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Catarina Guevara Posted by Catarina Guevara on August 04, 2015

The Golden Rule of Sponsored Content: Make it Useful

The Golden Rule of Sponsored Content: Make it Useful

Sponsored content is rapidly becoming a key element in the monetization of journalism and online information -- and as a company or business owner, you might be considering getting on board yourself.

If you’re going to launch a sponsored content campaign, make sure you do it right.

There are usually two parties involved in a sponsored content arrangement: The website running the content (and accepting the money), which is usually a blog, news website, or other information purveyor, and the sponsor, who pays money to get their brand and identity in front of the audience of website’s audience.

When done right, sponsored content can be a win-win for both parties; the website gets some money and great content that will hopefully get a lot of attention and page views, and the sponsor gets to market their brand to a new audience while establishing, in the best cases, credibility and likeability.

The best sponsored content is useful content.

Unfortunately, there’s often one critical misstep when companies are coming up with ideas for what to sponsor and how: They forget to make the content actually useful. Which is the single most important element.

The best sponsored content is content that fits right in with the rest of the material on a website. Ideally, the audience will see the content alongside everything else they like about the site, attribute it to the sponsor, and then, if it’s well done, share it.

Because unlike advertising on, say, a sidebar or a banner ad, the point of sponsored content is to do the work of marketing without actively advertising. Today’s consumers -- and especially Millennial consumers -- are more skeptical of advertising than they are of actual content, like blog posts, videos, podcasts, and news articles. Which is why more and more companies are choosing to create sponsored content in the first place.

However, many companies still want their sponsored content to be explicit about what they’re hoping to accomplish, which makes it come across as too sales-y and, as a result, not useful to the consumer.

If you’re thinking about trying a content sponsorship, be sure to address two main questions:

  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • How will it help or entertain a potential reader?

Once you’ve got those ironed out, you’re already more than halfway there -- and probably lapping the competition.

So what does useful sponsored content look like?

Take BMW’s sponsorship agreement with Medium. In 2014, BMW sponsored a new Medium collection called Re:form, which focused on design and the built environment. The articles in the collection were informative, bright, and well-written, which made people want to read and share them. Medium got some money from BMW for the sponsorship, and BMW got to put its logo, name, and credibility right alongside that great content.

Another great example is Slate’s “Big Ideas” section, which is sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation. The side exists away from Slate’s usual content, and is very clearly labeled as sponsored, but also includes opinions and editorials that might appeal to the sorts of readers who would be interested in the Foundation’s work.

Even if you’re not ready to sponsor an entire collection or section, you can still sponsor articles and other pieces of content -- and you may not have to do any writing yourself.

Need Help Planning or Creating Sponsored Content?

Let us help make sure your content is smart, interesting, and well-crafted. Our content strategists and writers can help come up with ideas that will get clicks and shares, while still getting your message and goals across. Call us at 206.384.4909 or use our online contact form to arrange for a free consultation.