We know that branded content is an interesting, engaging way to promote a brand while giving consumers what they want through an educational or informative message. But how do you create effective branded content that readers want to interact with?
During December's Big Branded Call, the Branded Content Project welcomed David Arkin of David Arkin Consulting, who shared his tips for creating clickable content. Arkin, who has 20 years of content and audience experience working with newspapers, TV stations, magazines and digital-only outlets, has a record of successfully building effective branded content campaigns.
What is clickable content?
Arkin describes clickable content as content that centers on what the audience wants to know. It uses the same strategies newsrooms use to grow organic content by focusing on what solutions people need with a local focus.
Just like newsroom reporters work daily to get valuable information to their audience, advertisers should be asking how can they make their customers' lives easier or better. It's up to you to help guide your brand clients away from things they may want to promote that just won't captivate an audience. This can be a challenge, but it's important to remember that you are the marketing expert.
Arkin recalled a client who wanted a content piece explaining how home siding works, but recognizing that that kind of story angle wouldn't be interesting to the audience, they shifted gears and did a before-and-after piece with a customer who'd used the builder service, personalizing the story and making it much more relatable and exciting to the reader. Rather than focusing on the business, Arkin advises to keep your focus on people.
"We still were able to involve the expertise in it, but it made it feel totally different to the consumer and the engagement was much higher," Arkin said.
Arkin likes to use a framework when discussing a branded content campaign strategy with advertisers. The questions above are a great starting point to structure a productive conversation that can lead to better outcomes for the client.
Ask the right questions
Another piece of advice for creating clickable content is to get creative. In one example shared with the crowd, Arkin described a campaign with a Long Island realtor named Tiffany. After thoughtful questioning, he discovered that she was constantly referring clients to area restaurants, parks to visit, and things to do in the area while showing homes, so they decided to create Tiff's Tips which would give the realtor a formal platform to offer her knowledge. She was hesitant at first, thinking nobody would want to know her thoughts, but that simply wasn't the case. Her expertise of the area is a big benefit to consumers looking to re-locate.
"The most popular story that we had her write was, 'Five reasons why your family will love living in this area,' and one of the things I think is really critical here is thinking about what the audience will engage with the most and not necessarily what the advertiser wants to do at that moment," Arkin said. "If you can convince them there's value there you can have a home run."
If you can create content you know the audience really is interested in, that is evergreen, and doesn't seem like it's coming directly from an advertiser, it will create lasting value for the advertiser and your audience.
In another collaboration with a local business, Arkin discovered the popular barbecue restaurant was celebrating 15 years in business so he came up with the idea to make a list of 15 things to know about the smokehouse, which ended up being one of the magazine's most popular stories for the month, and was a departure from the business' original idea of collaborating with another business.
Lists are incredibly popular and an easy way to capture an audience's attention. In addition to lists, Arkin recommends other alternate story formats that will give readers a reason to stick around. Infographics, lists, Q&A's, quizzes, social videos and graphics are all effective formats for branded content.
"We want to to write for the reader, and we want to write for how the reader most easily can consume the information that you're giving them, and narrative blocks of copy is not always the best way to do this," Arkin said. "This is the thing we work in newsrooms all the time, but now we're bringing it to sponsored content and it's really working quite well."
Arkin recommends looking for a hook that makes the content unique. When doing home showcases, rather than just showing off a beautiful piece of property, he taps the realtors for their expertise on intriguing topics like why corner lots are harder to find and more desirable, or what it means to sell your home off market. These topics are more educational to a reader or viewer while positioning the realtor as an expert in their field giving them more brand authority.
Build organized campaigns
Before you walk in for your sales meeting with a client, being as prepared as possible will make the entire process easier for everyone. Arkin uses pre-built organized campaigns based on which industry he's targeting to make the whole process less confusing for the advertiser.
If you're presenting branded content to an educational institution, have several content ideas at the ready for a six month flight. The same goes for other industries that would be a good fit for branded content (healthcare, professional services, real estate, home services, etc.).
"I think it pulls down some of the tension or the friction that might be there. That allows you to explain how this could work for them," Arkin said.
Lately, he's been focusing on the restaurant industry, and although there may not be as many dollars available as there are for healthcare, there are countless branded content story ideas that would look fresh to a restauranteur. He recommends presenting a three-month campaign including things like a profile on the chef, a list of the 5 must-try dishes, or a testimonial from a customer who keeps coming back. Create these organized campaigns by industry so you always have something to reference and work from.
It's also crucial to understand what Google is looking for to create SEO value for your advertiser. Arkin recommends creating specific URLs with 50-60 characters that include keywords. Google likes articles that are local, show expertise and are solutions-based.
Finally, don't be afraid to play with video reels, which are extremely popular for consumers and perform well.
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The Meta Branded Content Project is designed through a strategic partnership between the Local Media Association, the Local Media Consortium, and the Meta Journalism Project to help facilitate additional growth, engagement, and revenue success for more publishers of all shapes and sizes.