Part 5: Retain Your Voice, And Prepare For Future Growth When Keeping Branded Content Creation In-House

July 05, 2016

How do publishers create the sticky content which has become synonymous with the term native advertising? It seems most branded content programs are produced in-house, while publishers use freelancers to fill in the gaps for technical and knowledge expertise.

When researching our latest customer-exclusive whitepaper, The Business of Branded Content, we interviewed over 30 premium publisher chief revenue officers and executives, examining  how they run, manage and sell their branded content programs.

Branded content distribution methods

Our research confirms that most publishers leverage a combination of internal and external freelance support to create branded content. 19 percent of respondents reported using only internal talent for their programs, dedicating internal teams or allocating editorial resources to the creation of branded content.

“Creating effective branded content requires talent that can think on both sides: what will be appealing for our audience and how to appropriately integrate the topics where the brand wants to show leadership.”

— Sean Bell, General Manager of Digital Canadian Football League

14 percent reported using only freelancers to produce branded content on a more ad-hoc basis; it is not common practice for a publisher to completely outsource their content creation. Instead, publishers should consider utilizing internal talent to retain the publications voice and tone.

More insights from the research:

  • Program volume fluctuations, seasonality, skillsets, and specialized domain expertise are the most common reasons to employ freelance talent.
  • Internal talent often leads editorial direction, production, and approvals.
  • We have yet to see the rise of branded content creation ‘experts’, but expect this to change in near future

“Our commercial content team, which literally sits within our editorial newsroom, is creating high-quality content for clients and will rely on freelancers where specialized domain expertise [is] needed.”

— Teena Poirier, Director Client and Content Marketing Group, Globe and Mail

What necessitates using freelancers?

Although research and convention wisdom does urge publishers to keep as much branded content creation business in-house as possible, there are instances when using freelancers is necessary.

  • What a specific subject matter expert is required. Editorial staffs are commonly staffed with generalists who can create top-of-funnel content, but don’t posses the knowledge to dig deep in every single topic for which brand might request coverage.
  • Similarly, when local expertise is required. National and network publications don’t have a geographical presence in every market they service, and thus may need to contact a local freelancer for area expertise.
  • Different formats. Publishers working in one medium may not have the same level of expertise in others. For example, publishers working mostly in print might need to employ freelancers when a brand requests video, audio, or other multimedia assists as part of the branded content strategy.

The opportunities for publishers in content creation are large and lucrative. Take advantage of the market trend and build out a strong practice for recruiting and retaining top talent in content creation. The ability to create differentiated and unique brand experiences with content is paramount to maintaining quality as programs scale. Additionally, it is essential to maintaining relevance with one’s current client base, and retaining and renewing their business. Publishers can differentiate by specializing in specific brand verticals and acquire freelancers who are subject matter experts (SME) in those areas.

Need more insight into how global premium publishers are evolving their branded content strategy? Get The Business of Branded Content, the latest in Polar Academy’s thought leadership series.

Guide To Branded Content

March 2017 | 28-Page Research Paper

This brand new guide brings clarity to the publishing and advertising industry by defining the three distinct shades of branded content: editorial sponsorships, custom content and advertiser content – as well as further flavors contained in each shade.