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4 Ways to Get Sponsored Content Right

By Jenna Bruce on Tue, Jun 21, 2016 @ 02:23 PM |


Sponsored content, also known as native advertising or content marketing, is the advertorial of the digital age. Placed in the online versions of local and national newspapers, sponsored ads can help your marketing campaigns achieve their goals.

One of the most successful articles in the New York Times in 2014 was actually a sponsored ad. The article titled, “Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work” was created by Netflix who was promoting its original series Orange is the New Black. According to Contently, the article was one of the New York Time’s highest rated and ranked right alongside – and even better than – some journalistic content.

The New York Times is not the only major publication to offer this marketing channel. The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have also jumped on the bandwagon. With more and more publications offering sponsored content to advertisers, the challenge becomes remaining unique and relevant in a sea of marketing noise and offering readers great content that engages and informs.

Here are 4 ways you can be sure to create the right kind of sponsored content.

Write in the style and tone of the publicationWrite in the Style and Tone of the Publication

By now you know that all of your ads, be they traditional ads or sponsored content, must speak to your target audience in a language they understand. But native ads must go beyond this and mimic the style and tone of the editorial content around them.

Once you’ve purchased space for a sponsored article, spend some time reading that publication’s articles to get a feel for the type of content they publish. This is the style and tone readers expect and you’ll need to deliver.

Don’t Sell, Tell a Story

Though it is used to highlight your business, sponsored content is, in fact, content – not a traditional ad. Do not ask for a sale – that is a big no-no in this space and your brand will come off as tacky. Take this opportunity, instead, to inform your reader and offer genuine value and engagement.

Be Transparent

Sponsored articles must be transparent. Never try and trick the audience but make it obvious your brand’s article has been sponsored. If you don’t follow this golden rule, prepare to pay the price. If you were the reader, how would you feel if you believed the piece you were reading was editorial content only to later find out it was paid for?

Contently conducted a study on the trustworthiness of sponsored content. Their findings were that 66% of readers felt they had been tricked by sponsored content at some point. But almost 33% of readers claimed they would be equally apt to click on a sponsored article as they would an editorial piece if it looked interesting.

The takeaway: Be honest and offer great content.

Don’t be Afraid to Spend Money on Producing Your ContentDon't be afraid to spend money on producing your content

Though sponsored content can bring you huge gains, you will find creating an entire article will require more work and resources than your typical static ad. Don’t assume you can just pull and old blog post and use that. Remember, readers will respond to relevant information that offers real value.

In addition to the cost of placing your article, you’ll also want to consider spending some money on producing a winning content piece. You’ll most likely need:

  • A qualified writer (either in-house or outsourced) familiar with journalistic standards.
  • A graphic designer to curate or create engaging images to accompany the article.
  • A project manager to oversee collaboration with the publication.

Go into your sponsored content campaign knowing you’ll need to invest some money upfront and you’re more likely to get a big return at the end.


Can sponsored content help you reach your company’s goals? Yes, as long as the content is informative, transparent, and developed with the reader in mind. Sponsored articles are meant to nurture the relationship with your audience. Though sales may not be immediate, readers will eventually convert into loyal customers.

Download the CMO's Guide to Integrating Print and Digital Media

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native advertising sponsored content