Advertising is everywhere. Saying you’re “familiar” with advertising is a little insincere — it’s more like inundated. Today you, the consumer, encounter ads everywhere from the billboards on your morning commute to your email inboxes to your social media feeds. And because of its ubiquity, it’s no wonder people are less and less responsive to traditional advertising methods.
As a business, if you’re looking to expand awareness of your product, connect more deeply with your customers, and demonstrate your company’s expertise, you need to know the difference between advertising content and editorial content.
In short: Editorial content is content that is not explicitly aimed at selling something.
It can still be a powerful tool for generating brand awareness and sales, however. Where’s the distinction between the two then? As is often the case, the devil is in the details. This guide is designed to explain how you can incorporate editorial content into your overall marketing strategy.
Overview of Editorial Content
Editorial content can take many shapes and forms.
Starting with an example: imagine your company is selling a new line of sneakers. You can advocate the sneaker’s comfiness and the environmental friendliness of the production line all you want in your ads, but customers might scroll right past.
If your company blog features an interview with an influencer talking about their personal style, though, it might drive traffic to your site. Or perhaps your newsletter features a deep-dive to one step of your manufacturing process, drawing eyeballs from the eco-conscious crowd. Either type of content might drive new customers to your site and result in more sales.
As this example shows, editorial content is designed to inform rather than to sell. Thus, it may appear:
- In your company’s e-newsletter
- On your company blog (integrated into your website or on a separate channel like Medium)
- On social media and/or video sites like YouTube and Vimeo
- On affiliate and influencers’ blogs, websites, and social media channels (Sometimes called “Sponsored Content” or “SponCon”)
The Roots of Editorial Advertising
Editorial content is effective because it creates a voice for your brand that connects with consumers.
You may have another association with the word “editorial.” Editorials have long appeared in newspapers and magazines as first-person opinion pieces. Editorial content has its roots in this form of writing. Unlike the traditional language of advertising, aimed at convincing consumers of what they need, editorial content is written from your brand’s unique voice, and it conveys expert information and opinions.
Editorial content is launched from your brand’s identity. And according to Forbes, strengthening this identity through editorial content has a powerful effect on consumers: “Not only does it boost your overall presence, but it creates content to share on social channels and fosters a more personal identity that your consumers can relate to.”
A successful editorial strategy, like a successful newspaper editorial, harnesses a unique voice, tone, and style to connect with readers.
Changing Consumer Habits
In today’s advertising marketplace, editorial content increasingly outperforms traditional content when it comes to clicks and purchases.
While traditional advertising may be viewed as “annoying” and can be easily blocked by web extensions, editorial content on blogs and in social media channels—whether your company’s or sponsored content—may be viewed more favorably. According to Business Insider,
- 33% of Millennials have made a purchase based on a sponsored post
- 37% of buyers are not skeptical of sponsorship/branding as long as a post’s content is high quality
Editorial may be viewed as more authentic than advertising content, and in addition, often contains information that the consumer wants or needs.
How Editorial Content Fits into an Overall Content Strategy
So you’re on board with integrating editorial content into your company’s marketing strategy. The next question is figuring out what it’s actually going to say and how it will compliment your overall strategy. In order to create an effective editorial strategy, you’ll want to consider:
- WHO you’re targeting – what segment of your audience are you looking to engage? What kinds of new leads are you hoping to generate?
- WHAT you’ll say – what kind of content will engage this audience? What do they want or need to know about your company and its solutions?
- HOW the content will sound and feel – what style and voice will engage your readers?
Who Are You Targeting?
How can editorial content help expand your target audience? It goes beyond your advertising content, allowing you to micro-target users and segments, and subsequently:
- Increase traffic – Keep dedicated and potential customers coming back to your site again and again
- Increase new sessions – Draw in a new customer base through micro-targeting
- Persuade customers to your brand – Alert customers who currently use a competitor’s services to your offerings
The first step in creating an editorial strategy is setting your goals and figuring out which segment of your audience you want to grow. The clearer the picture you have of your audience, the easier it will be to brainstorm what content they’re interested in.
What Do They Care About?
Once you’ve selected a target audience, your editorial content will focus on addressing their needs and interests. For many companies, blogs and newsletters are a place to:
- Answer any customer question that comes up again and again
- Write about industry trends
- Report any economic or political developments that might affect your industry
However, you can go well beyond these basics as you create strategies to target new and returning customers.
