5 Ways to Convince Brands to Tell Real Stories

Brands are not used to getting outside their comfort zone and being honest and transparent with their audience.

Do you ever deal with clients — brands — who want to do native advertising and branded videos that focus just a little too much on themselves? Then you’re not the only one.

Agencies and publisher native ad studios around the world meet the same problem.

As Branded Content Consultant, Melanie Deziel, once said, “Brands are so used to talking about themselves, so used to talk about their pricing and their flavors. Brands are not used to getting outside their comfort zone and being honest and transparent with their audience. So the biggest challenge is helping them walk over that line to create content that maybe isn’t such a hard sell but it’s really going to resonate with their audience.”

But how do agencies and publishers overcome this challenge? Here are 5 tips for getting the message through.

The best way we’ve found to convince clients to tell real stories is by showing examples.

1. Flaunt the successful stories

“The majority of our clients understand that overbranding doesn’t serve their best interests. But occasionally, we’ll run into a client who views it differently.

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The best way we’ve found to convince clients to tell real stories is by showing examples of how some of our more successful clients told a story that informs and entertains while still leaving the marketing impression the client desires. Then we back that up with data to show how much more effective that approach proves to be.”

– Tom Needham, Executive Director of Branded Content at The Business Journals 

We love to show clients the reach, engagement, and conversion stats for well-executed branded videos that are pivoted around sincere narratives.

2. Present the stats

“We love to show clients the reach, engagement, and conversion stats for well-executed branded videos that are pivoted around sincere narratives. We believe that brands are super smart and are seeing the potential for this concept more than ever.

RELATED: Native Advertising That Works? 3 Takeaways from Award-Winning Examples

Audiences are really media savvy now and they’ll be turned off if the story is insincere or contrived. But real stories don’t always mean a documentary approach, but they should be honest and relatable. It’s human instinct to empathize with relatable stories and characters.”

– Pete Fergusson, Owner & CEO of Nemorin Creative 

If you have a performance campaign where you want to generate leads or sales, then probably native advertising is not the right format for you.

3. Explain how native works

“Native advertising is not for everyone. If you have a performance campaign where you want to generate leads or sales, then probably native advertising is not the right format for you. If you think in terms of the AIDA funnel (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action, ed.), we are more at awareness and ‘Interest’ side of things, we are not at ‘Action’.

That’s something we need to tell the customers. Whenever they want an action, they should do Facebook ads or Google Adwords or something else which will be a better format for them. We try to identify customers that are looking for brand awareness and that want to have certain topics related to them.

RELATED: Thinking Like a Journalist Will Make You Awesome at Native Advertising

Those are the right customers and for that kind of customers, we can create great stories.

Nevertheless, we also try to convince people or brands who a more action-oriented about a way to do brand awareness. But if they are not planning this or if they have no budget for it, then they shouldn’t do native advertising.”

– Robert Heesen, Head of BILD Brand Studio Consulting

We try to resist that because they’re employing you because you’re meant to be the experts.

4. You are the expert – insist on it

“Often advertisers will come to you and try and say, “we want you to write this”. We try to resist that because they’re employing you because you’re meant to be the experts. You’re meant to know what you’re doing and if they didn’t need you, they would just be doing it themselves.

So you got to have the confidence to try and ensure that you get past what they think they want to say and ask them what they are trying to achieve? For example, they’re trying to achieve change in brand perception. Then we focus on that and then work with them to come up with a way that you can do that which doesn’t affect credibility, to make it more authentic, to make it work.

RELATED: The Washington Post’s Brand Studio: Story First, Last and Always

As a company who does a lot of reviews and tests of products, we would never say something about a product which wasn’t fundamentally true. So if for example, an advertiser has a product which isn’t particularly strong in one aspect of it, we would rather not talk about that and talk about a more favorable part of their product like the design.

It’s quite hard sometimes to keep advertisers happy with what they’re trying to achieve at the same time making sure that we don’t step outside of what our normal editorial values and controls would be. You have to keep your credibility and keep your integrity.”

Pete Wootton, Managing Director of Digital at Dennis Publishing 

Guide them, enlighten them, and advise them with transparency.

5. Guide and enlighten

To put it simply, as Anna Arvidsson, Head of Bonnier News Brand Studio:

“To get advertisers to buy in on native advertising and convince them to make real stories, you need to guide them, enlighten them, and advise them with transparency.”

Want to see examples of great native advertising? Download “Award-Winning Native Advertising Examples 2017”