After decades of reporting, writing, editing, copywriting and managing editorial departments, I officially became a brand content writer in 2014.
Up until 2014, I’d written newspaper and magazine articles, display advertising copy, SEO articles, radio spots, TV ads, short video scripts and brochure copy. Now, combining my marketing and writing backgrounds, I help major media conglomerates and a variety of medium-size and small businesses create brand content for their newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs.
So what qualifies me a brand-content writer?
- For starters, I have two journalism degrees (one in advertising, one in magazine publishing).
- I have spent decades working in advertising and marketing.
- Working with major media outlets and content brokers, I’ve learned how to craft native advertising for newspapers and magazines, and branded content for company blog programs.
- I’ve worked with sales teams to understand the marketing strategies and business goals of clients buying brand content.
- I’ve learned about the FTC guidelines regarding branded/sponsored/native content.
- I’ve developed an understanding of how and when to have direct contact with an advertiser that’s paying for an article or post, and when to limit my contact to the intermediary content broker who’s hiring me to create content for their client.
Who else is out there?
If you want to know whether or not you’re hiring a brand content writer, ask him one question. “What are we paying you to create?” If the answer doesn’t contain the word, “audiences,” that’s a red flag. If a freelancer you’re interviewing asks you about word counts, deadlines, subject matter and keywords, instead of asking about your target customer, your brand, your unique selling differential and your business/sales goals for the piece, that’s a red flag.
When looking for a brand content writer, you will likely run into content marketing/broker companies that advertise their armies of thousands of expert freelancer writers. Most of these writers have not created the specific types of brand content companies are seeking and purchasing today. Many of these freelancers have online and SEO writing experience, but they have no marketing backgrounds or experience working with native or sponsored sales teams or marketing departments. At best, some of these writers have written corporate blog posts based on their knowledge of the subject matter – but they do not have marketing backgrounds.
How did I get started?
In 2014, I was asked by a major newspaper media company (you all know the name), to do a “brand content” piece its advertising department had sold. I had been freelancing for this newspaper for some time and they were moving away from SEO articles to what they called “brand content.”
What they had actually sold was a native ad that was to feature an advertiser and run in one of the media company’s newspapers. They liked what I did and asked me to do the rest of the series of ads/articles for this advertiser.
I was then hired by two other well-known newspaper companies (you know their names), who also wanted me to do what they called properly called “native ads.”
A peer who worked at a brand-content marketing company then hired me to do blog posts for a variety of national and local businesses, I joined Ebyline, and clients soon began rolling in on a steady basis with newspaper and blog assignments.
Trouble in paradise
Despite the fact that I was writing for major media outlets, there was confusion as to how this writing needed to be delivered. My first assignment for one of the major media companies required three different versions because the sales department, client and editorial department weren’t on the same page.
I wrote the native ad on a medical procedure a hospital wanted to promote. I wrote the piece on the procedure as a news story. I quoted credible medical sources, and toward the end of the piece quoted a doctor from the (advertiser) hospital who provided insight on the procedure. The client came back and said the advertiser felt I had buried the lead (that the advertiser was offering this procedure), and I was asked to rewrite the story focusing more on the hospital offering the procedure, not the procedure itself.
After I rewrote the article, the newspaper’s editorial team looked at it and said, no, I could not lead with the advertiser. I had to write the story about the procedure, allowing the advertiser one quote at the end of the article.
Going forward, the newspaper’s sales department now knew what it could offer to potential advertisers in a sales pitch.
I ran into the same problem with another major media outlet that was struggling with what it was promising advertisers and what we were delivering. The media company asked me if I would participate in a conference call with their sales director and the editorial director. This huge media conglomerate was surprised when I told them the FTC was publishing guidelines for native/sponsored content! However, after that phone call, everyone was soon on the same page and everything has gone well since.
How to spot a brand content writer
Be careful when hiring freelance writers, even subject matter experts with online (mostly SEO) writing experience unless you can carefully guide them through the business goals of your brand content strategy and how each piece needs to help you create and motivate a target audience.