The Ultimate Guide to Branded Content
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Strategy

The Ultimate Guide to Branded Content

Content marketing is more than great storytelling. It’s a relationship-building tool that empowers consumers to make educated and informed decisions about your brand. It’s an authentic way for organizations to add value to their customers’ lives, fueling happiness and trust. It’s a powerful driver for generating engagement, providing entertainment, and inspiring brand affinity. You know great content when you see it — but the process of creating high-quality content is easier said than done. The growing content marketing ecosystem has amplified demand for top writers, and when you’re creating content and distributing at scale you need all the talented help you can get — and you need them fast. This guide will help you master the art of: › Crafting an operational framework that grows with your company. › Cultivating a team of all-star freelancers who are experts in their field. › Pinpointing the right content software and tools. › Measuring the ROI of your branded and licensed content. › Building a newsroom that can handle high-volume content production with ease.

Guide by NewsCredJuly 19, 2016

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In this collection 1 Guide / 30 Minutes

Branded Content + the Marketing Ecosystem

It’s an understatement to say that content has become the heart and soul of marketing. The idea revolves around a fundamental trend in consumer behavior that today’s buyers are highly self-directed and research-driven. By the time that they reach out to your organization’s sales team, they’ve likely made a decision about whether or not to do business with your brand. Great content is a key influencer in this decision making process.

The end result of content marketing is clear ROI for your business. When executed correctly, content becomes a brand asset — generating a steady stream of leads, sales, and revenue.

Evergreen content has an infinite shelf life. Unlike paid channel advertisements or social media posts that lose relevancy within a few seconds, content lives on the Internet forever and has the potential to generate leads for years.

Write one amazing article and it will appreciate in value by gaining momentum through search engine rankings and incremental exposure through social channels — as audiences discover great content, they’ll feel inclined to share it for years to come.

 

Here are a few statistics that demonstrate how B2B brands think about content marketing. It’s no surprise that:

 

Case Study: Yahoo! Tech’s “Original” Take on Solar-Powered Cars

Ford Solar Powered Car Yahoo Tech

Image: The Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept car

Yahoo! uses a mix of original content to power its technology thought-leadership portal, Yahoo! Tech. In addition to original content, Yahoo! is leveraging the power of sponsored content to fill its content pipeline and engage new audiences.

Yahoo! worked with Ford and NewsCred’s NewsRoom writer James Raia to publish an original piece covering the intersection of the technology and automotive industries. By leveraging Raia’s experience as a syndicated automotive writer, Yahoo! Tech published a sponsored article on solar-powered cars, which showcases both the Ford and Yahoo! brands.

 

Creating Content That Resonates: Quality is a Must

Content creation is a major pain point for many brands. Organizations will frequently delegate writing tasks to entry-level employees or team members who aren’t professional writers. Businesses think that they are making a wise, cost-effective decision, but here’s the thing: you wouldn’t hire a lawyer to be your engineer, and you wouldn’t hire an engineer to be your CPA. Writing, just like any discipline, is a specialty that requires both talent and genuine interest. Today’s audiences can easily tell the difference between great, mediocre, and terrible writing.

Great content can help your brand accomplish the following goals:

  1. Tell a unique and compelling story.
  2. Demonstrate subject matter expertise.
  3. Entertain and educate audiences at scale.

Hiring an intern just isn’t going to cut it. In a few years, they may become amazing writers, but when interns are just starting out, they’re not going to have the subject matter expertise that your brand’s audiences crave. Paying an overseas content creator ten dollars a blog post isn’t going to cut it either. Forcing your data crunchers to take time out of their days to blog definitely won’t cut it, and will only present a distraction from core job responsibilities.

When it comes to content creation, quality is a must. Online audiences are bombarded with information — and the competition for consumer eyeballs is fierce. Studies on web use have shown that humans have an attention span of about eight seconds. A pet goldfish? Approximately nine seconds. To stand out, inspire audiences, and add value for your brand, your content needs to be awesome. “Good enough” won’t be enough.

