While native advertising still retains its appeal under the marketing umbrella today, the journalistic form of branded content has grown to become marketers’ new weapon of choice, as they have greater control over the content published. But is branded content really easier, faster and cheaper than PR?
Given the overlap between both strategies, some may even argue that branded content will eventually come to replace the jobs of public relations pros. When slapped with a budget limit, marketers are often forced to weigh one option over the other. Others are spoilt for choice on the channels to employ for their messages to be heard loud and clear. As a marketer, how do you decide which strategy works best for a business? Here are a few questions you need to consider.
Who is your target audience?
Defining your target audience from the beginning is key to shaping the outcome of your storytelling efforts. This includes having a strong understanding of the media consumption habits of your target audience – where do they “lurk” on- and offline, what type of content do they consume, and how do they react to various types of content?
It is also imperative to be on top of existing regulations and policies pertaining to branded content, especially on social media platforms. Facebook requires the brand to clearly indicate that the content published is branded, while Influencers collaborating with brands are required to explicitly highlight the commercial nature of their content with hashtags such as #sponsored or #SP.
How will your content benefit your target audience?
While branded content allows companies to leverage on the reach and engagement of media publications, consumers have become more discerning than ever. This means they can easily tell branded content and advertorials apart from journalistic articles. It also means they will make a conscious effort to avoid such articles.
At the end of the day, if you’re putting your money on branded content, consider how you can craft content that is compelling enough to stir the interest of your audience or share new knowledge with them. A job board’s main purpose, for example, is to have jobseekers come on board, create their profiles and land a career with them. But with so many job boards readily available out there today, job boards have expanded into offering free, targeted career advice for jobseekers. While career advice does not appear to have an immediate connection with a job board business’ main function, it serves as another avenue to drive brand recall while adding value to a jobseeker’s job search. The next time a jobseeker thinks about job searching, the particular brand whom they’ve interacted with would remain at the top of their minds.
Do you have enough time?
Behind every successful PR campaign, is a great number of hours put into preparation. This includes crafting the right brand key messages, identifying the relevant media outlets, drafting press releases and building the company’s press kit. Having ample time to pull the materials together can aid to the overall success of the PR efforts.
But if you really can’t wait at least a month to start seeing some media traction from your PR team, branded content can be a quicker alternative to achieve a similar end goal. Whether it’s partnering up with a media house or collaborating with influencers on a post, a video or a blog post, these factors can all be controlled to suit your needs.
Do you have enough budget?
Just like advertising, branded content is a reliable way of securing desired placements within your choice of media publications, allowing your messages to get heard. However, it is the quality of that branded content that will make the difference – and producing quality takes time. But while engaging a PR agency for their expertise and contacts across multiple media outlets can cost a lump sum, engaging a well-known influencer for a one-off branded Instagram shoutout, or engaging a publication for a content partnership can likely cost just as much. You also need to consider that one post alone won’t do much, as consistency and continuous engagement will keep a brand in the consciousness of consumers.
Keep your end goals in mind
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to choosing the marketing channels for your brand. Every channel plays its part in supporting the bigger picture of marketing. At the end of the day, it’s your understanding of your business’s needs, and knowing how to effectively blend various marketing strategies to put forth a cohesive message. That’s what will ultimately drive the best results for your business.
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