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  • Writer's pictureJulia Campbell

Five things we've learned in five years

We've learned a lot over five years

After half a decade of swapping stories and sharing strategies with brilliant sales and content teams in local media, we've unlocked branded content wisdom from companies big and small. We've learned that it's not just about flashy ideas or having an army of employees—it's about laying down solid foundations that can weather any storm. Whether you're a massive multi-market media company or a scrappy startup carving out your niche, we've distilled five lessons from our five-year adventure that'll boost your revenue with branded content.

Look for the unicorns

In the magical kingdom of local media lie the local media unicorns—companies that redefine creativity and cast light on the path to success. With their creativity and daring spirit, these organizations hold the key to unlocking the gates of possibility. Unicorns exist, and they are innovating not just in branded content. We see unicorns building powerful programs in philanthropy, membership, audience growth, events, first-party data and community engagement. Look for the unicorns to find inspiration. They are everywhere and showing us the path to success and sustainability. 

Where are the branded content unicorns? Check out these two case studies:

Collaboration not competition

Amidst the hustle of local media, collaboration emerges as the secret sauce that elevates ordinary projects into incredible initiatives. By joining forces with complementary organizations, we amplify our reach and impact. Instead of engaging in a cutthroat battle for advertisers, local newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations can join forces with local businesses to provide educational content and information to their community. Collaboration amplifies the impact by using all participants' best assets and audiences.

Looking for an example or two? We have some great ones:

Give the people what they want

One thing we've learned from years in the trenches of local media is this: lifestyle and evergreen content are the golden tickets to capturing hearts and minds. Sure, the current headlines might grab attention, but it's the stories that resonate beyond the news cycle that keep people coming back for more. Think about it: who doesn't love a good recipe for Grandma's famous apple pie or tips for sprucing up your backyard oasis? This kind of content isn't just filler; it's the lifeblood of our communities. It's the stuff that sparks conversations at the grocery store and brings neighbors together over shared interests. So, if you're wondering what people are looking for, trust us—it's the timeless tales and practical advice that make everyday life a little sweeter.

Looking for lifestyle content ideas? - Check these out:

Don’t forget distribution

Let’s talk for a minute about why distribution is the unsung hero of content success. Picture this: you've crafted the Mona Lisa of blog posts, the Michelangelo of videos, the Shakespearean sonnet of social media updates. But here's the kicker—no one will appreciate your masterpiece if it's hidden away in the attic of the internet. Crafting compelling content is only half the battle; strategic distribution is the key ingredient that ensures its reach. By leveraging multiple platforms and distribution channels, we maximize exposure and engagement. For instance, a sponsored content series on local hiking trails could be featured in print but also distributed through social media, email newsletters, and community events, ensuring widespread visibility and participation.

Whether it's through strategic partnerships, targeted advertising, or good old-fashioned word of mouth, distribution amplifies your message. So, my friends, don't let your content languish in the shadows. Give it the spotlight it deserves with killer distribution.

Diving into distribution? Check out these resources explaining the power of adding distribution:

Find your cheerleader

Behind every successful team lies a cheerleader—a fervent advocate for quality branded content campaigns and a brand champion who embodies the project's spirit and vision. This passionate individual ignites excitement, propelling projects forward with unwavering dedication. Your cheerleader is the individual who believes in the possibilities of what quality branded content campaigns can bring to advertisers and audiences. They are your content marketing evangelists taking hold of your program and pushing and promoting it forward. Your branded content cheerleader will build your programs and products with internal teams and celebrate success while helping position the possibilities for advertisers.

This passionate person may be from the creative, sales, or operational side, but they have the excitement and vision to lead your project. Yet, their efforts thrive with top-level support and endorsement. Ensure your champion has some muscle to go with the message.

Bonus tip: Ask for help

As we reflect on the past five years, these lessons guide our future endeavors in local media and branded content. By embracing innovation, collaboration, timeless appeal, strategic distribution, and cultivating brand champions, we unlock the door to lasting success, forging meaningful connections with audiences and driving tangible results for our partners and communities.

And we are here to help you build and grow your programs. The Meta Branded Content Project has ready-now resources and multiple ways to train your sales teams, newsrooms, and advertisers. Contact us, and we can help you develop your next great idea and become the unicorn others search for.

Written with a bit of help from ChatGPT.


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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