All types of partnerships, from personal relationships to business ventures, come with challenges, but in all cases, the key to success is building a strong and stable bond between the two partners. In the world of distributed content, this applies to the many publishers and brands teaming up to create unique and compelling stories.

Branded content can be an exciting and lucrative partnership for all parties involved, but it comes with many unique challenges. We hosted a panel discussion with GE Digital and XO Group to dig into the biggest challenges and innovations in the branded content space.

We hosted Katrina Craigwell, the VP of Global Marketing Innovation for GE, who was able to share the brand perspective of these types of partnerships, and John Reggio, the VP of Revenue Operations of XO Group, who represented the publisher side.

Unsurprisingly, they both highlighted the importance of having the right partner. While they may have different motivations for their partnerships, both cited two major factors to consider when choosing a partner for a piece of branded content: the voice and the target audience.

The Voice

One factor both companies need to consider before partnering is voice. For the piece to feel natural and be successful, the voices of the two partners must blend together. Of course, the voice of the branded piece might be different from each of the companies’ individual voices, but it should be in a way that complements each company’s style.

Katrina stressed the importance of voice in her search for publisher partners. Often brands don’t have their own distinct content voice, so they turn to publishers — and their existing voice — to mesh with their brand to create a seamless piece of content that provides value to their readers.

The Audience

The same way publications have their loyal readers, brands have cult followings. It’s important to understand how each of those will play a role in the success of the partner piece.

John pointed out that partnerships based on overlapping audiences can make a lot of sense – like a bridal dress shop on a wedding blog.

But there can also be some more surprising successful partnerships, like GE’s Moon Boot Makeover. GE designed the shoe with fashion company Android Homme and online retailer Together the three companies made a product of value that also told a compelling story to their audiences.

John also highlighted the XO’s partnership with Allstate on the “Take it from me” series. The Knot and The Bump both have audiences that are going through major life changes, which happens to also be a great time to think about insurance. Although insurance may not be the main focus of XO Group, the content piece still felt relevant to the core audience.

It’s up to brands and publishers to produce content and products that provide value to their readers, especially in partnerships. No company wants to betray the trust they have with their own audience. Once trust has been violated, it’s difficult to regain.

This type of trust can be a huge asset in branded content. Katrina shared part of her motivations for partnering with publishers; publishers have already earned the audience’s trust, so the reader knows to expect content that is valuable to them. Brands are interested in leveraging that trust and expertise.

The Branded Content Opportunity

The opportunity for branded content has certainly increased over the years. Branded content now makes up a good portion of XO Group’s (and many other publishers’) content. While publishers are benefiting from the additional revenue branded content brings, brands are leveraging the opportunity to expand their audience and tell their story in a creative way.

Through similar voices, audiences, and goals, the two teams can create successful and authentic pieces of content – not just something with a logo slapped on at the end. The goal, for both companies, is to merge on a piece of content that is true to both parties involved and provides an incredible piece of content for the readers.

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If you’re interested in learning more about distributing branded content, feel free to reach out.