That's a great point, Chris. The repurposing of the material is always a boon.
I want to shift gears here for a minute to talk about how brands are getting into the content game and how that affects you guys, as writers.
I think, for Maclean's at least, our brand is all about providing readers with a different "take" on the news. We're not just here to report things—that can be found in the dailies and on the wires. Our writers are here to make sense of it all, and to frame the discussion. So, with that said, we really want to be in the game of analysis, commentary and taking a different angle than anyone else. It makes things more difficult as a writer, certainly, but also allows us to flex our creative muscles.
As for what a brand would have to produce to be of interest for me, I'd say the whole package: live-time coverage, photo galleries of outfits and a simple round-up of winners and losers.
When I shifted into branded content for my job at Reshift, I thought it would be a bigger leap for me than it actually was. But at the end of the day, good content is good content. Whether I'm writing an article about an award show or a branded blog post on a restaurant opening, I follow the same basic rules: know my audience, try to entertain/educate them, and don’t write the same thing they can find anywhere else.
In terms of the types of social content that is most engaging to a brand's audience, it's similar to any other publication's: can they learn something from it? Are they informed or entertained? Stay away from the hard sell and self-serving content and try to offer value to your audience.
Good points, Jen. In your experience with brands and content, is this a hard sell? Or do they already have the content producers in place because they know this is a space they have to be in now?
+1 to Jen's point. No reader wants to just be shoved a brand in their face—they're there for a reason, which is the content. The brand has to play itself out in the background. Offer great content, and readers will forever associate that level of quality with the brand itself.
It's the same bottom line as anything else we do: If the content has something captivating and interesting to say, then our DFM sites will likely be interested in sharing it with their audience. Of course, when it comes from a brand, journalists will absolutley (and should be!) much more cautious. We always consider the source, and like Barry said, our job is to provide a different take that readers aren't getting elsewhere.
Good question, Belinda. I've seen a big shift with brands in the last year or so. Branded content that isn't a hard sell used to be something a lot of companies had a hard time getting their heads wrapped around. That's quickly changing.
(I don't work for Coke, btw. I just really like that site!)
I do feel like there's some opportunity for journalists to build upon these branded content pieces, stacking or mixing in their own analysis, research, facts and counter-points. Kind of like a fact-checker for controlled content.
That's great, Chris—that actually addresses a follow-up I was going to ask re: balancing journalistic responsibility with the opportunity a brand may present in the form of exclusive content (in the case of awards shows, if the Oscars or Grammys offered behind-the-scenes, off-limits-to-media content).
@Chris: That's a great point. I feel there is more aversion to branded content from journalists more so than members of the reading public. I'm curious if most of the audiences even realize the nature of it.
So many great points from all of you on this. I'm starting to sound like a broken record, saying that.
@Belinda: I'm sure audiences would love behind-the-scenes content from the Grammys and Oscars. I'm surprised their respective websites haven't just gone all-out and provided their own live commentary, complete with their own reporting team, like their pre-shows. (Of course, this may have already happened and I was too busy providing content for my brand, so please correct me if I'm wrong.)
Last year, the Oscars (I think it was the Oscars, anyway) had a great Instagram feed with behind-the-scenes snaps. It was strange they didn't promote it more.
We're into the homestretch of the chat. These last two questions are quick, fun ones.
Yeah, I'm with Barry. If the branded Grammys blog provides us more access and behind the scenes photos than we've been afforded in the past, it's definitely a win. We probably wouldn't ever use that content as is, but it can definitely add some value to the coverage we'll already be doing.
@Belinda: I'd say patience. And wine. These things can last a very, very, very long time.
What's one thing that every arts/entertainment/culture reporter or writer needs to have?
Every arts reporter who's covering an awards show needs lots of research/prep materials. I like to have a list in Notepad of all of the awards, plus the predicted winner. That way, I can easily copy the category name and winner and paste it into a live-blog or Twitter. And if the frontrunner didn’t win, that easily clues me into a talking point.
Also, to Barry's point, wine! My fashion commentary becomes a lot sharper after a couple of glasses. :)
Humour and wine...those things seem to have a loose causal relationship, no? :)
It's a friends-with-benefits type of relationship, yes.
My last question is for all of you: Any big plans for the Grammys this weekend? Any predictions?
Oh, boy. This year’s Grammys are so weird! Jay Z leads the nominations in total, but he was left out of the biggest categories. Lorde has a bunch of nominations, but not for Best New Artist.
Of course, CBS just announced that Beyonce and Jay Z will perform together, so the categories don't really matter so much anymore.
Maclean's will be hosting a live-blog of the awards. But I must confess that the Grammys are my least-favourite award (even below People's Choice!)—it seems anyone who's worked in the music biz will receive a Grammy eventually. Occasionally there are performance surprises...but more often than not, it's a ho-hum affair. And LL Cool J is not the most inspiring host, his NCIS background aside.
Below the People's Choice? Whoa, Barry.
I know, I know. I'm cruel.
OK, maybe not below the People's Choice Awards, but definitely below the Canadian Screen Awards (sorry, Canada!).
Ah yes. It was not fun manning the social media feeds that night.
This year seems to be pitting Team Taylor Swift against Team Daft Punk, so that should keep things interesting.
Sigh. You're right, Barry. The Grammys might actually be more depressing than the People's Choice!
Anyway, I'll stop reminiscing. I've kept you all a bit over the hour I promised. Thank you so much for joining us for this chat today!
That's always fun, when we argue over whether the best new artist is actually new or not.
It was my pleasure! Thanks for having me.
Thanks for having me, Belinda. Enjoyed the discussion.