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  • Penny Riordan

5 things we learned from the custom branded content sales boot camp

Updated: May 2, 2023

Recently, more than 100 sales and content leaders participated in the Meta Branded Content Project’s boot camp on custom content. The five-week program, which will happen again later in the year, was free for companies to participate in. Here’s what some of the participants learned about selling custom content.

1. The importance of a content calendar

Several of the publishers who participated in the program said they now see the importance of a content calendar when selling branded content. In the custom boot camp, the curriculum emphasized the importance of creating the calendar not only to stay organized but as a sales tactic. When a client sees a content calendar with ideas that span the entire campaign length, they see the value of branded content compared to a standard ad campaign.

Penda Howell, the CEO, founder and publisher of New Jersey Urban News, said that he was working with a client now and hadn’t thought about implementing it until the boot camp.

“It's been so helpful. So that is really something that really sort of resonated with me and helped me almost immediately,” he said.

2. Content calendars make the work of selling branded more efficient

Leo Cusimano, the publisher of the Dallas Voice, said he has been successful at selling the highly valued LGBTQ+ audience in North Texas to advertisers for a long time.

What shifted for him after going through the boot camp, however, was how a content calendar could help them to be more efficient when pitching to advertisers. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by developing a lot of custom pieces, he and the team should focus on selling a series.

“Efficiency is how I operate,” he said. “This program has helped me wrap my head around the structure of how to sell branded content and how to build a strategy around it.”

3. Video is more key to expanding your campaign reach than ever before

For Jay Jacoby, the co-founder and digital director for Jumpstart Digital, the biggest lesson from the boot camp was the importance of putting together quality video as part of expanding the reach of a package.

Jacoby is working on a travel campaign to promote the town of Canon City, Colorado. He plans to develop a package for the local movie theater to have small businesses advertising in their pre-show segment. The videos will be developed for social and can be re-purposed later.

“I’m looking at using video as the foundation for sponsored content/multi-channel marketing,” he said.

4. Don’t underestimate the value of your company’s mission when selling branded content

For Dawn Suggs, digital director at the historic African-American newspaper the St. Louis American, the lightbulb moment was the potential for brands to be aligned with the publication’s mission with sponsored content. For companies in the area unsure how to invest in the Black community, the team can pitch solutions-focused stories such as features on the Boys and Girls Clubs or how to treat asthma better.

“It serves you're killing a lot of birds with one stone,” she said. “They can get their image out there in terms of the Black community, which is harder for them to invest in some ways.”

5. When selling branded content, you’re selling your audience as much as you’re selling the content

Dawn Jorgenson, the branded content managing editor of Graham Media Group, said she has been working with sales teams to understand the value of the large audiences of their television stations. Instead of focusing on the content when pitching a client, what would it look like to educate the client on the uniqueness of their audience?

“We have so many loyal, trusting viewers and readers. And so I think that is such a great angle for us to take when trying to pitch these things,” she said.

Missed the boot camp? No worries! We have all five weeks of sessions here:

Registration is open for our next boot camp, which is a 2-week series focusing on pitching and presenting skills. Sign up here!


The Meta Branded Content Project is designed through a strategic partnership between the Meta Journalism Project, Local Media Association and the Local Media Consortium to help facilitate additional growth, engagement, and revenue success for more publishers of all shapes and sizes.

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