3 Rules for Creating Branded Content About the Election

The 2016 election is unquestionably the biggest story of the year, which means brands are already jumping into the fray. Bisquick just launched “America’s Breakfast Debate 2016” to mostly positive reactions, and Rock the Vote partnered with Funny or Die on a provocative video starring Katy Perry.

If you’re in the business of creating and publishing branded content, it’s critical that you know how to approach this monster of a topic in a smart and savvy way to benefit both your organization and your audience.

Here are three rules that will help content marketers during the election season.

1. You should probably cover the election

Branded content is not hard news. In most cases, it’s not meant to inform the public in a strictly journalistic fashion. Leaping on an event this huge without a clear strategy is how brands wind up pissing off the very people they’re trying to reach.

Still, content can and should bring your brand into the larger discussion, as long as it offers something of value to your audience. Ignoring the election entirely means missing out on one of the biggest subjects on the planet right now.

Finding success is all about having a smart angle. The best way to determine that angle is to have a firm grasp of your brand’s expertise. Your product may not focus on the electoral college or the intricacies of political polling, but there’s probably a place for you to claim a piece of the conversation.

For example, if you’re a B2B platform that helps small businesses streamline payroll and bookkeeping, your angle could be an infographic that outlines and compares each candidate’s platform for boosting small businesses, or a video interview with an economist who explains how policy decisions have affected small business in the past. Networked Insights, for instance, has been publishing election predictions based on its social analytics data.

Granted, there are exceptions to every rule, and not all brands would be wise to join in, even if they have something smart to say. For pharmaceutical companies or health-care service providers, it may not be appropriate to offer content that touches politics. It’s the job of a good content marketer to know when to step in and when to gracefully bow out.

2. Give your audience information that they need, and nothing else

Once you’ve nailed the best angle for your election content, then comes the work of choosing what information to include and how to present it. The key here is knowing your audience and their needs in as much detail as possible. If you’ve found an angle that works, it will shed light on a topic that is uniquely interesting to your audience, solves a problem for them, guides them in an important decision, or all of the above.

Take the small-business hypothetical. Many small-business owners are chronically busy and rarely have more than a few minutes to browse the web during the day. But they’re also acutely aware of how decisions made in Washington regarding issues like group health care and taxes can affect their day-to-day operations.

This is a savvy audience, and the marketer’s job is to provide them with new insight or knowledge that they may not have time to research or obtain on their own. A side-by-side comparison of the small-business tax plans of each candidate is useful even if constituents already know who they’re vote for, since it explains what legislation could potentially make it to Congress in the next few years.

Granted, keep in mind the usual rules of engagement when creating your content. An eight-minute video may be more of a commitment than your audience is willing to make, even if the subject matter is important. Even an infographic will need to be succinct and easily digestible.

3. Steer clear of pandering

You may think that you know your audience well enough to have a good handle on their political affiliations. But in reality, you have no idea. Voting is a private affair for a reason, and many people prefer to keep their political views quiet (despite how it may seem on social media).

Most brands aim to be inclusive of different beliefs, and the role of branded content is to be informative and engaging to a widespread audience. You may fall on one end of the political spectrum, and you may believe that your brand stands for its ideals as well, but that doesn’t mean your content should take sides, even if doing so could lead to increased traffic and earned media coverage.

Plenty of media outlets are ready to dole out praise and criticism, but it makes more sense for your brand to adopt an informative approach. Remember, in branded content, as in politics, good judgment is the key.

Image by Tom Sodge / Unsplash

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