By creating lackluster content — for the sake of creating a high volume of content — brands actually waste money. Create amazing content, however, and your brand will lay the foundation for a high-value lead pipeline.

 

Where Branded Content Fits in.

You have several options for creating branded content.

High-performing content strategies require a mix of licensed, original, and social content. Licensed content provides a powerful way to connect audiences with high-quality information at scale and in real-time. Contributed audience content provides an opportunity for your brand’s best advocates to share their unique and authentic perspectives and experiences.

Branded content will take your marketing to the next level. By creating an asset that doesn’t exist anywhere else on the web, you’ll distinguish your brand as a thought leader, developing instant credibility and new audiences by working with writers who are established industry experts.

License content from publishers

NewsCred Licensed Content

Strengths

  • High-value content from top publishers is readily available, at scale, for virtually any topic.
  • Highly cost-effective.
  • Vetted content that has undergone multiple layers of editorial review.
  • Some of the best content that you’ll find on the Internet — that already has a track record for audience engagement.

Challenges

  • Brands have to renew licensing on a semi-regular basis, even for evergreen content

Where NewsCred Fits in

  • NewsCred offers content from more than 4,500 publishers.
  • NewsCred provides access to millions of full-text articles, images, and video.
  • NewsCred ensures that content is safe and legally compliant for licensing purposes

 

Social content

(user-generated content across channels, employee – generated content)

NewsCred User Generated Content Marketing

Strengths

  • Extremely low-cost content channel — it’s usually free.
  • Employees are typically available and enthusiastic about helping.
  • In-house content can help build a passionate brand culture.
  • Builds engagement with existing stakeholders.
  • Some contributed articles may be extremely compelling and high-quality.

Challenges

  • Content requires detailed curation for quality control.
  • Brands have limited control over editorial direction.
  • Brands may need to tell their audiences “no” to publishing a piece of content (which is likely to upset them).
  • Editorial queues can be extremely challenging to plan.

Where NewsCred Fits in

Create branded content

NewsCred Branded Content Marketing

Strengths

  • You will tap into the expertise of established, high-demand content creators.
  • You will have an inventory of dedicated, branded content from writers with established track records for inspiring audience engagement.
  • These are professionals who know how to integrate your brand perspective in all freelanced content.
  • Freelancers can help your organization build a content production engine to create high-quality pieces at scale.
  • Technology is available to help streamline the content production process.
  • Freelancers are often influential, and are happy to share your brand’s content with their own networks

Challenges

  • Requires dedicated resources and strategic planning.
  • Workflow can take time to fully develop.
  • The process of sourcing writers can be a challenge (they’re typically paid extremely well and in high demand)

Where NewsCred Fits in

  • NewsCred is the resource on content marketing, and we’ve vetted and found the best freelancers for your branded content. The best freelancers work with us because we don’t take any fee on content – every dollar you spend on original articles goes directly to your freelance team. As the world’s leading content marketing platform, we’ve also partnered with some of the most world-renowned content producers, including Getty Images and Visually.
  • Additionally, our platform makes it easy for you to manage your team of writers and create real relationships with them. They become an extension of your team and brand.
  • Finally, freelancers love us. That’s why we have the best. We’re taking care of the difficult stuff like invoicing, tax documentation, and payment processing. You never have to worry about getting your Accounts Payable department to pay your freelancers – we take care of that for you.
  • NewsCred’s Content Marketing Cloud provides tools for brands looking to source writers, build workflows, and measure ROI

Brand Journalism

When we think of freelancers, several stereotypes come to mind:

  • They’re constantly hungry (and desperate) for any work.
  • They couldn’t cut it in the real world.
  • They’re not invested in your brand, and won’t take the time to understand your goals.
  • Their core talents are writing and writing only.

