3 Archetypes And 5 Tips: Advice For Sponsored Content Success

December 6, 2012

Sponsored content is an increasingly common tactic in our online outreach and consumer engagement efforts. It’s a great way to deepen relationships with blogs and bloggers we regularly work with while exploring all possible avenues to helping clients achieve their missions.

In my trials and tribulations coordinating dozens of sponsored content efforts, I’ve worked with blogs of all shapes and sizes: One-man operations where the blogger does everything himself to sites owned by huge content networks with dedicated ad-sales staff. Just as varied as the size of the operation is the level of organization and professionalism on display — and it’s not as simple as “the big ones are the organized ones.”

If I were to generalize, I’d say you’re likely to run into one of three characters in the line of sponsored-content duty.

The Rogue
Takes your money and says “thanks,” not to be seen or heard from again until a post is published. You’re left wondering how exactly he arrived at the specific topic about which he opined. The post has typos and maybe even a few factual errors, but “Hey, this is a sponsored post, not an ad, man.”

The Dude
Easy to work with. Happy to show drafts, take direction, make revisions. A good partner. A little fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, but not to detriment of the final product. Throws in a couple of tweets and Facebook posts for good measure. As a bonus, the blogger personally “likes” your Facebook page, too — just to make you feel good.

The Pro
Uses a creative brief. Discusses key messages, conversion targets and visual assets. Sets deadlines not just for publication but also for asset delivery, draft copy and revisions. Charges a lot of money but, as you’d hope, leaves you with no reason to question the spend. It’s like The Dude got a job at a major glossy magazine.

In closing, here are a few tips I’d offer to the bloggers out there — in the spirit of making your interactions with marketers even easier and more effective for everyone. If you’re a marketer, look for these from the partners you’re advertising with.

  • Clearly communicate your process — before it starts: The one thing that sucks is, as an advertiser, not knowing exactly what to expect. Do we write and you publish? You write and we approve? We’re not involved at all? Can I at least give you some Google link-tracking tags to include?
  • Discuss specific deliverables: What’s included? Any photos or links? How many? Are you choosing which and where to put them? How about social media updates or email newsletter mentions, too?
  • How much we talkin’ here? How much will this cost? Is there a deal for running a series rather than just a single post? Do you have different “classes” of sponsored content, like simple news briefs and longer feature posts? Which am I getting? Don’t leave me to guess or, worse, find out after it’s published.
  • Use a creative brief: All the cool kids are doing it. You’ll notice that the three preceding bullet points are related to the idea of clear communication and setting expectations. A creative brief is a great tool to have on the voyage toward clarity.
  • Write well or hire someone who does: Or let me copyedit the post. No marketer worth his or her weight in pageviews will want to pay for a post that’s riddled with typos and poor grammar.