MAT tips: Why first-person sponsored content is a no-no

Valerie Turgeon April 26, 2017

You’re scanning the newspaper or the homepage of your favorite media site. What catches your eye?

Sports? Yep.

New restaurant opening? I’d click that.

Best places to vacation this summer? Sounds like paradise.

A brand telling me about their history and products? SKIP.

Unless a reader has already established an interest in a topic or finds the article particularly useful, they’re not going to click on your sponsored post—and, even if they do, they’re not going to read it when written in the first person.

There’s a time and a place for using “I” and “we.” On your homepage for instance, using “we” can humanize your brand. But in this case, a user has entered your website by choice and already has an interest in learning more about your company.

When browsing the newspaper, readers are only interested in information they can gain such as:

  • The latest local news and events
  • Interesting and surprising life stories
  • Tips that can be easily used in day-to-day life

Readers browse with the perspective of “what’s in it for me?” (Content writers often refer to it as “WIIFM”.)

Readers aren’t interested in learning about your brand’s history, triumphs, products, solutions and who you are overall.

Heartbreaking, isn’t it?

You CAN capture the readers’ attention when writing a sponsored post or MAT release, providing tips or information useful to your readers.

And it’s worth it. 25% more consumers looked at sponsored articles than display ad units, and they’re found to produce 18% higher lift in purchase intent.

But when targeting the right audience in a sponsored post or MAT release, you can implement these tips below to capture readers’ attention and, ultimately, their business.

[FREE GUIDE TO MASTERING THE MODERN MAT RELEASE]

Establish authority

It may feel counter-intuitive to not write directly about your brand. How will consumers get to know you?

By positioning your brand as an authority in your field, you’ll be able to gain the trust of your audience through the knowledge and insights you share.

When writing a MAT release, you only get two opportunities to mention the name of your brand—one mention usually includes the website.

Though such few mentions feel insignificant, the quality, authoritative content you provide will be enough to form a positive impression of your brand.

So, how do you establish authority?

State the facts

The best MAT releases and sponsored articles read like newspaper articles rather than sales pitches. Educate readers about your field by focusing on a specific hot topic, or a singular story that stirs emotion using an objective, third-person voice.

Use numbers, cite credible sources and even interview industry experts to show you’ve done your research (again, this will build trust with your readers). Make sure to use numbers sparingly though, otherwise you’ll end up writing an industry report.

If you’re having trouble, consider using a classic journalism tool: the inverted pyramid. State the most important information first, followed by the supporting details, and end with the least crucial points.

Provide useful tips

This is a different but equally effective way to establish credibility with your readers. Teaching them something that they can do in their everyday life is a great answer to WIIFM.

If your company is selling, say, a new kind of eco-friendly gardening compost, offering tips for growing an organic garden or extending the life of hard-to-grow vegetables, is the kind of content your intended audience desires.

A subtle mention of the compost, laced into one of the tips, won’t disrupt the flow of the content, nor will it look like an obvious advertisement. This format makes it all about your readers.

Be approachable

Your tone can impact the way they connect to your content. Would you rather start a conversation with a stranger who is scowling, or a stranger wearing a big smile? Probably the latter.

Mastering a friendly, welcoming tone in an article won’t be difficult for brands who already use this in other marketing collateral, but what about for brands who opt for a more serious, maybe intimidating tone?

Say your brand is selling a new software to help people do their taxes—it’s not an activity that many people get excited about. But they can get excited about a product that would help them finish the process quicker.

Relate to your readers to show them you understand the difficulty of doing taxes, and then, offer some tips, one of which, is to invest in your product.

Be brief

You probably know a lot about your products or services. Unfortunately, you’ll need to leave out most details when writing a MAT release or sponsored post in order to cover more useful info.

At Brandpoint, the MAT releases we write for our clients don’t usually go over 700 words. We aim for the word count to fall between 450-650 words.

That’s because many editors are more likely to pick up a release if they know they won’t have to spend time cutting words to make it fit in a small space. If they’re working with print, they need to worry about column inches AND quality.

Articles should get to the point right away. Only write the most impactful information to keep readers engaged.

The future of the MAT

Some claim the MAT release has had its moment in the sun but we have reason to believe otherwise. Luckily, we at Brandpoint already have 20 years of experience in this field, and a whole team of writers and editors who are well versed in the ways of the MAT release. If you want to learn more, check out this free guide to Mastering the Modern MAT Release.

Valerie Turgeon April 26, 2017

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