to explain succinctly.
What's your favorite initiative you've worked on and what are some initiatives which presented you with issues? What lessons have you learned?