Storytelling has always been our secret weapon.
Local media organizations use the power of story to tell readers, viewers and listeners about important and impactful events and information that affect their communities, families, and businesses. The gravity of stories happening all around us has been amplified by our shared experiences during the COVID-19 crisis.
Our news teams have worked around the clock to tell stories of this crisis, but why can’t we use that same storytelling superpower to help advertisers communicate to their customers? We can and we must. We must help businesses in our community tell their story, educate the audience, inform the public of ways they can help, ways they will keep us safe, and services they will provide.
There has never been a more important time to use branded content as a communication tool for your advertisers.
To get a little street-level perspective, we talked to Peter Lamb, president of Lamb Consulting and sales strategist for the Branded Content Project. Lamb has worked with some of the world’s largest media companies and helped orchestrate many of their most impressive successes. He is now helping media organizations create, sell, and strategize content initiatives that provide solutions for advertisers during COVID and beyond.
Lamb explains that as we see the transition from shutdown to reopening, we have reached the point in time that is perfect for content to lead the marketing strategy for businesses.
“With different states entering Phase 1 and then Phase 2 of opening up, now is the time for your customers to tell their story.”
Lamb shares four questions sales executives, or the title Lamb prefers — brand experts — should ask their clients to help tell the story of their business.
- What are you doing to instill confidence in your customers to come back?
- What new services are you offering?
- What have you done in the past 2 months to contribute to helping, or to ameliorate the COVD situation in your market?
- What are the new “rules of the road” at your business?
“Branded content is the perfect vehicle to ‘Educate, Inform and Engage,’ or stated another way, it is the ideal opportunity for a ‘teaching moment’ to our readers,” said Lamb.
Lamb also shares why using content for clients is so powerful and effective. “Branded content is our competitive advantage. When you combine church and state in your typical media organization, you get the very best of both worlds — the communication skills of the editorial folks, and the creativity of the advertising side of the business.”
“And branded content allows you to attract categories of business that we are unaccustomed to getting. Making riches from niches … yeah!”
And do local media teams agree? We asked Amber Aldrich, senior advertising director for The Seattle Times, what she sees in her area, one of the earliest affected by the crisis, as they look toward new communication methods for clients.
“As for post-COVID strategies, we’re pushing branded content as a perfect way of positioning businesses as an expert and a resource in turbulent times. We’re also looking closely at cause marketing strategies and how we can leverage Branded Content for major businesses to support causes that might look different in the next year.”
Rachel Watkins, senior marketing manager for Belo and Company, also sees branded content as a solution for their local businesses.
“In uncertain times like the coronavirus pandemic, audiences relate to meaningful and actionable content more than ever, which makes branded content such a compelling option for businesses — especially when other communication and advertising tactics seem flat, unsuccessful, or insensitive,” she said. “Branded content powerfully and thoughtfully connects companies and their consumers, offering the opportunity for businesses to become trusted voices, go-to resources, and community supporters for navigating crisis together.”