Native Advertising: Who Creates The #Content, A Case Study

digital contentNative advertising is a hot topic right now but what is it and who creates the content, the sponsor or the publisher?  Well first, “native advertising is an online advertising method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing content in the context of the user’s experience” as defined by Wikipedia….basically sponsors pay to have their very branded content featured on a website that normally publishes unbranded, unbiased, reporter-like content like The New York Times, The Atlantic and similar or smaller sites like I mention below.  Many have been debating the pros and cons of native advertising for quite some time now, but I personally am already past the should-we or shouldn’t-we conversation as I already agree with the IAB and Edelman Berland research that says there is great value in native advertising.  So let’s move on and review the burning question of who writes the content: should it come from the brand or should the editorial staff from the publication produce it?

Because native advertising is still a relatively new concept, there really is no set answer on this question as each publication is wading through these new waters very differently, but I do have some experience coming from the brand’s point of view, so let me share a few case studies featuring one client (so same goals and roughly the same messaging for each example below) but different publications (who shall remain nameless) and their approach to native advertising:

Sustainability focused website: I approached a ‘green’ website on behalf of our client because their number of daily/monthly visitors was vast, content was high quality and their readers were very engaged plus their demographic was a young working professional which was very appealing to our client.  The only sponsorship opportunity with the site as per the founder was native advertising and so we jumped in ready to go.  I had a preconceived notion of how to approach sponsored content but they had their own way which was very unique.  They would pinpoint content on their site that fulfilled the following to be used again for native advertising:

  1. The site’s suggested content had already gone live and was successful by their measure (large amount of readers, high engagement….)
  2. The already live content theme was in sync with the brand

They had proposed that once the content was approved by my client, they would repost it with a small mention at the bottom of the post saying it was sponsored content with our clients’ name, logo and a small tag line. The idea behind the approach was that because the content had already proven to be popular within their online community, posting it again, but this time as sponsored content, would almost guarantee success (thousands of views) for our client.

Well, this stopped me in my tracks as I had never encountered this approach before but I was willing to give it a try.  So they sent their first content suggestion which included products that were in the same brand category as our client but a variation that our client didn’t sell so that was a no because we didn’t want to confuse present or new customers.  The editor said they would take that particular product out of the suggested content.  There were about three more edits that had to be made in order for our client to feel comfortable as a sponsor of their content; after all shouldn’t native advertising highlight unique features of the brand paying for the opportunity?  By the time we hit our next and final edit, the content wasn’t the same as what the site’s staff had originally produced and so we didn’t get to test out this native advertising approach because their team didn’t feel the newly edited content would deliver the views because of the edits.  And they still wouldn’t compromise by having our client produce completely new content for them or in partnership with them (my original request) even though we wanted to submit ‘green’ lifestyle unbranded (except for a company mention at the bottom of the post) content that would educate and help their readers grow their eco-lifestyle.

An unwillingness to compromise and to see that newly created sponsored content could be an asset ultimately took this project nowhere.

Mom focused website: Because I personally love this mom website because their daily content is top notch and they have thousands of readers, I was fine when they said that the only way they offer native advertising was for them to create the theme of the blog entry and write it up themselves after we provided some basic brand facts; they were keen on having all content on their site consistent and presented in the same style so I said let’s give it a try.  When they completed the piece, it looked great…awesome images, multiple client mentions peppered throughout the blog entry which ended up being a how-to piece for moms planning a fun party for their kids.  Couldn’t wait for it to go live…you couldn’t go wrong with this one, I thought!  But when it hit online, it was a fail.  No one really interacted with the entry, barely anyone shared it, it fell flat on all of their social media channels and there were no discernible increases of visitors to the client website or social profiles.  Was this because their readers didn’t really engage on a regular basis?  Didn’t want to engage with this content in particular? Was it because the content hovered between being unbranded (written by the site) yet branded (client name was mentioned all through the entry) so the reader didn’t know what to think?

It was a pretty expensive venture for minimal results and no insight from the site’s management, and so we moved on and continued to look for new native advertising opportunities.

