A recent local media branded content research report produced by the Local Media Association, Local Media Consortium, the Facebook Journalism Project and Magid, found that one of the biggest obstacles facing local media teams is educating sales teams, advertisers and audiences on the benefits of branded content. The report recommends implementing branded content packages that include various platforms to gain coverage across audiences and to make it worth the advertisers’ efforts, as well as training AEs, producers and advertisers. As a result of these finding and recommendations, the Branded Content Project has begun to produce a education series to help local media sales teams and content creators better understand the opportunities available with branded content.

Jack Zavoral

Wondering when you should pitch branded content to a potential advertiser? Or more importantly, when you shouldn’t? Jack Zavoral, Local Media Association’s Director of Member Development, shares street level tips to help your teams decide when you pitch a branded content campaign, who is a good fit and how you can position your client as an expert, solution provider and an authority in their area of business.


Branded content is a mid-funnel strategy, not for awareness, reach, or immediate impact. We are looking for quality of leads, not just quantity. In other words, a branded content  campaign should not be a stand-alone strategy, but rather is intended to move more qualified buyers down the purchase funnel. Your clients still need to have strong awareness and reach campaigns in place while undertaking a branded content campaign.

Branded content is great for organizations with complex buying decisions, or when there is a need for a large amount of information and education to make a buying decision. In general, the higher the dollar value of the product or service, the more research potential customers will do, with much of it online. A branded content campaign will provide information, research, education, and other relevant information to potential customers as they look at alternatives. Providing this information can result in your client becoming seen as a thought leader in the industry, which is also a benefit to potential customers who are not currently in the market for the product or service, but may be in the future.

Generally, branded content is most relevant for higher dollar purchases. Think cars, healthcare, education, real estate, professional services, tourism, or home services. Think about the last time you personally made a “high-ticket” purchase and the steps you took to find information to support your buying decision. The Branded Content Project can provide examples of how businesses in these and other categories used a content strategy to engage potential customers.

Don’t just round up the usual suspects! When you hear your client say they want — Education, Consideration, Persuasion, Research — you can suggest a content or engagement strategy. This is not intended to be a project where it is pitched to everyone on your list. Instead think about your existing clients and prospects who can benefit by providing more information as part of their marketing strategy.

Approach the prospect who always says “no” — bring them a new concept, not just a media sale. Professional media salespeople know that businesses are looking for business ideas beyond just “spots and dots” or a simple media plan. They gravitate to salespeople who have well-thought out marketing concepts that meet their needs to grow business.

Look for opportunities that you never thought of before — B-to-B and nonprofits, for example. There are many potential prospects who may not be a candidate for a standard media buy, but would welcome the opportunity to build more information for potential customers. Expand your horizon of potential prospects to include businesses that don’t currently advertise in traditional media, and learn about their business communication needs.

Great for clients who have a hard time deciding on where to focus message — give them the ability to explain and engage. We have all spent lots of time with businesses trying to “nail the message” and position the business in a succinct and impactful manner. Your clients who have a hard time deciding on the message, or waffle back and forth between messages, are excellent candidates for a branded content campaign. A branded content campaign gives them the ability to provide information on a variety of topics related to the purchase of their product or service.

Create a program called “Ask the Experts” or similar for legal, home services, financial planners, health care, and other relevant categories. Create a program with all media elements, and offer tiers to potential participants based on budget, category exclusivity, timeframe, and other variables. Engage your audience and get them to ask questions of the experts that are then answered by your experts.

Come to the table with content ideas — and visuals. Branded content can be difficult to explain to your clients, so when you have a qualified prospect, bring them mock-ups of the concept. It doesn’t have to be complete, but rather include visuals that depict the main idea and points to communicate to potential customers.

Don’t just sell to your clients — engage them! Just like a branded content campaign engages potential buyers, selling a branded content to a business should be about engaging them and including them in the development of communication points. Get the prospect to talk about all the points they wish they could communicate to their potential customers. This will go a long way to closing a branded content campaign.