How to Engage Your Audience with Native Advertising #CZLSF

With her session at ClickZ Live San Francisco just two weeks away, Lauri Baker, vice president of content partnerships at AOL, spoke with us about how to create resonance with the audience and how marketers should be thinking about native advertising to successfully blur the lines between sponsored and organic content.

ClickZ: What is Partner Studio by AOL? How is AOL helping brands become storytellers?

Lauri Baker: Partner Studio by AOL is the industry’s first fully open data- and technology-powered content marketing solution that ignites end-to-end brand storytelling. It’s an insights-led, award-winning creative engine that fuses the principles of storytelling with the power of data.

With complete fluidity of content, data and technology – from our system, to our advertisers’ systems, to anywhere else they want to take it – our open approach helps brands create better ideas, tell better stories, and get better results for programs that are memorable and profitable.

CZ: What does “native advertising” mean to AOL and The Huffington Post?

LB: In basic terms, it means content that is advertiser-sponsored, transparent – clearly-labeled – and authentic to the platform, reader and brand.

CZ: What is a key factor to helping brands tell stories at scale as they look to build brand loyalty and affinity?

LB: Through a curated and collaborative model, native publishing allows our partners to surround and participate in the conversations that matter most to the brands and their communities. Curated editorial content creates a microcosm around an issue or theme, providing a relevant scaled platform to help answer the question, “What does this brand stand for?” Fueling this content with data and insights allows brands to scale quickly while developing content that drives brand loyalty, affinity, and lift in awareness and perception.

CZ: AOL Research shows 61 percent of consumers say they don’t care if it’s branded content as long as it’s good. How do you create content that resonates with your audience?

LB: We leverage proprietary insights and data to understand what our audience is most interested in reading and sharing, as well as how certain content makes them feel. We then follow a basic set of best practices to ensure that our native articles are newsroom quality: stand out, inform, humanize, timely, don’t oversell.

CZ: Consumers have more control than ever. They can avoid any content, ignore any message, and share their opinions anywhere and with anyone, anytime they want. How do you embrace this new brand/consumer dynamic?

LB: Agreed. Consumers are distracted, attention spans have decreased, and content is now coming from everywhere and everyone, across every device. But the opportunity for marketers is game-changing. Their consumers are now creators, and brands are now publishers. For the first time in history, marketers have been given the permission and platform to connect with consumers on a one-to-one basis. The challenge is the ability to cut through the clutter and reach the right person, on the right device, at the right time, with the right story. That’s where Partner Studio by AOL can uniquely help.

CZ: Through content marketing, brands have become thought leaders and journalists themselves in many ways. How does this change the relationship with consumers? How does this impact society overall?

LB: Today, brands have a huge opportunity in front of them that was never there before. Not only do they need to sell products, but they now have the opportunity to impact consumers’ lives and culture by becoming thought leaders and journalists themselves. Brands are experts on their consumers and industries. They are sitting on a mountain of data that can be unleashed as valuable content.

CZ: “Brands as publishers” is a commonly accepted notion at this point, but it’s easier said than done. What do you apply from your expertise in media journalism to branded content?

LB: We know a good story needs to be rooted in data and insights, and told in a way that captures consumers’ attention and emotion. Additionally, these stories must be distributed at scale in order to make a significant impact. The art is bringing all of this to life through real-time stories that are in-sync with the news cycle. The most important lesson we’ve learned is the value of building reader trust by not being afraid to ignite the world’s most important conversations.

To catch Lauri Baker at ClickZ Live San Francisco, get your ticket by registering here. Her session, “Native Ads: The Power of Blending In to Get Noticed,” will be at 2:35 p.m. on Tuesday, August 11 as part of the Content Innovation Track.

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