Natural lifestyle focused website:  This is another website I admire for their numbers, their passionate mission and super engaged community so we took another chance on the native advertising idea for the same client.  This time we had to provide the content 100%.  We had to get the topic approved by them and all products included in our blog entry needed to be in sync with their site mission but other than that, we were truly a partner in this native advertising opportunity.  We provided content that was entertaining and instructional and not overly promotional and it was hugely successful.  The site made it very clear to their readers that our content was sponsored by putting us in another place on their website but regardless of being sponsored content, they linked to it often throughout their website and in their social channels.  Because their readers were clear that it was native advertising, they were able to move past that quickly and appreciate what our client had to offer in terms of tips and overall suggestions within the product category.  On the flip side, the website wasn’t afraid to present the sponsored content often because they knew from experience how to approach native advertising and because they ultimately understood the value of partnering with a reputable and well-loved brand which they smartly used to their advantage.

This was a successful and fruitful collaboration: the website proved once again to their readers they could by trusted by presenting a well vetted trustworthy brand openly while our client had the benefit of getting their messaging in front of a whole new group of potential customers.  A native advertising win.

Like everything else that is new, there are going to be publications and websites that get it and many who don’t but like everything else that is digital, if you remain flexible, listen carefully and are completely transparent about what you are doing, I do believe success will be had by all!

Image via Flickr @opensourceway

-Valorie Luther, Founder Creative Concepts




Daily #Content Matters For Brands, Tips To Make It Work

image flickr @tessawatson

As I approach my tenth year working in social media, I often look at the lay of the land and think of where “blogging” was back in 2005 (before the words “social media” even existed) and where the art of doing business socially stands today.  I am both amazed at how far brands have come and shocked at the same time that many businesses haven’t come far enough.

What do I mean?  Well, for example, let’s look at the role that daily content plays not only in the social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more, but its place (or lack thereof) in the overall marketing communications plan as an example of not seriously moving ahead with a brand’s social media opportunities.

After closely watching many larger brands via social media, I have noticed that there are some that spend their time putting together one-off online campaigns that are clever, eye catching, entertaining and very expensive.  The amazing creative and the efforts behind it might grab attention for the short term and even receive awards for their outstanding work, but will these same campaigns…

  1. Inspire loyalty in the customer?
  2. Position the brand as experts?
  3. Elicit trust?
  4. Create an impulse to think of the brand first when shopping?
  5. Ultimately sell products?

Sadly, many times the answer is no to these questions because there is often a big disconnect between the high level glossy promotions and the daily content strategy where in the everyday on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and more, you have the opportunity to be front and center with your customer and create content that answers the call of the above questions.

Daily social content should keep in mind the companies mission, short and long term marketing and sales goals as well as promoting the big digital and PR campaigns.  There should be a 360° approach taking place daily on all social networks where your brand has a presence. While this may seem like common sense, many brands with the larger budgets don’t take this approach and often miss a chance to build a long term consistent relationship with their customer which can be a huge driver in maintaining and increasing sales.  Client Bigelow Tea is a great example of how to invest in strategic daily content as noted in our case study:


So how does a brand find daily social media success?  Ask the following and share the answer directly or indirectly with every Facebook update, every Tweet, every Pin, every blog entry, every Tumblr post, and every video on YouTube:

  1. What is your mission?
  2. What do you sell (be specific…down to the smallest details…customers want to know everything)?
  3. What is the big deal about what you sell?
  4. Why should the consumer pick your brand over any other (without degrading your competition)?
  5. Does your company do good in the world by taking care of your employees, honoring the environment, or giving back in some way?

If every brand (or agency for that brand) fully understands that daily content is not random, you are ahead of the game, you will win against your competition, and you are the innovators still…at this point.

-Valorie Luther, Founder Creative Concepts


photo credit: tjmwatson via photopin cc




#Content Marketing Tips To Help Your Business Grow

blog-327073_640Buyers are searching the internet for solutions every day. By utilizing a content marketing strategy, your business increases its visibility on the web.

Content marketing is becoming an important component of marketing strategies – 93% of B2B marketers now use content marketing as part of their overall marketing plan.

Companies that publish their own content and measure their campaigns are seeing increases in leads and sales.

However, determining content marketing ROI is still a challenge for most businesses.

Why custom content?

  • More than half of consumers are more likely to buy from companies that publish their own content.
  • B2B companies with blogs generate 67% more leads per month on average than businesses that don’t blog.

Mashable recently reported that while content marketing is a priority to many businesses, only 29% are effectively tracking ROI of their content marketing campaigns.

Captora’s new content marketing infographic shares new data on metrics of success as well as other content marketing tips like best days of the week to share content and more.

Review your content marketing plan and make sure you are measuring your campaigns with the metrics listed below.


content marketing metrics
































































Image via Pixabay.

