The Wall Street Journal’s recent special advertising report, The Ad Revolution, leads with an article called “Advertisers Try New Tactics to Break Through to Consumers,” which includes a diatribe from big advertisers about the challenge to get share of mind in today’s digital age.  With so many people streaming video, disconnecting cable and avoiding any ad content, these advertisers are looking for native content – content they create that gets their brand in front of viewers. Even digital ads, which give advertisers the ability to target their audiences ever more scientifically, have faced a backlash. The article cites a study of 24,000 consumers that concluded “much of advertising is way too annoying,” with 84% saying that digital ad interruptions were too frequent. Ad blockers have forced many to seek other ways to capture attention.

So what are advertisers to do? The article quotes Laura Henderson from giant Mondelez international: “Consumers can ‘Skip ads, block ads and avoid ads in their entirety.’”  It also quotes Brad Jakeman, president of PepsiCo’s global beverage group, “We have to now create content that consumers want to watch.”  Studies show that this native content is effective.  Native content/ads have 50% higher click through rates than other traditional ads.

Many smaller companies already practice this, but for different reasons.  Creating your own content for your website, newsletter or emails and placing it in key media has been a very cost-effective marketing strategy for small companies with no advertising budget. Smaller companies also know that media interviews and exposure can help them build awareness more effectively than advertising.

We encourage everyone to consider native content and thought leadership.  Native content should be informative and educational. It should be timely. It should demonstrate your knowledge and expertise.

Here are a few tips for both large companies and small:

  • In choosing topics, seek to answer your customers’ questions. Doing so ensures relevance and helps establish you as an expert in your field. In this way you will be keeping your customers’ needs in mind as well as your business goals.
  • Don’t try to please every audience. Instead, create content that can make a small portion of your audience passionate enough to share it.  Then seek ways to engage with other parts of your audience over time.
  • Seek to create content that will be shared widely through social media or email. Be strategic: post during high traffic times such as early in the morning, later afternoon, or at a time when relevant news is moving.
  • Create pieces you would want to read. Try to share content you think your target audience is looking for now.
  • Try not to sell too hard. Too often marketers want to make educational pieces into sales pieces.  But the Wall Street Journal article reminds us that people find marketing/advertising intrusive and seek ways to turn it off.  Curate content that is interesting and educational and not overtly promotional.  Similarly, try not to be self- serving.  Avoid describing yourself in glowing terms.
  • Spend time revising your articles and make sure they are well edited. Have multiple people read and comment on your content before you post it.
  • Be provocative but avoid being political. Consider a contrarian viewpoint.
  • Try to tie your content to a current or newsworthy event. One caveat is that news-based commentary should appear within the news cycle.  If your commentary isn’t complete for two or three weeks, you’ve probably missed the news window.
  • Create an editorial calendar that ties your content to key dates or key events for your company like attendance at an industry conference, awards, or major milestones.