So What Do You Do, Lauren Drell, Branded Content Editor at Mashable?


Mashable is one of the headlining members of the “new media” crop. In just a few years, what was once a blog covering technology and social media has become a top news source for everything from brands behaving badly on Twitter to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. In recent years, its role has shifted from aggregator to newsmaker — and its content has moved from text-heavy blog entries to multimedia projects.

But Mashable doesn’t just do news. The site was one of the first to experiment with what it now calls branded content, offering would-be sponsors a relationship in which (in the site’s own words), “Mashable’s editorial team produces content presented by your brand.”

The content in question is “crafted to align your brand with relevant themes and to resonate strongly with your target audience, in a format that is native to Mashable.” Many major brands have participated as related projects grow more ambitious, yet Mashable’s policy insists that the creation of said content occurs without the direct editorial input of its sponsor.

Lauren Drell, a writer and former journalism student who now runs Mashable’s branded-content division, spoke to us about the ins and outs of her job — and cleared up some misconceptions about what she does every day.

Name: Lauren Drell
Position: Branded content editor, Mashable
Resume: Worked for a year as a freelance writer/editor (DailyCandy, ideeli, City Magazine, among others), then went to J-school, after which she interned at AOL Small Business for six months. Joined Mashable in 2011. Concurrently built and ran the social media presence for Luke’s Lobster, which teed her up for working with branded content.
Birthday: February 23, 1986
Hometown: Chatsworth, CA
Education: BA in history from the University of Pennsylvania; MSJ in broadcast from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism
Marital status: Single
Media mentor: “Sharon Feder, who hired me at Mashable and is now [chief digital officer] at Rachael Ray. She steered me toward this branded-content role and helped me develop a solid understanding of what Mashable’s branded content should be.”
Best career advice received: The general sentiment of [Sheryl Sandberg’s] “Lean in” really resonated with me and my girlfriends, and our careers have accelerated in the past year or two because of it.”
Guilty pleasure: “While everyone’s salivating over the pumpkin spiced latte, I’m whipping up a batch of my mom’s pumpkin chocolate chip muffins with homemade cream cheese frosting (and then eating them all myself.)”
Last book read: Where’d You Go Bernadette, by Maria Semple, and I’m slowly getting through the wonderful Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts.

How did you get into media and what led you to Mashable?
It was a happy accident. While majoring in history my senior year at Penn, I realized I wanted to try journalism (though I hadn’t figured out my precise beat). But I missed the deadline to apply to J-school, so I ended up taking a year off and moving to New York, where I did copy editing and writing for City magazine, Dylan’s Candy Bar, Ideeli and Daily Candy in order to get published and to get some ‘boots on the ground’ experience before applying.

I went to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern with a focus on broadcast, but quickly realized that general assignment reporting for a small affiliate was not my cup of tea. But I did learn valuable skills there: how to edit video very quickly and tell a story in 90 seconds or less.

What was your first post-grad job?
Towards the end of my J-school program, I looked up the editor at AOL Small Business (who had also gone to Penn for undergrad) in the alumni directory and contacted him via social media, writing that I did video, that I was moving back to New York and that I would love to get into the small business/entrepreneurship space.