How Do You Or Your Brand Use Each Social Network Effectively?

image flickr @10chEven though we are in the day and age of social media and every parent is posting pictures of their kids on Facebook and professional photographers are
showcasing their work on Instagram, it still doesn’t mean that everyone or every brand knows which network to use and for what.  I don’t believe in “rules” so I won’t provide a “must do” guide, but I will share with you how I use each social network which might help you navigate the social streaming waters.

Blogging is the grandparent of social media and has huge value in my mind.  Whether you are an individual or a brand, a blog presents the opportunity to position yourself as an expert in your field.  Your blog entries need to be clear, concise and well written in order to be effective or you will lose your readers/customers. It’s an excellent SEO tool too so I believe every brand, even though it does take time and effort, should sport one on their website.  Our Creative Concepts blog is geared for potential clients so it’s simple and presents “how-to” kinds of information as well as up to date social media and PR news and has evolved over time based on the needs of the business and our clients.  WordPress and Tumblr are some of the most well-known platforms (and in my mind the best) but there are many out there to choose from based on your requirements.

I got onto Facebook literally years ago when Robert Scoble made a bold announcement that it was the next big thing.  I follow these kinds of announcements as more of a call to investigate but this time I agreed with him as Facebook truly did have potential.  Back in the day, I used the social network to rub elbows with my social media peers as they were the only ones on it, but over time my approach has evolved as has my community which is now predominantly family as well as past and present friends.  Today I share mostly kid news and inspirational images and videos.  I do post some client content but keep that at a minimum.  For Creative Concepts, each client page we manage approaches Facebook differently but to make an overarching statement, the social network is still great for consumer brands because of the capability to engage the customer and have them take an action successfully.

LinkedIn feels to me like an old castle.  It’s reputable and withstood the test of time and has the obvious great hall (aka newsfeed) but there are many hidden rooms (or tools) to uncover that could provide great value whether you are looking for more clients, searching for a new job, searching for employees, or positioning yourself as a thought leader and more.  It’s not always obvious what to do when on the site but if you spend enough time walking the hallways so to speak, you will find numerous gems of opportunity that will help you attain your business or career goals.  I only post business content here and do the same for clients.

Twitter is a whole bunch of fun for me and very useful.  I personally got onto Twitter much later than the other social networks because it seemed to have its own foreign language which I didn’t have time to learn.  But….once I finally immersed myself in Twitter culture I ran with it.  Here I chat about all that is social media, public relations and marketing.  I use it to share client content, to look for and report on breaking news and happily use it to access many of our media contacts who actually pay attention to their twitter mentions.  I can almost tell immediately how much experience people have with social media by checking out their twitter feed which is useful in assessing possible employees and future clients.  And speaking of clients, I still feel that Twitter doesn’t have as much impact as other social networks when it comes to driving followers to a specific action but it’s a necessity for live events, hashtag campaigns and basic brand exposure if your customer is on Twitter.

Pinterest is therapeutic for me which means I don’t really take it seriously and I have never gotten a business lead from it, but I do enjoy pinning to my boards as a break from any intense work I am doing.  I know that many bloggers drive traffic to their blog by using this network and it is starting to attract business types along with those interested in fashion, food, travel, weddings, interior design and more, so it does have potential like all social networks if you invest the time and energy into ‘working’ it.

Instagram is a great example (for me) on how you can begin using a channel one way, then engage in the network and then choose to use it completely differently.  When I first opened up my profile I kept it private as way to share photos with my family but later made my Instagram public and approached it like I did Twitter…it would focus on my social media and PR business. I have always loved taking photos and have had an appreciation for beautiful images so my business focus went by the wayside and I ended up only following top photogs (along with some close friends) and only posted my very best photos taken with my phone.  I have become more of a quiet observer unlike my presence on other social networks.

I literally joined Vine the day they announced the new app and messed around with it immediately.  I did a few client Vines but quickly realized that the time it took to produce a spectacular video was out of my skill range and so now I just watch hilarious Vines while waiting for something or someone…it’s pure entertainment (for me)!

To be honest, I don’t interact much on Google +, but I know there is great SEO value in posting content there so my team posts Creative Concepts and client content on a regular basis but we don’t stick around long enough to build it into a highly engaged community. There are many who believe that this network should be for both posting content and engaging with your community so as always do what works for you and/or your brand by testing it out.

I Snaptchat with my kids and find it hilarious but because the tools are not as robust as some of the other social networks and because my present clients chose to invest their social budget elsewhere, I limit my time here.

Totally used WhatsApp when my daughter traveled abroad but other than that friends and family don’t use it regularly nor do any of my clients…at this point I am waiting for the next international trip in order to get back on it.

