Ready for your feature article in Vogue? How about Vanity Fair, Wired, or The New Yorker?
Yes, mega-media network Condé Nast has entered the world of branded content. In late January, the publisher announced the launch of its own content studio, 23 Stories, which gives advertisers access to the editorial teams behind magazines such as GQ, Glamour, and Bon Apétit. For an undisclosed price, companies get to work directly with Condé Nast’s writers and creators to produce brand-driven articles, images and videos.
For anyone familiar with BuzzFeed’s promoted articles or Forbes’ BrandVoice platform, the collision of advertising and public relations is nothing new; native advertising and “advertorial” content has been on the rise for several years. This shift is partially a return to the model of the 1940s and 50s, when channels like NBC aired sponsored programming blocks with names like “The Camel News Caravan” and “Ford Television Theatre.”
So why is 23 Stories a big deal? Because of its pedigree. As more and more media companies make branded content a part of their business model, we’re looking at a new paradigm: one that reconstructs brands as creative entities with their own opinions and quirks and — most importantly — stories to tell…for a price.
A few factors to consider when deciding whether to pursue the placement of branded content include:
- Brand and product legitimacy: Are you well-established giant with a steady stream of interest from media, or are you a new contender in your target market? If media outlets are already telling your story for you, you may not need to invest as heavily in guaranteed placements. If the market is saturated and you’re having difficulty getting your story heard, this type of content may play a critical role in introducing your brand’s story. It may even help build a platform for future media relations.
- Timing: Do you have three months of lead time, or do you need placements right now? Placing stories organically through media relations often requires some time, especially when you’re representing a new client and building new relationships with media contacts. Assigning dollars to advertorial can help you get the short-term visibility you need while you work on forging those long-term relationships with media and chart out a strategic plan for the future.
- Budget: How much are you willing to invest in getting the word out? The answer will impact your approach, because some publishers charge significant fees for branded content placements. You’ll need to be clear on who you want to reach — and by extension, which media you want to work with — as you think about how much to invest in advertorial (if you do so at all).
Know that you don’t always need to go direct-to-publisher; there are plenty of branded content options beyond 23 Stories. Contently is one example; it’s an online hub that matches a database of freelance writers to brands looking to get their stories in front of more readers. Contently clients submit bids to strategists, who choose journalists to create the articles — which are then placed in publications with which those writers have existing relationships.
Amidst all the hype, one thing is clear: branded content is simply one part of the media mix. The most important thing is to settle on a strategic plan and assemble the right avenues, tools, and tactics — be they branded content, standard media relations, or other approaches — to support your brand.
Andrew Grossman is a public relations account manager at Grady Britton, based in Portland, Oregon. He has a history of helping clients from health care, to travel and tourism, to the cybersecurity industry, meet business objectives through creative PR and marketing strategies. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AGPDX.