By Kelsey Mulvey
ICYMI: Journalism has changed a lot over the past few years. Like when you spot something that looks and sounds like a traditional article, you’ll see an itty-bitty disclaimer that reads “Sponsored Content.” So what gives? What exactly is sponsored content? What do these editors do? Is branded content the future of journalism? We spoke to several branded content editors — including Ed2010’s fearless leader — to get the low-down on the industry trend.
What does a typical day look like as a branded content editor?
“The exciting thing about branded content is that no two days are the same, because no two campaigns are the same. The workload varies, but a typical day for me often involves editing multiple sponsored articles or dedicated emails, working on branded social copy, attending brainstorms for client proposals, and heading up client kickoff calls.
There’s definitely a lot of project management and problem solving involved since we’re juggling multiple campaigns at any given time—but there’s also cool elements like attending photo shoots, hitting up events we’re hosting with a client, and even flying out to location for video shoots. I’ve also appeared in some of Well+Good’s videos, which is a fun perk. Apart from working on our brand partnerships, I also work on Well+Good’s own brand initiatives (like Well+Good Retreats!), helping to craft copy and marketing strategy. My days are very fast-paced and deadline-driven, which comes with the territory of working with clients on tight timelines.” — Eva Medoff Rohan, Senior Editor of Branded Content + Brand Strategy at Well+Good
How do outlets and brands work together to create quality content?
“Typically, our sales team will receive an RFP (a request for proposal) from a brand outlining their initiatives, campaign details, goals, and target demographics. From there, alongside the integrated marketing team, I’ll brainstorm ideas that match-make these objectives with our own voice and scope of coverage — and therefore engage our audience. We’ll also often ideate alongside our experiential, events, and social teams to create robust, 360-degree proposals.
Once a program is sold, I’ll provide editorial recommendations to the client along the way. Our goal is to make it ultra-clear why we’ve made our creative decisions — whether that pertains to the specific angle, the individuals we’re featuring, our publishing cadence, etc. — and how these decisions fit into the overall content strategy. There’s communication throughout the process, and the brand side gives their seal of approval before we go live. It’s a working partnership.” — Corinne McNamara, Branded Content Editor at NYMag
How is branded content similar to traditional editorial content? How is it different?
“It’s similar because you’re still creating content for your site’s audience to consume and enjoy, and you want it to feel just as native as any other piece of content that your site would publish. However, it’s different because there’s the added challenge of making sure that your content is not only living up to your site’s editorial standards, but is also meeting (and hopefully surpassing!) client goals and expectations.” — Allison Berry, Branded Content Editor at Bustle Digital Group
Is branded content the future of editorial?
“I don’t necessarily think it’s the future, though it’s part of the future. Brands want to lead the narrative on their own products. They have the resources to do it now with branded content studios. It sure beats traditional advertising. But I don’t think that editorial is dead by any means. I can’t live without my New York mag or New York Times and there are millions of others who can’t either. There will always be legacy media (and new media) giving us awesome editorial – it’s just that there will be less jobs in them and certainly not the glamour jobs that I knew as a magazine whippersnapper.” – Chandra Turner, Executive Director, Scholastic National Partnerships, and Founder and President of Ed2010
What’s your advice for Whippersnappers who are interested in becoming a branded content editor?
“Jump in! The only way to do it is to get experience. Take an assignment from a friend who crossed over. Offer to write the sponsored content article for your marketing team. Interview for jobs that are branded content. You’ll be surprised that the same values that you have as a journalist apply. Bring the integrity you learned in journalism to working for a brand and you’ll thrive.” — Chandra Turner
“When I realized I wanted to move into branded content, I found it really helpful to do informational interviews with people who were already working in the field. I had so many questions, and it was a really helpful way for me to decide if this is something I was actually interested in.” — Allison Berry
“Know that you’ll wear a lot of hats. That being said, I see that as a plus — I’ve racked up diverse and useful skills over the course of my career. I’ve played talent booker and video producer. I’ve presented to clients. I’ve written and edited extensive features on topics spanning from the IoT to the science of sleep to entertainment. I’ve interviewed celebrities; I’ve even gone rock climbing in the name of branded content, no joke.” — Corinne McNamara
“When possible, seek out freelance branded content work, because having real clips is gold. Since the field is so new, very few people have direct experience in it—so having a portfolio to back yourself up (however small) is definitely a win.” — Eva Medoff Rohan
Kelsey Mulvey is a New York-based writer and editor. She has written for several publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Time Out New York, LuckyMag.com, Business Insider, Taste of Home, NYMag.com and Wallpaper.com. Recently, Kelsey joined J.P. MorganChase as Chase’s freelance senior lifestyle editor. Check out more of her work at KelseyMulveyWrites.com and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.