The Shift to Sponsored Content: Q&A with STAT Director of Marketing Britt Whitmore

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If you’re considering including a budget for sponsored content in your 2019 PR plan, you’re in good company. Increasingly, brands are complementing traditional media relations with paid campaigns to expand the reach and impact of their PR efforts. While a sponsored piece may take the form of a native article in a publication or newsletter, media companies such as STAT are also expanding their capabilities to include high-quality multimedia content.

The Greenough team recently had a chance to work with STAT on a video project capturing footage of healthcare KOLs (key opinion leaders) during the 15th Annual Personalized Medicine Conference in Boston Nov. 14-15. Following the event, we sat down with Britt Whitmore, STAT’s director of marketing, for a Q&A on the world of sponsored content. 

Greenough: Are more companies moving toward sponsored content?

BW: Companies are definitely moving toward sponsored content. In fact, I'd say roughly 90 percent of media campaigns with STAT are solely sponsored content. The industry is recognizing how valuable content is when connecting with target audiences. Content has the potential to create a connection with a reader that standard display banners cannot offer.

Greenough: Are you seeing greater interest in companies asking STAT to produce content?

BW: We are working more and more with companies to create content for them. We're seeing a shift from one-off custom articles to custom content series. We'll work with a company over the course of four to 12 months to create three to six articles that touch on different company initiatives, creating multiple touch-points for our readers to connect with the brand over an extended time period.

Greenough: Are brands mostly interested in written or multimedia content? Has that changed since STAT first launched?

BW: STAT launched with the option for brands to work with our branded content team (STAT Brand Studio) to create written content, so we have been partnering in this way for three years now. While we have been receiving requests for branded multimedia content from the very beginning, we were only able to start offering this as an option as of Q2 2018. Therefore, the majority of our partnerships are still written content-based, but we expect our branded multimedia-based partnerships to increase exponentially as our partners become more aware of this new offering.

Greenough: By 2019, video traffic will account for 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic. How does the STAT team work with brands to develop video content?

BW: STAT Brand Studio will typically work with a brand to create a script prior to a video shoot, making sure the content will resonate with our readers. We'll create a preliminary outline prior to the shoot as well, which guides us during the shoot but usually changes after it based on the content we capture. After the interviews, we'll work on revising this outline and provide it back to our partners for their review.

Once we have sign off on the outline, we'll start the editing process with the raw footage. We'll weave that footage together to create a cohesive, engaging story – intertwining graphics and b-roll when needed – to produce a video that is as consistent as possible with the feel of a STAT editorial video. Once the video is complete and approved by the client, we'll work with the client to execute a cross-platform, targeted distribution campaign on statnews.com.

Greenough: How does working with a media company that produces and promotes content benefit brands? 

BW: A brand advertises with a media company to connect with that media company's audience. And media companies analyze their audiences – trends, engagement with content, etc. – on an hourly basis. They use this data to create a deep connection, a trust, with that audience over the course of time.

Working with a media brand to produce content allows you to capitalize on the media company's learnings in order to connect with their audience in the most effective way possible. You are able to speak to readers the way they are used to being spoken to on a platform they use regularly – which inevitably optimizes the performance of your content and creates a more meaningful connection between your brand and your target audience.