Imagine, for example, that you’re opening a new company that declutters homes and creates storage solutions. You might consider any of the following strategies:
- Keeping current and potential customers engaged by creating a blog that focuses on organizational strategies: 5 Tips for Going Beyond the Kondo method, 10 Ways to Organize Your Drawers, etc.
- Micro-target potential audiences including antique collectors, clothing addicts, and bookworms with social media and blog posts that address their needs (using ad targeting tools and SEO analytics where relevant)
- Create or sponsor content that explicitly compares/contrasts your approach with that of a competitor
How Should it Sound?
Once you’ve figured out who you’re targeting and what the content should surround, the final step is to clarify the tone and emotion behind the content.
- Are you a new wine bar looking to target a Millennial audience? Keep your tone fun and approachable with posts that seek to educate.
- Are you a new investing solution for 20-somethings with limited financial knowledge? Make your savings tips plainspoken and easy to understand.
- How about a life insurance startup using advanced analytics to keep costs down? Make sure your professional tone reflects your expertise.
As you begin to integrate editorial content into your overall content strategy, you’ll want to keep one big question in mind: does your targeted tone fit with your current brand?
If it doesn’t, that’s a sign that you might want to partner with another individual or company to create sponsored content that appeals to your target audience without clashing with your overall content strategy.
How to Start Integrating Editorial Content into your Content Strategy
Once you’ve identified the key aspects of your content, it’s time to strategize. That involves content development, distribution, and promotion.
As you’ve considered your editorial content’s who, what, and how, you’ve likely already made the all-important decision on whether your target style fits with your brand’s voice. Next, you’ll go in one of two directions:
- Creating content for your website, blog, and social media channels
- Sponsoring content including reviews, how-tos, and press releases to be posted on channels housed by other individuals or companies (while developing clear guidelines with regards to message and CTAs)
Keep in mind that, to a certain extent, these two strategies might blend and merge. For example, an influencer might create a guest post for your blog or take over your Instagram feed for a week. Likewise, any third-party content can be reposted on your own channels, and even incorporated into your traditional advertising strategy, appearing in print or online.
Whether you’re creating content in-house or sponsoring it, you’ll want to take the following steps:
- Set clear guidelines for your writers in terms of tone, style, and voice. Establish your overall goals for editorial content, as well as your goals for each piece.
- Communicate clearly, making it clear who’s responsible for quality control, proofreading, posting, etc.
- Create a content calendar to keep track of all participants’ tasks and manage workflow.
Set goals for how much editorial content you’ll produce, and how often it will appear. Remember, one blog post won’t create long-term customer engagement: fresh content is key.
As you and your team members gain more experience creating content, keep track of any issues that come up, and develop resources so that new writers or editors can jump in and maintain continuity.
The Publication & Promotion
Each time you’re ready to publish a new piece of content, it’s an opportunity to engage users across any and all social media channels. Be sure to crosspost on all of the following platforms:
- Your website’s “news” or “blog” section as relevant
- In your newsletter
- On your business’ Facebook page, Instagram account, and on any other social media platforms
To coordinate your rollout, you might consider using a social media management tool.
Finally, make it easy for users to repost and share content, including “repost” and “share” links for social media channels at the end of your blog post and newsletter.
Measuring Your Success
How do you tell if your editorial content strategy is working?
Make sure that, as you implement your content, you’re keeping track of analytics. Depending on your goals, you might measure success by:
- Increased web traffic
- Likes, comments, and new followers on social media
- New newsletter subscribers
- Increases in sales
- Improved SEO rankings
Paying attention to measurables allows you to make any necessary tweaks to your content, structure, and tone to better engage your target audience. After all, just like a newspaper editorial, editorial content shares a unique voice—but that voice can grow, change, and develop over time alongside your business.
- Forbes. Content is King. https://www.forbes.com/sites/gabrielshaoolian/2017/11/30/content-is-king-how-thou-business-can-covet-the-throne-with-an-editorial-presence/#58e663512189
- Business Insider. Sponsored Content Drives One-Third of Millennials to Purchase. https://www.businessinsider.com/sponsored-content-drives-one-third-of-millennials-to-purchase-2017-5
- Tech Radar. Best Social Media Management Tools of 2020. https://www.techradar.com/best/best-social-media-management-tools