Yik Yak is a crazy preteen/teen network (even though they say you need to be 17 to join) that focuses on anonymously sharing info and talking about others in a 1.5 mile radius.  It’s boring for me but lethal for teens as they are destroyed when called out by others (because most comments or ‘Yaks’ are negative).  This is a perfect example of the dark side of social media.

Foursquare, Four what?  Haven’t been on in ages but had some fun on it when I was using it actively.  Many stopped using this network as the rest of the social sites started to build their own location capabilities.

YouTube is hot of course and has huge reach (no other single cable TV network has this same reach for 18-34 year olds) but because I personally don’t produce videos, I don’t have my own channel and any client videos we produce go on their branded channel but don’t let that stop you from making the most of this very powerful and still growing social network.

Remember that this is not a strict guide on what every person or every brand should do within social media but more of an example of how you might approach the various social networks.  Here are a few closing tips that hopefully will help you get started on any or all of the above sites:

  1. Choose to be “social” where you are comfortable or where your customers are
  2. Test the waters by listening, posting and engaging to figure out what works
  3. Follow your instincts when connecting with others directly whether for yourself or a brand
  4. Walk away and return later (or not) from a comment if you can’t decide how to engage or respond appropriately
  5. Most of all, have fun reaching out to a present or emerging community in a meaningful way!

-Valorie Luther, Founder Creative Concepts

photo credit: 10ch via photopin cc

Analytics: When To Pay Attention To The Numbers & When To Trash Them

numbers and numbers which do you pick?One reason I appreciate social media a bit more than traditional public relations is because with social, you have numbers that can be tracked and connected to your hard work unlike PR which can be powerful of course but elusive in terms of being always trackable. Likes, updates, tweets, followers, shares, comments, pins, hashtag usage and more are all ways to show that you are making progress (or not) with your social media but what numbers do you track and do you ever not pay attention to the numbers? Good questions!

Let’s begin with what numbers you track. Within Facebook Pages alone, for example, you can download insights and literally look at thousands of numbers presented in multiple ways much like google analytics so before you try to assess and report, go back to asking yourself these basic questions because once you have your answers, it should be relatively easy to pinpoint what numbers will be the most meaningful:

1. What are my long term goals for my brand?
2. What are my short term goals for the brand?
3. Who am I trying to reach?
4. Am I linking the above to my social media efforts?

If your long term goal for your brand’s online approach is to continue increasing brand exposure and your short term goal is to roll out a new product to present and new like-minded customers, then simply tracking how many more likes and follows you are receiving as well as comments and shares on Facebook, responses or retweets on Twitter, repins on Pinterest, likes/comments on Instagram as well as hashtag usage on all networks will tell you if you are on the right track or not.

But what if your long term goal slightly varies in that you still want to increase brand exposure and you still want to roll out a new product but you want to reach a completely new customer….a new demographic? This is where the numbers game gets tricky and where an experienced social media strategist brings value. Let me give you an example. An eco-brand we worked with had a core group of customers that were 100% engaged in a sustainable lifestyle but the brand wanted to increase exposure (and sales) by also reaching out to a more “everyday” person…someone who considered an eco-lifestyle valuable but didn’t live by it all of the time. We did many things to appeal to and bring on this new demo and I knew we found success by the kind of comments we began to receive especially on Facebook. These new followers, as they engaged with the brand, shared bits and pieces of their lifestyle which gave us hints that we had reached this new consumer. The numbers didn’t pick this up initially and some of the older followers started to fall off a bit which happens when you slightly vary your marketing approach so as we brought on the new followers the actual likes on the Facebook page deceivingly stayed the same when looking at the number showcased on the actual page. To the naked eye, we had not gained ground and might very well have been losing traction but close human observation told us otherwise so we stayed our ground and continued to move forward in this new direction of appealing to the general consumer which eventually revealed itself through the best numbers of all, increased sales.

So to answer both of the questions from above, for sure keep tracking your numbers for every social channel you participate in but don’t forget to use your listening skills and include your own observations when pulling together your final reports because it’s the combination of the two that help you track trends and achieve long term brand goals.

-Valorie Luther, Founder Creative Concepts


(image from Flickr via @laineysrepertoire)

Creative Concepts Touts Twitter Tips

Twitter tipsWhether you are a Twitter pro or tweet novice, Hubspot’s 50 Tweetable Tips You Wish You Knew Years Ago is a great refresher guide.

