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  • Writer's pictureLiz Hayes

Selling San Francisco - How Clint Reilly Communications is successfully running content campaigns

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

Working in a media market as robust and competitive as San Francisco's created a unique challenge for Sean McDermott, VP of Advertising Sales & Marketing for Clint Reilly Communications, which owns the Nob Hill Gazette, The San Francisco Examiner and SFWeekly. After reading that 74% of communications professionals use branded content in their advertising strategy (according to Nielsen), he knew he could leverage that fact to help organizations promote their businesses through effective storytelling.

After building a content marketing strategy from scratch, the media company successfully completed 15 branded content campaigns in one year, totaling $340,000 in new revenue.

McDermott joined the Meta Branded Content Project's Big Branded Call in June to share how they organization set themselves up for success and offered a glimpse into some recent content campaigns that came together beautifully.

"The only thing we've done is pair our assets with a brand or company to create something new together," he said.

Building a content marketing strategy from scratch isn't exactly easy, but McDermott says that having a local owner like Clint Reilly, who is very connected in the San Francisco business network (he even ran for mayor once), did open doors. The organization came up with the mantra of Selling San Francisco through storytelling, shining a light on the arts, philanthropic efforts and public policy that make San Francisco a great place for everyone to enjoy.

McDermott says they standardized what they would offer in packages to stay consistent and included a custom SEO-optimized digital article, that same article in print, e-newsletter sponsorship, and video.

Recognizing that there were many organizations doing incredible work, but not getting the distribution and reach they needed, McDermott began working with Community Benefit Districts, or CBDs, in the City to create effective branded content campaigns. He wanted to shine a light on their important causes, while creating a new revenue stream.

"They have limited site traffic, they have limited social reach - but, they have a whole lot of content that they produce," he said.

Clint Reilly Communications partnered with The Mid Market and Civic Center Districts, which provide neighborhood services, promotes local businesses and encourages economic development and public improvements to the area.

Between a new hotel, a theater district, shopping center and new residential developments - there was a lot to talk about and promote. They kicked things off with an Instagram reel promoting the new hotel's rooftop bar, which to date has netted 140,000 views.

"They are both a partner and a sponsor of their own content so they could basically work with the people in their group to put them in these ad spaces. All Mid Market and Civic Center districts are doing 12 stories all together, one per month," McDermott said.

The articles can be SEO-optimized, with full-page prints in the SF Examiner, two spreads in the Nob Hill Gazette, e-newsletter distribution to 50,000 subscribers, social posts and Instagram reels.

Using the same concept, the media organization built a custom content campaign for a shopping district in the area known as Sacramento Street, profiling multiple businesses in the Nob Hill Gazette magazine. Several other CBDs such as Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf and the Tenderloin have this concept and expressed interest in working with them on something similar for their organizations.

He took the same idea and created a custom content campaign with an affordable housing group in the City. They, like many nonprofits, struggle with employee recruitment, retention and motivation issues. Through great storytelling, nonprofits can educate the public on their causes and tackle the employer branding challenges.

As always, there are things to work out over time, including having a clear value proposition, knowing what you're comfortable with, and understanding what kinds of partnerships you want to enter into. They've been able to leverage the deep connections their company owner already has in the city, emphasizing how important it is to use all of your assets as an organization and to stay involved.

"We'll have to refine this offering as we go. It's a living, breathing thing but we're in a space that I think we belong. This is our differentiator and this is how we really leverage what this company's mission is - getting people back to San Francisco, telling positive stories about people," he said.

Up next for McDermott is partnering with other media companies and extending content reach to additional regions, while continuing to navigate the competitive market in San Francisco.

Want to join our next Big Branded Call to learn about how local media organizations are winning in content marketing? Join us for free, here! We meet on the third Wednesday of the month.


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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