Giving brands their voice

Media organisations around the world are reshaping their offerings, looking at new ways for advertisers to better engage with audiences across their news brands. One fast growing area is centred on content; the demand for quality content from audiences and the desire of brands to be the ones to supply it. In doing so, audiences have the opportunity to engage directly with the voices of brands and organisations with a story to tell. 

Two of the most successful and widely adopted modes of this new style of communication are native advertising and content partnerships. The former enables companies to create engaging content to reinforce brand attributes, while content partnerships see brands and media organisations teamed to fund and deliver journalistically sound campaigns. Each approach engages the audience in slightly different ways, so it’s important to determine the best fit at the outset – and that will largely be determined by a brand’s voice. 

A worldwide trend

It’s no secret that the way brands engage with audiences online is changing. New research from Mandloys shows 70 percent of users want to learn about a company or product through content—and brands are taking up that challenge. International media like The New York Times, Huffington Post and BuzzFeed have all developed content models to leverage their audiences and trusted position for brands with stories to tell. Adding content strategies to mainstream advertising provides an edge in a competitive marketplace, and it’s moving brands to become content producers in their own right.

But it’s not just as simple as ‘build it and they will come’. With an abundance of content from all directions competing for attention, there’s a real need to cut through the noise. People engage with stories they find useful, informative or entertaining, so brand generated content needs to fit in at least one of those buckets. Ultimately, the return on investment in content will be only as good as the quality of the content created. 

That being said, even the best content can get lost without attention to distribution. Some brands have an existing community or network of fans, but others don’t. Either way, audience generation is just as important as the creation of the content itself. How are you going to get your content seen if you don’t have access to an audience? 

Paul Lewis, APN NZ’s director of editorial innovation

The Herald leads the way

Over the past 12 months, the Herald has invested heavily in its content offering, both in terms of the architecture that brands can work within, and the people to lead the way. 

One such investment has been the creation of a content partnerships editorship as a central point of contact for advertisers looking to enter the space. Initially filled by the former Herald on Sunday editor Bryce Johns until his departure for APN Australia, the position is now held by another Herald on Sunday alum, Paul Lewis. Coming to the role after stints as managing director at two Asia-Pacific PR consultancies, Lewis says content partnerships and native advertising open a “whole new set of doors” for brand promotion or to fund journalistically sound campaigns. 

“Content partnerships and native advertising allow brands to connect with audiences in an engaging and credible way. The NZ Herald has made significant investment in its content offerings and in the last 12 months has supported a number of successful campaigns”.

“That’s the key. This is not new product fluff or obviously self-serving press releases; it involves well-written pieces that genuinely capture reader interest,” says Lewis. “It is then win-win. The client’s interests are couched in a genuinely interesting environment and the news organisation, especially one like the NZ Herald, maintains its brand sanctity as an influential and credible source, trusted by readers and those who interact with it.” 

Current partnerships

In the last 12 months the Herald has rolled out several content-based campaigns for major brands across its platforms. 

Heart of the City asked the Herald’s editors to capture their love for Auckland, through editorial content and Instagram photos – inspiring readers to get involved and share their own ways to ‘love their city’. Readers captured favourite moments and places in the city, and shared them via Instagram with the Herald, which then re-shared the content across its channels showing off the best of Auckland through the eyes of the residents that love it (click here to see more of this campaign). 

Another successful partnership, this time with Tourism Australia, tasked well-known Kiwis with exploring Australia by Passion, and bringing that to life for readers. Judy Bailey’s passion for nature and wildlife led her off the beaten path in Western Australia, while Colin Mathura-Jeffree’s passion for shopping kept him treading the well-worn tracks of the country’s best fashion districts. Together with guides from Michael van de Elzen and Jon Bridges, readers were inspired to follow in their footsteps and discover Australia for themselves. 

To round out the campaign, mobile, tablet, digital and special print editions all drove readers back to a custom-built Australia hub housed on the NZ Herald Online site. The hub featured content from the award-winning NZ Herald editorial team, Tourism Australia, user generated content, as well as articles and videos from each of the Australian advocates – a fantastic mix of content, all originating from different sources. 

Following the initial Passions campaign Tourism Research Australia reported, in the year to 30 September, for the first time ever there were over a million holidays to Australia from New Zealand.

For more information on native advertising, content partnerships or any content marketing area, please contact your APN account manager or Paul Lewis, director of editorial innovation at [email protected] or 09 373 6400. 

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