Marketing leaders who buy into these stereotypes will face a shocking surprise. Freelancers are in high demand and are often paid extremely well — some earn more than $1,000 per blog post. These professionals left the traditional workforce because they are subject-matter experts. They’re constantly recruited for full-time roles, but will frequently turn these opportunities down. They’re extremely hardworking, client-focused professionals who chose self-employment as a path to becoming leaders in what they do.

When it comes to content marketing, your freelance contributors will become invaluable business partners. They’ll help you cultivate your brand’s strategy and share insights about what they’re seeing every day on the playing field.

It’s in your company’s best interest to treat these business partners with ultimate respect. If you want great content, you need to pay your writers well. You need to woo your writers and build a strong rapport with them, especially with the demand for high-quality content being higher than it has ever been. Skilled content creators know that clients (and amazing opportunities) will always be there. Make it worth their while!

 

Why Top Content Creators Are Tough to Wrangle

Marketing managers may think that recruiting freelancers is as easy as reaching out to writers by email or through LinkedIn. You may be surprised that this process is much tougher and more time consuming than you think.

Freelancers are small business owners who are responsible for all business operations ranging from sales to accounting and client services. In other words, they’re unbelievably busy. They book their services several months in advance, and they’re spending their days doing more than just writing. They’re highly focused on finding steady, high-quality work. By building a reliable stream of revenue with a client, freelancers can minimize the administration necessary to manage their customer relationships.

Brands can attract top freelancers by offering competitive rates, being organized, and communicating upcoming business plans. Focus on building relationships, and get to know your freelancers on an individual level. The more you integrate freelancers with your full-time team, the more empowered they will be to do great work for your brand. Not to mention, you’ll have consistent access to talented experts who will jump at the chance to work with you.

Brands also need to be strategic about their recruiting. Freelancers have varying interests, skill sets, and areas of expertise. If you’re looking for a technology writer, make sure that you’re recruiting for the right background. Request to see their portfolio, and check if they’ve freelanced for notable brands. The more you can rely on your writers’ expertise, the easier your job will be as a marketer, brand editor, or program manager.

 

10 Best Practices to Embrace

NewsCred Freelancer Content Marketing

 

Your freelancers have the potential to be invaluable business partners for your brand. Successful brand editors are skilled team leaders who take the time to get to know their freelancers on an individual level and cultivate great ideas from their contributor networks. Follow these ten best practices to build the strongest relationship possible.

  1. Share your brand strategy, editorial guidelines, and goals. Content marketing is strategy-driven. Your freelancers will be well-positioned to deliver great content when they can wholly understand the goals behind your marketing campaign. The more they understand your brand’s needs, the more empowered they’ll be to recommend ideas and insights as well.
  2. Work with a consistent team of freelancers. Your freelancers are in it for the long haul. They care about your brand and want to help you succeed. These relationships take time to fully cultivate. A consistent team of freelancers will take the time to learn and care about your company’s marketing goals.
  3. Assess your freelancers’ strengths and passions. Top freelancers are in tune with their skill-sets. Give them the flexibility to create content they’re passionate about. This enthusiasm will take a project from good to amazing.
  4. Pay freelancers immediately. Every freelancer — at some point — has been burned by non-paying clients. Paying freelancers immediately is invaluable to building trust. While your freelancers may not be starving, they are likely wondering if and when they’ll get paid. Independent contractors don’t have the same legal safety nets of a big brand. Paying freelancers upon submission is a powerful sign that your brand values these business relationships.
  5. Set expectations. Failed business relationships are, more often than not, the result of one major pain point: failed communication. Brands need to keep the dialogue open with freelancers. Let them know ahead of time how much (and when) they’ll be compensated, how well-researched a piece needs to be, as well as the formatting requirements and number of editing cycles expected of the freelancer. Setting expectations ahead of time will save time by minimizing the revision process. If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
  6. Make freelancers a part of your marketing team. Be as transparent as possible. Share planning documents, editorial calendars, and content performance. Freelancers work with multiple clients and are valuable consultants for your brand. They’re on your site and want to help your company reach key performance goals.
  7. Let them know how their work performs. Freelancers care about your company and will do everything in their power to help your marketing initiatives succeed. Like you, they are excited to test new ideas and add maximum value with their work.
  8. Provide constructive feedback. Not happy? Talk to your freelancers about it. They’re human and open to learning. Work together, grow together, and strive to improve as a team. Your freelancers appreciate the feedback and are always striving to become better in their work.
  9. Give freelancers beats and areas of focus. Trusted freelancers can be given “beats,” much like a newsroom, or other areas of creative specialty. Trust your team to pitch stories in their areas of interest and expertise. These beats will make a brand editor’s job much easier — spend more time optimizing your marketing program and less time brainstorming ideas to write about.
  10. Give credit to your freelancers. Your freelancers are proud of their work. They’re excited to share bylined pieces with their social media communities and other clients. Freelancers depend on their track records to secure new business and evolve in their careers. Give credit by giving them bylines and providing great testimonials. Remember that a simple “thank you” can amplify the success of a business relationship.

 

Logistics

NewsCred Content Marketing Cloud

 

A successful content strategy requires both right-brained and left-brained planning. Success requires structure, which is easier said than done. Many brand editors will manage their freelancer relationships over the phone or by email. That works if you’re managing three freelancers. But when you’re working with 10 or 20? Back-and-forth communication becomes a mess. Word documents and emails will quickly become your arch nemesis.

Remember that time is finite. You need to spend your time brainstorming amazing content and empowering writers to produce great work. If you waste time chasing down back-and-forth emails in your inbox, your content program will suffer. Using a workflow tool like NewsCred’s Content Marketing Cloud can streamline your pitch to publish process with workflows, editorial calendars, and publishing and distribution tools all in one place. Research the marketplace and find a brand publishing tool that best serves your brand’s needs.

 

Content Marketing Software Methods Pros and Cons.png

 

 

Creating a Brand Newsroom

NewsCred Content Marketing News Room

 

Brand newsrooms are foundational to an organization’s publishing efforts. Typically these roles include a mix of strategists, editors, writers, fact-checkers, analysts, and freelancers. These roles require well-defined workflows and feedback loops between production, engineering, and analytical teams.

A mismanaged team leaves significant room for error — without the right tools and systems in place, chaos will ensue. It’s easy to lose track of content, misinterpret data, or overlook crucial metrics for performance measurement.

That’s why software is such an invaluable part of your company’s content strategy — organizations with streamlined workflows are in the best position to develop creative, compelling, and growth-focused marketing strategies.

 

Measuring Success: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Success in content marketing doesn’t happen overnight. Content programs require testing, iteration, and refinement. In other words — test, learn, measure, repeat.

Content marketing KPIs are a direct reflection of your company’s conversion funnel. Metrics should track a lead’s movement through the funnel by answering the following questions:

  • How effective is your content in exposing new prospects to your brand?
  • How effective is your content in building interest and engagement with your brand?
  • To what extent does your content inspire customers to do business with you?
  • Overall, how effective is your content strategy in driving revenue?

Metrics like brand awareness, page impressions, and search rankings need to sync up with bottomline concepts like costs, revenue, profits, and pipeline. The following framework will help you connect the dots:

 

NewsCred Content Marketing Measuring KPIs Chart.png

 

Conclusion

Creating great content is only half the battle. You need the right software that can evolve and grow with your organization — and you can’t waste time by relying on disparate sources for freelancer recruitment, editorial management, and analytics.

Your brand newsroom has the potential to be a powerful revenue source for your business. This type of operation will need to balance editorial creativity and storytelling with strategy and analytics. With the right software, analytical framework, content creators, and marketing goals, your brand will shine.

NewsCred designed the Content Marketing Cloud to be the brand marketer’s most comprehensive, go-to tool. With the Content Marketing Cloud, you have access to the largest marketplace of licensed content, paired with the world’s best branded content writers, the distribution tools to find the right audience at the right moment, and workflows and calendars that streamline the chaos of a content marketing brand newsroom.

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