Sponsored content is a fact of life these days; we all expect to see it on our favorite influencers’ channels, and of course we create it ourselves. As the industry gets more sophisticated about creating compelling, interesting, and valuable spon con—the kind that provides real value to readers, and accomplishes so much more than a simple display ad—we are seeing all sorts of creative takes on product placement that are win-win for the creator and the sponsor.
Here are some of our favorite ways to make sponsored content shine (and bring your brand partners back for more, more, more).
Make it indistinguishable from your regular content
Long gone are the days when you can throw up a stock photo, copy and paste some PR messaging, and offer a discount or a giveaway and call that a sponsored post. (Good riddance— that’s not a genre I miss at all).
Now, we see sponsored posts delivering real, tangible value, and becoming virtually indistinguishable from non-sponsored content. Autumn from A Whole Story is a genius at organically weaving her sponsors into posts that feel completely at home in her content. This post includes beautiful photos of her prAna gear and doesn’t skimp on the personal, thoughtful, and reflective angle she’s built her brand around.
Likewise, Kasey from Powercakes brings her sponsors into the same kind of content she creates all the time, like this recipe for Protein Power Chocolate Bark. The recipe and photos are completely on brand, so her readers get exactly what they’re expecting when they read her post. And the recipe demonstrates how to use Great Lakes Gelatin in an unexpected way, giving her readers another reason to try it themselves.
While you’re at it, here’s how to write a compelling (and FTC-compliant!) disclosure.
Don’t call it a review
This approach of creating sponsored content that feels right at home among your other, non-sponsored content, applies to the title of the post as well. Unless your client has specifically asked for it, or your platforms are specifically review-focused, take the word ‘review’ out of your post title, and focus the title on what you’re actually delivering, like a recipe, a workout, etc.
The post itself can still include a review—a creative take on your unique experience with the product—but the title itself should communicate the value of the post. For example, these are all sponsored post titles:
These headlines are more click-worthy than “XX Product Review,” right?
Add in a helpful tip that helps your audience use the product better
This is a tried and true way to go beyond the “This product is perfect! I love it! Sunshine and rainbows!” product placement angle that is sure to leave some of your audience skeptical.
No matter what the budget, a dishonest or even fudged sponsored post is never worth losing your audience’s trust.
So to make sure to maintain their trust when you’re doing sponsored content, it helps to incorporate some advice about using the product—some insider information—that will help them make a better purchase decision and enjoy it more.
For example, Audrey from Putting Me Together lets her readers know that the top she’s writing about:
“runs a *tad* short, but if you’re tucking it, that shouldn’t be a problem.”
This information is good for her readers and her client: she’s managing her readers’ expectations about the top and they get some trusted, insider information that they might not be able to get from the online store. Because anyone who purchases is already thinking about how to use the top (I’ll just tuck it in! I’m short so it will probably work well for me!), they are less likely to return that purchase. By helping her readers make better decisions, she’s taking an already highly qualified audience for her sponsor and qualifying it even further.
Wink to the fact that you’re doing product placement
Everyone knows a sponsored post is a sponsored post, and they’re expecting the product to be all over the place, label forward, and positively endorsed. That said, with the right approach you can have a little fun with it. Remember this product placement for Verizon?
You may not be able to pull off a Liz Lemon-level breaking of the fourth wall, but there are ways to wink to the fact that you’re doing product placement in a way that feels genuine and relatable.
In this live video, Jennifer from The Fit Fork takes a moment to reposition her Great Lakes Gelatin can so we can see the label. Her saying “product placement” with a giggle is in no way a surprise to her audience; if anything, it shows how hard she’s working to do right by her client, and to make the video still feel natural and organic. Her content is high quality and high-value, so her smile and acknowledgment of what she’s doing, transforms a transitional moment in a live video, that can’t be edited out, into an endearing ‘look behind the scenes’ that also benefits her client.
Let’s see your examples!
Have you written a sponsored post that you’re especially proud of? Or have another example of outstanding spon con to share? Please share it; let’s create an inspiration library to help us all up level our content creation.
Want more influencer and entrepreneur focused content?
Sign up here and we’ll let you know when new content is published. No spam, and we never share your email.