SPONSORED CONTENT: HOW TO GET MORE THAN YOU PAY FOR

March 29, 2021

Want to reach a new audience with your product? Become a respected thought leader? Share exciting news? You’ve never had more platforms available to you. The catch is that it can be very difficult to break through the noise and get noticed, but it’s not impossible.

 

Sponsored content—not to be confused with native advertising—can be a very effective way to spread the word about you and your work, particularly if you haven’t received a lot of press coverage. Attitudes towards sponsored content can be pretty dismissive, but it’s nothing more (or less) than a form of advertising. One that can be even more effective than buying traditional ad space.

 

Sponsored content isn’t meant to feel like you’re being marketed to and that’s probably why numerous studies have shown it to be remembered twice as long as traditional ads. This benefit is exactly what makes sponsored content so hard to get right: it needs to be a very effective ad without seeming at all like an ad.

 

If you want your sponsored content to be effective, then you need to approach it like a journalist and a marketing pro. It’s a tough tightrope to walk, but that’s where we can help. Liaison is a team of former journalists, marketers, and PR experts, with backgrounds spanning tech, video games, and TV news.

 

With our collective expertise in mind, let’s answer some questions we’re often asked about sponsored content.

WHAT IS SPONSORED CONTENT?

Sponsored content is content that is paid for by an advertiser and then produced and shared by a creator, publisher, or brand. The idea is that the content fits naturally alongside the outlet’s organic output. Good sponsored content should have some value to your audience beyond marketing your product or service—they should learn something interesting or be entertained by the content. Any mention of your brand should feel like it’s in service of the content, not a bit of stealthy marketing. Although most companies want experienced writers or PR professionals to create their sponsored content, there are instances where you can make it yourself.

 

DO YOU HAVE TO DISCLOSE SPONSORED CONTENT?

Disclosing when content has been paid for is not only an ethical obligation, but in many places around the world, it’s a legal one, too. In the US, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued guidelines stating that everyone needs to be transparent about any material connection with a brand that they’re endorsing. If they don’t, they could be subject to fines, penalties, or legal action. Far from being detrimental to your reputation, disclosing sponsored content can be a great way of promoting honesty and integrity.

 

HOW MUCH DOES SPONSORED CONTENT COST?

The price of sponsored content varies greatly depending on the reach of the outlet or influencer you’re dealing with. In our experience, you can expect to pay anything between $1,500 and $3,000 for an online article, with a host of additional charges if you want it to appear in print or be part of a larger strategy on the website. You get what you pay for, and you can expect better writing, wider reach, and more tangible results for a higher price.

 

Now we’ve answered some of your frequently asked questions about sponsored content, let’s dive into some tips for getting the most out of your money.

HOW TO GET YOUR MONEY’S WORTH WITH SPONSORED CONTENT

We’ve seen some serious wins with sponsored content we’ve written over the years. It’s with that in mind that we share our top tips for maximizing its effectiveness and getting some bang for your buck.

 

CONSIDER YOUR OPTIONS

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to sponsored content. Sometimes you’ll write it yourself, sometimes the publication or influencer will create it. Some content will be housed permanently on a website or social feed, some will eventually disappear. Some outlets are very hands-on with sponsored content, others will agree on a price and let you figure out the rest. Also, bear in mind that every piece of content needs to be tailor-made for each outlet. Trying to submit the same piece to TechCrunch and The Verge will get you blacklisted pretty fast.

 

That’s where a PR and content agency like Liaison can help. From identifying targets and communicating with outlets to suggesting topics, we can help you stay on message and budget with sponsored content.

 

ESTABLISH YOUR GOALS

How can you measure success if you don’t know what you want to achieve? If you’re considering sponsored content, you should outline some clear goals. Everyone internally and at the chosen outlet needs to know what they’re trying to achieve.

 

You can lay out specific KPIs based on previous sponsored content, who you’re trying to reach, and how many people will see it. Doing so will help you to think strategically about the next steps or how you approach your next piece of sponsored content.

 

FIND THE BEST TOPIC

Ultimately, publications and influencers just want to captivate their audience with content and keep them coming back. There’s no point discussing sponsored content with an outlet if it doesn’t align with their audience’s interests. Before starting any conversations, you should ask yourself if there’s a gap in the market for what you’re offering, or if you’re uniquely positioned to share your expertise. Selling your company, product, or service is not the goal of sponsored content and you should instead aim to position yourself as a thought leader, expert voice, and trusted source.

 

We produced a series of five sponsored articles for the 3D model marketplace, TurboSquid. Our aim was to craft content that people would want to read, with ideas and current trends that would serve up some food for thought. All five articles significantly outperformed the usual viewership stats for each publication and our client was thrilled. As if that wasn’t great enough, a reporter for Inc. saw the articles and reached out to TurboSquid for the expert perspective on a related topic, further boosting exposure.

SHOW SOME HUMANITY

Since you’re encouraged not to sell your company or its offerings in sponsored content, it can be a great platform to analyze the latest industry trends and headlines. Avoiding business jargon and professional phrasing will help your content stand out from the crowd, and help you to become a thought leader in your industry. No one wants to feel like they’re at arm’s length from the topic. If your content takes the audience on a satisfying journey, it’s almost certain to stay with them.

 

People trust a brand that they see as human. After all, who doesn’t want to know a company has its audience’s best interests at heart? Sponsored content is a great way to show people that you care and humanize your brand.

 

UNDERSTAND YOUR OUTLET

The difference between good and bad sponsored content comes down to understanding the outlet you’re working with. Look at their style, their audience, and what rules they have around sponsored content. We’ve often seen companies forge ahead without following these steps and if the story isn’t rejected outright, then it almost always falls completely flat.

 

Trust us, we know that the only thing harder than creating original content is creating an ad that doesn’t seem at all like an ad. Sponsored content takes a considered approach, but when you get it right, the results can be huge.

 

When it comes to winning big with sponsored content, we’ve been there, done that, and would love to do it again—for you. Get in touch if you want to discuss how we can help.