Brand Publishing: Eerily Similar
To A Lasting Marriage

Flowers and fancy wines may be central elements of a great date, but try and build a marriage around them, and things will get wilted and bleary in a hurry. Likewise, the criteria for a great piece of content doesn’t always speak to what makes for an excellent body of content, much less what’s working for the brand publishing industry as a whole.

We can sit in front of our screens and analyze examples of branded content for eons, but to learn what’s really working for brand publishers from the inside out, it helps to hear it from the source. We sat down with some of the best in the industry at the Contently Brand Publishing Summit, and as it turns out, crafting and maintaining a great body of branded content has something fairly major in common with the successfully espoused: It’s all about building great relationships.

Reach out and amplify

Anyone who’s pulled off an all-night road trip knows that you get a lot farther with a co-pilot. Leveraging partners helps content go the distance as well.

Citi has found success with an armful of partners, from LinkedIn to Marie Claire, that have helped the company expand their reach exponentially. Through their 13-year-old content hub for female investors, Women & Co., Citi learned that their readers wanted expert advice for women by women. By partnering with journalists, bloggers and influencers, Citi was able to take the insights gathered by those experts and give them digital wings, sparking conversations around their own topics on outside sites and inviting those like-minded readers back to Women & Co.

“We’ve created this whole system that is feeding each other,” said Linda Descano, Managing Director and Head of Content & Social at Citi. “For every one paid impression, we’re actually getting four-to-five earned impressions.”

Intel found a path to amplifying their reach by co-creating content with partners. By crafting relationships with established publishers, they direct readers back to their own publication, iQ, and get their brand in front of new audiences.

“In terms of actual effectiveness of the content, it doesn’t really matter where they’re reading it as long as they’re engaging,” said Global Content Strategist and Managing Editor for iQ Luke Kintigh.

Wooing the reader

“Nobody got up this morning wanting to get hit in the face with a conversation about a server in a box,” said Nicole Smith, Managing Editor, for Dell’s Tech Page One.

Smith said that while Dell may be a tech company, they understand that most of their customers are not; they’re just business people using technology as a means to an end.

“There is a sweet spot between what you want to talk about and what your audience wants to hear,” she said. “If there wasn’t a sweet spot, you’d never sell anything.”

That’s why Tech Page One developed what Smith call three streams of content: technology, business and lifestyle. How does Dell find the sweet spot? By using adjacent content to lead readers from that informative piece about servers that they had to read for work over to a story about museums creating interactive programs for disabled kids that they would want to read for pleasure.

“We think about our audience,” said Smith. “We think, ‘What else are they Googling?’ and we give that to them. We want people to enjoy the site.”

Building internal trust

Good relationships with others begin with great relationships with ourselves — amiright, self-help gurus? For brand publishers, getting a piece of content through legal and compliance channels can be a perpetual source of strife. At Citi, Descano learned that communication was key in greasing the wheels on the approval process.

“We’ve built trust with our legal compliance partners,” she said. “We tell them about things we’re thinking of down the road for a piece.”

That gives legal time to wrap their minds around more challenging ideas and Descano space to make her case. Instead of taking “no” for an answer, she asks for compliance stakeholders’ help in finding a way to say “yes.”

“Help me think about how we’re going to get there,” Descano said she requests of them. “We show them why doing this content isn’t going to blow up anything.”

Not blowing anything up is a reliably good goal for any relationship, from first dates to brand publishing partnerships. It’s also a good thing to keep in mind when reaching out to new partners and maintaining connections with old ones. And it’s worth it because, from the legal department to content co-creators, the evidence is clear: Better relationships produce bigger results.

The Content Strategist is our brand’s story. What’s yours? Let us help you find the answer.

Image by Ivan Galashchuk/

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