Branded content uses the strength of storytelling to provide valuable benefits to advertisers while increasing audience engagement and revenue for local media publishers. This powerful revenue stream has shown to be a success for many media organizations. The Branded Content Project is designed to help facilitate additional growth, engagement and success for more publishers of all shapes and sizes. The project was developed through a unique partnership between the LMC and the LMA. It is part of a $1 million investment from the Facebook Journalism Project to help more than 2,000 local newsrooms among LMA and LMC members better understand, develop and implement revenue streams through branded content both on and off Facebook. The call for applications was announced in January and ended March 1. Applications came from LMA and LMC members and non-members alike, with close to 40 entries from across the U.S. and as far away as India and Norway.

After five rounds of the selection process — with guidance from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and careful consideration given to those projects that were financially successful, scalable to other markets or media types and could provide lessons for the industry — our 7 Alpha partners were selected. The 7 Amazing Alpha Partners that will be leading industry innovation are ABC Owned Television Station Group, The Dallas Morning News, Graham Media Group, McClatchy, Shaw Media, The Texas Tribune, and WRAL in Raleigh, N.C.

We will highlight one of our Alphas each of the next seven days, allowing you to peek inside their initiative and showcase why they have seen success with branded content. We will follow each of our Alphas every step of the way for the next six months of research, testing and results.

We asked each Alpha partner to fill in the blanks on a few questions focused on branded content. Here is what TEAM WRAL shared with us.

Tell me in a few sentences about your initiative and what you see as the strongest elements of your program.

Over the last several years we have been able to steadily grow our sponsored content program, Spotlight. More recently, we have applied our learnings while working closely on a number of cause marketing initiatives, focused on issues that resonate in our community (domestic violence and human trafficking). Leveraging our platforms with our ability to tell compelling stories, we have been able to greatly raise awareness and contribute to meaningful change. Additionally, we have partnered with a number of our surrounding communities, to help tell our large audience about all of the great things happening outside of Raleigh and Durham. We believe being a part of this initiative will allow us to expand our work in both of these verticals, and are thrilled to continue to evolve our offerings.

My branded content initiative is unique because we are able to use our expertise in storytelling while leveraging the power of TV, radio and digital platforms, and make a real difference in our communities.

Branded content is an important revenue opportunity for media groups and for advertisers because it creates a connection between a trusted, local news and information source with the client’s desire message; it also is much less susceptible to ad blocking and is less likely to be overlooked by media consumers.

The aspect of the Branded Content Project’s Alpha Group that excites me the most is market research and resources to help us better market our branded content project.

I hope to learn how to get more agencies and brands sending us RFPs for branded content projects through the Branded Content Project and its Alpha Group.

If a media organization is just starting to sell branded content I would tell them to develop a strategy and budget for how they will create, manage, label and distribute branded content. I would also focus heavily on the quality of the content you are putting out there on behalf of advertisers and adjacent to your brand.