April 18, 2023 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
How often does your brand tell stories? If you use content marketing to attract and engage your audience, you probably use them all the time. An interesting headline may be enough to get your audience to click on a piece of content. And a good story might be enough to make them share the piece. But high-quality branded content is what helps them make deeper connections with your company. Today, we’re looking at how to brand content for your organization to help your audience understand what your company is all about:
Branded content is any piece of content marketing that shares your brand stories or values. Most pieces of branded content appeal to your audience’s emotions to help them understand how your brand feels about a certain topic or situation. Branded content helps build brand awareness and increases customer loyalty because it humanizes your company. It also informs your audience about who you are and could inspire them to take the same position or stance on some of your company’s values.
Read More: What Is Branded Content?
Use these tips to brand content to help you reach as many leads and audience members as possible:
One of the first things writing teachers drill into their students is the concept of “show, don’t tell.” This phrase means that when you’re sharing a story, you have to invite the reader inside by showing them what’s going on rather than outright telling them. Let’s look at an example. Which of these sentences makes you want to keep reading?:
The second sentence doesn’t just tell you what’s happening. It shows you the woman’s anger. There is a time and a place to use short declarative sentences like the first example. But overall, if you’re trying to set the scene, pulling your audience into the story with the “show, don’t tell” method helps. The best way to incorporate “showing” into your content is to think about how you can appeal to your audience’s five senses. Prioritize describing things they can see, hear, smell, taste, or touch.
Giving examples to follow any claims you make is another good way to “show” rather than “tell.” For example, instead of just saying, “We’re committed to developing high-quality content for our clients,” show the audience how. Through content marketing, this may be by sharing client testimonials or even case studies.
Beyond appealing to your audience’s senses, you should also appeal to their emotions with branded content. The emotions you try to evoke from your audience should match your company’s beliefs, values, and brand voice. If your company has a humorous brand voice, try to target joy or excitement with your branded content. If your company is more professional or serious, you may target uncertainty or even fear. By making your audience feel something—anything, even anger—you have a better chance of them remembering your content and your company.
Characters are some of the most compelling parts of any story. This includes your brand story. Unlike fiction, you can’t and shouldn’t invent characters to tell your brand story. Audiences will spot this unauthentic approach from the start, which can hurt your credibility. Instead, use real stories from real people your audience can relate to.
These stories can come from your current or past clients, audience members who have had positive interactions with your brand, or from your internal team members or stakeholders. The most important part about picking your cast of characters is to choose genuine people that represent your audience. You want audiences to see themselves in your brand stories and make a deeper connection. By making brand content more appealing, your leads will be more likely to convert to customers.
Neither content marketing nor branded content should explicitly try to sell your products or services. Branded content is most often a top-of-funnel or middle-of-funnel marketing strategy. It educates your audience about your company and its values. Depending on the types of branded content, your pieces could also educate your audience about company and industry beliefs and attitudes.
Most importantly, branded content shouldn’t be salesy—it should be informative and conversational. You’re not trying to convince your audience of anything. Rather, you want them to understand the values and characteristics that matter to your brand and see how those attributes align with your audience’s personal beliefs.
While content marketing and brand content don’t directly try to sell your products and services to your audience, that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about them in your pieces. Many of your brand products and services exist because they’re tied to your company’s beliefs and values. You can share these origin stories and benefits with your audience to help them better understand why your company is in business.
The more you can share about your products and services without making a hard sell, the easier it is for your audience to connect with them. Then, when they’re ready to make a purchase, your products and services are some of the first that they explore.
It’s important to make sure you’re speaking in your company’s brand voice when you create any type of content. But it’s especially important when developing branded content. Branded pieces should always feel like a conversation you’re sharing one-on-one with the audience. The tone of the conversation may be professional, casual, or even humorous.
But the point is that the audience should feel like your brand is a friend or colleague that they’re talking to. Make sure all your branded content uses a consistent tone and clear voice. Creating a style guide can help keep your brand voice and tone consistent across all pieces.
As with any kind of content marketing, it’s important to have a strategy for creating and distributing your pieces. Working with branded content is no different. What might differ slightly from the ways you share regular content pieces is where you plan to distribute your branded content. Start with places where your audience is looking for more information about your company. This may include your website, social media accounts, or online directories.
Contributing branded content to industry publications or through guest posts with related companies could also work. It helps to remember that the goal of branded content is to teach your audience more about your company’s personality. Keep that in mind when optimizing your content for search intent. That way you’re incorporating the right keywords into the copy to make it easier for your audience to find.
One of the best parts of digital marketing is the interactive aspect of the content. When you share branded content online, it’s not a one-sided conversation. With the help of comments, shares, and direct messaging, your audience can and will provide feedback about what you post. It’s important to monitor these comments and messages and keep the dialogue going. Be sure to use a consistent tone and voice when responding to your audience.
When the conversation moves seamlessly from your content to a comment or message, it can increase audience trust in your brand. Better trust also leads to more interactions with your company and better customer or client loyalty as they move through the buying cycle.
Because branded content is for everyone, you have more freedom to choose what types of pieces you develop. Strike a balance between developing timely and timeless branded content. Timely branded content may focus on social trends or events happening in your local community or across the world. If a key topic of your company’s mission or goals is in the news, you can create pieces of branded content to join the conversation.
But your core values are still your core values even when they’re not trending. You can also create longer, evergreen content to share when your beliefs aren’t trending in the news or on social media.
With traditional content marketing and branded content, you can’t expect to publish something and automatically get a million views on it. While some people may find your content by chance, the probability of that happening and bringing great results is low. Instead, you need to focus on expanding your content promotion and visibility efforts. Aside from your traditional content promotion channels like social media and company newsletters, ask your employees to get involved to share branded content. Here are a few ways to use your team members to spread branded content visibility:
Branded content often comes from media partnerships and collaborations. When media outlets want to feature your brand, they’re not trying to sell your company’s products or services for you. Instead, they want to help people get to know your brand and the team behind it. Take, for example, a local newspaper that runs business profiles on companies in the community. The heart of the store is never that Joe’s Heating and Cooling sells air conditioners. The story is about Joe, who’s been running the business for 40 years and supports the youth baseball league and the animal shelter in town.
Creating brand content with media partners gives you an ally to make sure your content gets readership or viewership. This type of partnership has those mutual benefits for both sides, something that may not always be true of other paid partnerships, like influencer marketing.
Depending on where you share your branded content or which organizations your partner with, you may have to follow specific guidelines or policies with each piece. Social media platforms have detailed and specific rules about how to share branded content through those channels. Instagram, for example, requires individual creators and companies to tag business partners for branded content posts.
The platform also has additional rules for businesses and creators with monetized content and branded ads. To get the most out of where and how to share your branded content, be sure to follow any platform and community guidelines to keep your company in good standing.
Branded content can be an extension of your company branding. When developing your content, keep more than just your brand voice consistent. Also consider using your brand color palette, fonts, and logo for any visual components. When you’re consistent and comprehensive in all your brand communications, both written and visual, it makes it easier for your audience to recognize a piece from your brand right away.
It’s important to remember that branded content isn’t the same as basic content marketing. Rather than being created to target specific audience segments, branded content is for everyone. It highlights your company’s values, messages, and story. It tells all audiences who you are and what you stand for. It’s helpful to balance branded messaging and traditional and digital content marketing to attract as many audience members as possible and meet them at different stages of the marketing funnel.
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