The branded content world is growing, and fast. According to Digiday, 88% of publishers are producing branded content today, and eMarketer pegs the value of the industry at $20 Billion by 2020. So it’s no surprise that top publishers are doing what they can to stand out in the market.

Enter Guardian Labs US: The Guardian US’s branded content studio. They’re making exceptional branded content that’s engaging and valuable for both readers and their brand partners. They do this by leveraging what they do best: creating great content and bringing it to the right readers.

We spoke with Meghavaty Suresh, Director of Consumer Strategy at The Guardian US, to learn more about what makes their branded content program so great.

According to Megha, there are four key steps to any branded content campaign:

  1. Understand KPIs
  2. Produce Powerful Content
  3. Utilize Sophisticated Distribution Techniques
  4. Demonstrate Success

By following these four steps on every campaign, they see great partner satisfaction, while creating really engaging and unique content pieces for their audience. Each part of this process is equally important in allowing them to succeed in the world of branded content.

1 – Understand KPIs

The first step of any campaign is to understand what a partner is really looking for from a strategy perspective. Once they understand the brand’s goals, they can start to think about a content strategy that aligns with that, and set the KPIs that make the most sense to measure the success of that campaign. Some of the most common KPIs they see are reach, engagement, social engagement, brand linkage, and social sentiment.

Once they’ve decided on the KPIs, they quantify them, so that both their team and the brand team have a roadmap of what to expect from the campaign.

2 – Produce Powerful Content

With a better understanding of what the campaign is trying to achieve, the branded editorial team can get to work to bring the piece of content to life.

One of the first things they think about is telling the story first and then the content format. They want to bring the content to life in a way that makes the most sense for that campaign. Sometimes that means just articles, sometimes there will be photo galleries involved too. They’re also known for their beautiful interactive pieces and video and audio focused campaigns.

The prime objective is always to create content that their audience wants to read. They are in the business of storytelling, after all.

3 – Utilize Sophisticated Distribution Techniques

The third step is operationally and strategically imperative to the whole strategy, and relies on all the steps that came before. They now need to distribute the content in a way that makes sense with both the content format and the brand goals.

They start on their site, driving audiences with native units and homepage callouts that are custom created for each piece of content. They also share the pieces across the Guardian Labs US social handles.

They also, like more than 80% of the audience attending the webinar, pay to distribute their content on additional channels. There are many platforms that not only bring the content to new audiences, but also add value while doing so. The Guardian Labs team creates a bespoke distribution plan for each campaign, based on the audiences that make most sense.

A poll of the audience showed that 95% of people paying to distribute branded content turned to Facebook regularly.

With every channel, it’s key to optimize. Especially when you’re paying for distribution, it’s important to regularly check campaigns to ensure you’re tracking correctly toward your KPIs. Each channel should also be evaluated for its audiences: you want to make sure that you’re hitting audiences that value the content.

4 – Demonstrate Success

The final step of any campaign is demonstrating success. For many companies, this could just be a deck showing that the campaign hit the required goals, but the Guardian Labs US team sees the end of a campaign as an opportunity to provide value to stakeholders as well by diving deep into campaign metrics.

We had a great time chatting with Megha and learning about her amazing team.