Spotlight On: Branded Content
Authenticity for the Win
By, Sterling Eason, Senior Director of Partnership Development
Now more than ever, consumers are gravitating to brands to hear their authentic stories. They want to see the CEO on Zoom (with her dog) in weekend clothes giving a tour of the factory or follow a social media campaign that teaches them something new. And, it's comforting when the delivery is genuine and authentic. The best part? Authentic communication is as effective as it is affordable.
This is where branded content comes in. It is the vehicle for the authenticity to travel within, which is why it can be one of the most effective tools used by brands today. Trust can be built between the consumer and the brand when they see the people behind the brands and the products.
New sales and marketing models are emerging weekly. Coupled with concerns and uncertainty around budgets for marketing, we are stepping onto new ground that can feel precarious. There will be no return to the status quo for consumers in the near future - the new normal is taking shape.
We recently surveyed our business partners at Steeplechase of Charleston with the majority indicating that their top tools for marketing are social media and branded content. This is where the affordability theme steps in. Creating branded content doesn’t mean slick and expensive productions.
HOW TO GET STARTED
What is your goal?
Let’s start with what branded content is often used to do:
- Drive engagement
- Increase brand awareness
- Improve brand loyalty
First, gather your smartest minds together and talk it out.
Be sure to populate that team with people from multiple areas of the company. Remember, your brand is represented in everything from sales to operations to the front lines of customer service - all these areas should weigh in.
- What do you want for the brand? Find your themes.
- Start putting them into buckets with ideas attached to each.
- If you are efficient, this is a one-hour meeting. Preparing your people before the meeting is key. Give them time to think about the brand and assign them ideas to bring to the table.
Develop the story and concept.
You have your buckets of goals with themes, now pick one. Pick a week on the schedule to push it out and work backward to begin your planning. While you are at that, create a basic content calendar for the year and share it with the team. Be willing to change that calendar as often the market will present new challenges. For guidance, here's a great article discussing the Nine steps to great storytelling.
Develop content that strengthens likability while also carrying out your major goal.
Good content is key to convince consumers to click. People like content that makes them feel good and in turn, they often will feel good about the brand. Make them laugh, teach them something, give them special access. With consumers spending less time commuting, etc., they are looking to fill in gaps. This is your opportunity to bring them content that entertains and informs - resulting in consumers taking action.
A SATISFYING CONTENT EXPERIENCE → DRIVES CLICKS → HOME PAGE → SALES
A few ideas to consider:
- Give them access to something - Go behind the scenes and show your process. People love to see things being made!
- Give them ‘news-they-can-use’ - break down steps for how they can solve a common problem. Bring in experts. Your base may value entertainment over-analysis and tips, or want both. Understand who you are speaking to. (Map that out in your initial ideation meeting.)
- Co-create with like-minded brands. Example: a wealth advisory creates a virtual evening for its clients. The agenda flows between experts speaking on the market trends and a wine brand offering a lesson on red wines of Europe. Here's a great example of co-created branded content by Steeplechase of Charleston in 2019 for M.Dumas & Sons
- Another suggested strategy is to not only attempt to create a community centered on enthusiasm for your brand, but for your brand to enthusiastically support existing communities that have a purpose separate from, but relevant to you.
How to tell your story
- Find the easiest platforms for you to use. This is where Social Media steps in often. It is user-friendly, easily-measured, and inexpensive. (If you aren’t consistent with content on social media, you are likely not going to build your followers.)
- However, there are many other platforms such as articles, video calls, virtual events, branded videos, newsletters, as well as conference calls.
- Identify the voice: If it is a Zoom call, bring in a moderator to hold the content together by keeping everyone on message; if it’s an article, have your CEO pen the piece from their perspective, or, if you are hosting a virtual event, pin it to a theme and have your host give a strong introduction and close.
- Record and reuse. Once you have built a body of content, save it! Use it again. Replay it to a new audience. And by all means, add it to your website so that those visiting for the first time can get a sense of your brand voice.
Here's an example of a branded content video created by Steeplechase of Charleston for our presenting sponsor, Baker Motor Company:
Last but not least, three golden rules:
- Have a purpose for what you are doing when you tell your story.
- Tie that purpose back to a call-to-action.
- Make it easy for them to act as well as react.
The time is now to drive connections. The desire of your customers is there. What are you waiting for?
A partnership with Steeplechase of Charleston can mean much more than exposure on race day. Consider a conversation with me to discuss how your brand can be a part of our overall content strategy that begins well in advance of race day and extends across multiple platforms.
By Sterling Eason, Senior Director of Partnership Development, Steeplechase of Charleston, The Post and Courier