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Partnering with a Publisher’s Vision for Marketing Success

How brands can benefit from aligning paid advertising to the editorial standards of the publication they work with.

Layout by Helen Eghweree

It’s very intimidating to navigate such a fragmented digital world, especially for CMOs and other marketing leaders who have a myriad of metrics to speak to in order to gain support, (and budget,) from the C-Suite.


Fortunately, it’s never been easier to reach any audience, anywhere and at almost anytime. Marketers building out campaigns for the year can benefit greatly from partnering directly with publishers, who often have native advertising options that span the breadth of their editorial content.

What does this mean for company leadership?

Given the declining popularity of revenue generating content like print media and the rise of expectations that free content should be a basic requirement prior to becoming a paid customer, publications have been tasked to come up with more creative ways to generate revenue.

Included are more events and experiential interactions — after all, it’s been widely noted that Millennials, and by proxy many people today, are the experience seeking generation. You can’t just post Instagram updates anymore — you need a “see and be seen” immersive experience for real people to engage with.

Publishers have spent years cultivating their audiences in order to gain their utmost respect. This is more important than ever in an era of fake news and deep fakes. Readers are keen on content that looks and feels authentic, and this applies to paid advertising as well.

Last month, we wrote about how developing content in the mold of television studios can help marketers break through the digital noise and make impressions that actually last. People do not want to be sold to — directly, that is. They want to be entertained, related to, and felt part of a community in a genuine way.

How can marketers work with publishers in a way that is mutually beneficial and authentic?

Some brands have the capacity to believe that because they are funding the production of a campaign, that means their vision is the most important one to be realized. Rarely does this ever garner the respect of agency or publisher partners, and more importantly, can result in a campaign that feels less than authentic to the target audience.

Some top tier publishers with large industry sway are selective of which brand partners they work with in the first place. This is how good content is guarded, heralded, and protected from the perception that their high quality content can be bought out.

This can feel directly at odds with an advertising strategy fueled by native content. Publishers must make peace with the need to generate revenue in new ways, while keeping it real with their original mission as an outlet.

So, what can you do? Here are a few ways marketers can approach publishers to work together:

Ask about their editorial strategy
  • Understanding where a publisher envisions their future content roadmap is key for marketers seeking to align paid campaigns in a way that feels natural to the audience. Asking questions about their audience needs, their original mission statement, and the stories they are most excited to tell can uncover opportunities. Remember: respecting an editor’s judgement and a journalist’s point-of-view can eventually pay off in other ways too, such as free earned media placements.

Ask what is unique about the core audience
  • Of course, you should understand an outlet’s audience prior to planning a campaign. But moreover, understanding any unique facts surrounding their readership demographics will open up opportunities to truly, and deeply connect. Niche communities evolve everyday, and having the ability to communicate with the right tone, political correctness, and intrigue will set you apart from legacy brands who come off as out-of-touch. Look for ways to speak to a community that only members would understand, and directly to their wants and needs.


Bring in key production partners
  • Remember that amazing ad you saw on YouTube last week? Have you considered reaching out to the production company responsible? How about the company next door that’s developing virtual reality solutions? Partnering up with innovators can take a campaign from “good” to “wow!”, and bring earned media impressions along with it. Publishers want to work with brands who fit their audiences’ taste, but also with brands who are pushing the envelope. New ideas in emerging technologies, content production, and ways to consume content, (like a short form Netflix series,) are all opportunities for brand advertisers to be truly original.


Add (the right!) influencers into the mix
  • “Influencer” is now a broad term that includes celebrities, industry thought leaders, and Instagram bloggers with less than 50K followers. When building a campaign, publishers and marketers can both benefit from the extended reach available through influencers. Consider your impression goals: which influential voices will feel most naturally in sync with your brand? Perhaps it’s an A-List celebrity speaking directly to her following, or maybe it’s the same budget spread across 100 influencers who have less than 15,000 followers. The key is combining campaign impact goals with an authentic brand message.


Create 360 degrees of contact
  • When someone interacts with your brand through a publisher’s content, what should be their next step? What is the prior step that allows them to discover the content in the first place? Consider ways to make your campaign “360 degrees.” That is, what are the audience touch points from beginning, (brand awareness) to end (purchase made), and what KPIs/metrics can be used to measure success?


Utilize user generated content
  • Finally, remember the impact of content generated by the audience themselves. It is no longer a two way conversation between brand and audience — it’s a multi-way conversation from brand to audience, audience to brand, and audience to audience. Consider ways to capture user generated content throughout your campaign. Featuring user content not only makes the brand more relatable, but it’s a cost effective marketing tactic that starts conversations.