Many of the tips seem simple, but you would be surprised by how many people don’t have an image or a complete biography for their social media profiles.

Take a look at your Twitter profile and make sure it is filled in with links, keywords and images.

As far as sharing information, being helpful is key and keeping self-promotion at bay is best. Let your personality show through your tweets and don’t be afraid to start a conversation on Twitter. Creating Twitter lists is a great way to read tweets by topics.

Favorites are great to use as bookmarks for later reading or for showing appreciation for a tweet. Hashtags are useful when discussing by topics like #pr or #marketing so if people search the topic, your tweet will appear.

Optimizing your blog post title for Twitter is useful and gets more retweets. Using social share buttons and Click to Tweet makes your blog posts easier to share.

Using a platform like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck allows you to manage multiple accounts and schedule messaging.

Check out the entire list for more great Twitter tips.

What tips do you have for Twitter?

Image courtesy of SweetCrisis /

Creative Concepts Looks at Ways to Increase Press Release Visibility

infographic_multimedia2012Press releases remain an essential way to communicate corporate information to the media, bloggers and even buyers.

With the growth of the internet and online press release distribution services, there are ways to increase press release visibility to stand out from the rest of the pack.

One easy way to boost press release visibility is to add visual components such as photos and videos.

In a recent study of its press release database, PR Newswire found that 86 percent of releases did not include visuals. When visuals were added, exposure of those press releases skyrocketed.

PR Daily recently wrote about the study and posted PR Newswire’s infographic showing how multimedia drives discovery in press releases.

The findings include:

• A text release with just one visual element sees a 92 percent increase in visibility.
• A text release with more than one visual element sees a 552 percent increase in visibility.
• A multimedia release with links to campaign microsites sees a 5,092 percent increase in visibility.

As you can see, simply adding visuals can boost the impressions of your release. What visuals work best for your business?


Creative Concepts Looks at The State of Social Media for PR Pros

social mediaSocial media has quickly become an integral part of public relations and marketing (among other areas) over the last few years.

There are lots of observations about social’s role in public relations and marketing, but not many regarding these folks’ insights about social media.

Cision and PR News recently polled marketing and PR professionals about social media and created an infographic titled The State of Social Media for PR Pros. The goal was to “give a look into how PR and marketing pros view the social media landscape.”

The findings show the following:

  • Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the top three platforms used that businesses most actively engage with their audiences.
  • 36% polled use paid promotions in Facebook while other platforms have much paid promotions.
  • 45% have successfully pitched media contacts through social media channels.
  • The most trusted sources are online traditional and print publications.
  • The top three metrics to measure success are increased website traffic, increased engagement and increased followers.

While Facebook has the top engagement, many businesses have not been using paid promotions. Recent changes in Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm may persuade businesses to sponsor more posts for increased visibility.

PR professionals are still pitching through traditional tactics more than social media. The most trusted sources are also traditional news outlets and publications whether in print or online. While social media is an integral part of PR, the traditional methods are still important.

The top metrics are increased traffic, engagement and follower numbers. There is room for businesses to improve their metrics by looking at conversions and not just numbers. This is a more complicated process but one that will bring deeper insights to their PR and marketing strategies.































Image courtesy of bplanet /

Creative Concepts Discusses Ways to Get Great PR on a Budget

pr tips for media publicityMany startups and smaller businesses don’t have blockbuster budgets for marketing and public relations.

Here are some PR strategies and tactics that are helpful to get coverage on a shoestring budget.

Forbes recently wrote “Three Ways to Get Great PR Without a Budget.” The article covers three topics that businesses can focus on to garner publicity as a newer kid on the block.

1) Focus on your story. Your business might not the be the largest or most connected in the industry, but you have a story to tell. Focus on your story, be authentic and communicate your company’s vision. Are you doing something different?  Have you partnered in the industry to offer something new?

2) Get technical. Take the time to really research journalists and bloggers covering your industry. Find new contacts and set up news alerts for not only your business but anything related to your industry to give you ideas to pitch when relevant. Also be sure to research local news outlets and let them know how you are connecting with the community.

3) Add value. Another way to build awareness is through partnering with other businesses with complementary products and services. Partnerships add value and can expand your offering to your customers as well as the media.

4) Another way to break through the clutter is to showcase your customers. If you have a customer using your product in an entirely new way, that makes an interesting innovation story. Talk with your most valuable customers and partners and help tell their stories – this builds potential for expanded reach and strengthens relationships with your best customers and partners.

How are some ways your business has received coverage?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /