Striking balance

Back in the pre-Internet days, writers were lumped in the same group as painters and poets — artists who had free reign over their works. Even as some tried to appeal to the masses (a dollar is a dollar, after all!), for the most part authors were able to march to the beats of their own drums.

Branded content writers don’t have this kind of freedom. Every piece of sponsored content must answer to two very strict bosses: the readers and the brand.

Reader appeal boils down to popularity (how many people will actually consume this content?) and shareability (how many of those readers will pass it on to someone else?). Reader appeal is always top of mind for marketers who want to reach a wide audience.

Three Tips to Boost Your Content’s Appeal:

  • Reach your audience on an intrinsic, relatable level. The first step to doing this is to actually understand your audience. Research what drives them and spend time with them online. If you’re listening to what they’re saying on social media and other sites, you can tailor your content to their interests.
  • Deliver value. This can take many forms: Maybe you’re giving your audience information they can put to use in their everyday lives. Or maybe you’re delivering new information that they didn’t know and find interesting. Or, at the most basic level, you could simply be entertaining them and putting a smile on their faces.
  • Mind your P’s and Q’s — literally. The quality of your writing, your tone, and your style all play an important part in creating popular and shareable content.

Of course, things get tricky when you add in the other side of the coin: brand message. Your brand message is the core idea your company wants to convey in its content. When it comes to sponsored content, you can have all the reader appeal in the world — but if you’re not getting your brand’s message across, you’re dead in the water.

Two Tips for Conveying Your Brand Message

  • Know that brand messages weigh more than reader appeal. The fact of the matter is, this scale is not even: Readers are willing to listen to a bit of marketing message in exchange for getting valuable content, but they will always want more value than message. For every second of brand message, you should be giving your audience at least two to three times that in engaging, high-quality content.
  • Leading content marketers know that the only way to successfully convey a brand message while still engaging users is to keep that message as simple as possible. Start with your company’s elevator pitch and boil it down even further: That’s how short your message needs to be for users to get it quickly, without it intruding on your content’s value factor.

The most successful sponsored content balances these two criteria in a perfect ratio. Take for example Purina’s “Dear Kitten” series. The popularity of the series (it’s received over 50 million views!) stems from how relatable and entertaining it is, but also how the brand message doesn’t dilute the content’s appeal. In the first video, the Purina name appears briefly in the beginning, and isn’t shown again until after the 3-minute mark.

This is how to balance brand message with reader appeal: Offer plenty of value with just enough promotion to convey your message, without ruining the positive perception your content has built up.