In this video, SAP’s CMO Jonathan Becher (@jbecher), discussed “brand journalism, disclosure, and sponsored content” with one of the leading independent analysts in the IT industry, Jon Reed (@JonERP).
I was thrilled that they discussed the launch of our Business Innovation website where I am the chief editor (disclosure: I am a paid SAP employee.)
But I was more excited about the open discussion they had around the importance of full disclosure, about the need for brands to get involved in the conversation, to become like publishers and to reach out to new audiences with quality content.
Here is a summary of the discussion, a link to the video, along with a few tips to keep in mind for your own content marketing initiatives.
Jon and Jonathan spoke about a few very specific SAP examples. So I will summarize their points at a more generic or abstract level since I believe they apply to any brand or marketer or content contributor.
As additional background, I wrote this article called “Will Content Marketing Destroy Social Media” based on a Tweet during the Superbowl from a different analyst but on this same topic of sponsored content. With 47 comments, it was one of the most active discussions that have taken place here at B2B Marketing Insider.
Jon Reed framed the discussion by outlining that there is a big shift in media. There is brand journalism. Brands often sponsor content, alongside advertisements and this raises issues of disclosure, transparency and authenticity.
Jon mentioned that there is some criticism of brands who produce great content as members of an active community and then also produce sponsored content which “has a whole different vibe.”
According to SAP CMO Jonathan Becher, everyone is struggling with the question of what is our message vs. what is someone else’s message. “The lines are blurring,” he says. Everyone agrees that brand employees should be part of the conversation and interact with the community.
But should brands censor their own “promotional” messages or certain voices? Jon Reed said “we’re all being paid by someone.” And so they both agreed that employees and other evangelists should all be part of the conversation as long as they achieve this full disclosure: explain who is paying you and for what?
But then Jonathan explained that brands are always looking to achieve greater reach. To achieve that, to participate in new conversations on other communities, brands need to reach out to third-party channels.
When a brand participates on a third-party site, there should be full disclosure that you are a brand employee. And if the space is paid for, that should also be disclosed. Bottom line is that authors of content should disclose their employer and should disclose if they are getting paid to write an article.
The pair also discussed the need for brands to become like publishers and magazine editors and develop sites that “earn eyeballs” through use of thought leadership, featured content and news. These sites should set the bar high for the quality of the content. And they need to be meticulous about disclosing transparent relationships and presenting a balanced view.
- A strong brand will have active and socially engaged employees
- Contributors on any site should fully disclose their employer and any paid arrangements
- Companies are beginning to realize that in order to reach a larger audience, they need to think like publishers
- Leading companies are creating content destinations that provide high-valuable content to potential customers
- Disclosure is an important issue for these sites as well