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Third Thursday Talks | Molly St. Louis, “3 Types of Content: Earned, Owned, and Branded”

By Katherine Gustafson

In last month’s edition of EM’s Third Thursday Talks series, Ken spoke with Molly St. Louis, previously a consultant with EM and now head of marketing for Dealtale. She has previously worked in PR and has been a writer for Inc., AdWeek, The Huffington Post, and Business New Daily.  

Here are some key takeaways from their wide-ranging conversation about branded content, thought leadership, and the power of video. 


Marketing relies on three types of content 

Marketing content can be earned, owned, or paid. In earned content, media picks up your idea and writes it up for a publication; owned content is anything you have control of, like your company blog; and paid content—otherwise known as branded content—is material you pay to have produced for publication on a site that’s not your own. For example, companies can hire the content division of
Bloomberg, The Atlantic, or The Wall Street Journal to develop content related to the company’s priorities that will appear in the respective publication.

Many tech companies don’t understand branded content

Silicon Valley companies often confuse branded content with paid advertising—that is, they expect this type of content to proactively tout the brand’s products like an ad does. But branded content is supposed to be thought leadership—that is, it showcases the expertise and authority of the company or its people. It must match the tone of the publication in which it appears, so it’s often written in a journalistic style. And it typically only makes passing reference—if any—to the company’s services or products.  

The marketing team should proactively set expectations with leadership when creating branded content. Executives who don’t understand how branded content works may find the style of the piece unexpected or be upset there aren’t specific product references. They might also dislike seeing the content labeled as paid content, which is required by law. 


Advice for companies that lack confidence in thought leadership

If your company struggles with thought leadership, a good strategy is to hire journalists to do your branded content. Journalists understand how to pull a story out of people. And marketers who are looking to get better at thought leadership should consider finding a journalist as a mentor. 

Your company’s thought leadership should align with its values. What cause or idea will your company stand up for? Or how are you running your company in a way that expresses closely held ideals? Thought leadership can be hard for executive to sign their name to because of the vulnerability that can come with it. Executives may shy away from expressing bold opinions in print, as doing so can bring dissenting attention. Marketers can coach their executives that in order to gain traction, they have to take a stand and be willing for people to disagree. 


How to use video most effectively

Video is a powerful marketing marketing asset, but not all video is created equal. Good videos for marketing purposes delve right into the topic at hand without an extensive intro or backstory. People who are tuning into your video are doing so because they already know the background or are at least eager to dive right into the topic. 

One insider tip is that faces on video perform a lot better on social. You may think a cool animated intro will be more attractive lead-in to your video than a talking head, but experience shows that videos that start with a face perform multiple times better. Another tip is that you can turn the content from a video into a multiple other pieces of content, such as blog posts, an audio file, and short clips for social.

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About Katherine Gustafson

Katie Gustafson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, focusing on content writing for business, tech, finance, and nonprofits.

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