Opinion: How PRs can make the most out of branded content

Opinion: How PRs can make the most out of branded content

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Content is content, right? Not according to research by the Branded Content Marketing Association (BCMA). You need to understand the difference if you are to make the most of branded content in your communications, writes Andrew Canter, global CEO of the BCMA.

The explosive growth of social media platforms has meant that brands have had to learn to accept they can no longer control what people say about them. Add to this the inexorable development of new technology – i.e. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) – and you have a potential recipe for disaster for brands and their agencies.

However, one could argue this ‘perfect storm’ presents an incredible opportunity to adapt and evolve to the new communications landscape using the power of branded content. We’ve seen how the phenomenal Pokémon Go has used AR to create one of the most important and successful branded content campaigns of all time. It has been downloaded in excess of 500 million times since launching in July, mainly relying on PR to succeed.

In other words, the rise of branded content as a new marketing communications concept can be seen as a response to the fundamental changes in terms of the way in which audiences consume and use media and digital technologies.

So, in the findings of the recent BCMA commissioned academic study, Defining Branded Content for the Digital Age, advertising is perceived by various experts as using primarily an interruption-based delivery approach (push), branded content is perceived as being primarily about a non-interruption-based rationale (pull).

More brands are taking an editorial approach to their content marketing communications. They are putting storytelling at the heart of their marketing which is becoming an extremely important part of creating engaging branded content.

One leading expert that took part in the BCMA study stated that; “Branded content is 10 on engagement and 0 on interruption. Because advertising takes the interruption approach; this is the beauty of branded content – it is intended not to interrupt.”

To encourage more brands to seriously consider investing in branded content, we believe it is best to define what branded content is. So from a managerial perspective, the definition of branded content, published in the study is as follows:

Branded content is any output fully/partly funded or at least endorsed by the legal owner of the brand which promotes the owner’s brand values, and makes audiences choose to engage with the brand based on a pull logic due to its entertainment, information and/or education value.

We believe the new definition will enable more brands to do more branded content with confidence and for the right reasons.

Consequently, the PR industry is extremely well placed to take advantage of what branded content can offer to brands. It has the necessary skills and resources to create, distribute and activate the content.

As the discipline that looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour, PR agencies have actually been doing this since time in memorial. Now is the time to take this to the next level and exploit the huge potential that branded content can achieve.

  • Andrew Canter is global CEO of the BCMA (Branded Content Marketing Association), which it says is the pre-eminent global industry body for branded content practitioners, run by practitioners, promoting best practice, sharing knowledge and growing the branded content industry.
    Canter is also chief content officer (CCO) at Global Living Brands (GLB), an award-winning content agency offering clients global opinion monitoring and influencing, reputation enhancement, strategic marketing, branded content creation and profile management.

This article first appeared on Gorkana and was written by Philip Smith (Head of news and content at Gorkana).