28 Feb 2013
By Karen Geier
If you’ve ever read a magazine, you’ve undoubtedly come across the “advertorial graveyard”: fake articles designed to push you into buying eyelash plumper, pedicure socks or other dubious products.
There is a stigma surrounding the word “advertorial” and it’s costing a lot of brands opportunities to generate great content with great partners and increase their bottom line.
You have most likely read and recommended an advertorial in the last few years, because the types of advertorials being generated online employ the best parts of content marketing: relevance, timeliness, brevity, and sharability. Modern advertorials blend in seamlessly with reported content on most blogs and are tailored to the tastes of the types of visitors to said sites.
Advertorials can seem daunting at first (Who does them? Do I have to buy advertising on the site? Do I have to send them a bunch of free product to give away?), but if you learn how advertorials work, and you take the time to build relationships with bloggers, you could be in for some very positive word of mouth.
The Goal of Advertorials
What you want out of an advertorial is to create useful articles and share them with a content provider. This helps attach your name and point of view to the content provider’s own stories and allows readers to see your brand in a positive light.
You should strive to have your advertorials appear in a way that is seamless to the content on the site and don’t sound like one big advertisement.
The idea is to trade content for a qualified audience who is most likely to view your product positively and be more likely to try or purchase your product in the future.
The Basic Advertorial: Product Reviews
For years, major tech companies and consumer packaged goods firms have sent product and compensated bloggers for product reviews in a “spray and pray” approach to raising their brand profiles. These companies ship product with a one-page backgrounder to as many bloggers as possible in their verticals, hoping for reviews.
While many bloggers will happily review products for cash, they will more than likely insist upon editorial free rein, and if they have problems with your product, they will negatively report on it. You should always strive to be as transparent as possible, and because this relationship can get murky (and you could get turned down by bloggers who have pre-existing relationships with your competitors), it’s best not to venture down this road.
Where to Start: What Your Brand is Offering
Whenever you pitch media, you have to answer the essential question: Is this a unique story? If the answer is “yes, because my company is special to me,” quit while you’re ahead.
An essential part of successful brands today is that they have a point of view. Start with your brand values, and hook those values to a current story. Once you have the kernel of a story, start fleshing it out into talking points. Consult experts who orbit your vertical. Compile this into a press backgrounder, and use this to send out to bloggers. You should personalise each backgrounder you send out, because bloggers in any vertical have specialities and stories they cover with their own focus. Use this to your advantage when you reach out.
How to Get Started With Advertorials
If you want to test the waters, your best bet is to team up with a solo blogger with a reasonable following. Head to their “About” section to locate their advertising rate card and contact information. Write them a short email explaining who you are, what your company does, what you love about their site, and then ask them if they are interested in pursuing a possible advertorial partnership.
The most important things to remember are:
1) You need to do your homework. Bloggers are passionately dedicated to the things they cover. Add to that their commenters’ constant feedback and you have someone who doesn’t want a generic pitch, or a hit-and-run campaign.
2) Don’t push a rope: If they’re not interested, don’t force it.
Once you receive an interested reply, you should be prepared to pitch some stories and mention your point of view or contribution. Put the focus at this step on collaboration. Your flexibility and relationship-building during this time will pay off with engaging, targeted advertorials.
Who Controls the Content?
This may seem straightforward because you are paying to play, but bloggers won’t sell their voice wholesale. They will still put their own commentary and style on advertorials you commission, and that’s OK. You’ve vetted your writer, you’ve built a relationship, and that blogger’s voice will help the advertorial sound authentic and like their other posts on the page. You’re the landlord, but your blogger is the tenant greeting visitors at the door.
Once you’ve fine-tuned how to reach out to one blogger, you should consider putting together an advertorial schedule. An advertorial schedule assures that in a given month, you have an advertorial agreement in place with at least one blogger. You can extend this to several if you have a major product launch coming up.
If you have a product launch coming up, you might want to consider a more “all-in” approach by combining your advertorial placement with ads or giveaways. This can amp up the money you’ve spent on the story, and can help you get your product into qualified buyers’ hands.
Extending the Relationship
Now that you’ve done the work to get the relationship built with a blogger, make sure you continue contact with your bloggers. Check in, send news ahead under embargo, invite bloggers to exclusive events, send free stuff – all these tactics help to further your relationship with bloggers, and can be beneficial to you and your brand years down the road.
Advertorials via social media channels are cost-effective, but as with any social media marketing or blogger outreach, it takes time to do your research, find and navigate the relationships, and find mutually agreeable stories to cover. But the benefits can be myriad for your brand: better brand recognition, built-in relevance and credibility, and a qualified group of future customers exposed to your brand and its point of view.