How do I make killer branded content? Is the question I am most frequently asked by clients and agencies.

If I could answer it in a sentence or even a concept then I’d be writing this from my yacht. I’m not. Like many others dealing with how to navigate brands through the complex landscape of content, social and all things between, instead I’m sat at the coal face.

Less glamourous it may be but its from execution and constant exposure to goings on at the business end of content that I’m in a position to offer a framework for how to brief creators to make content which is both shareable and likely to meet business KPI’s.

Let me qualify. I’ve been head of creative solutions at Unruly for the last 2 years. There I’ve advised clients on data driven insight, notably from the methodology underpinning Unrulys unique ShareRank product and I’ve commissioned successful viral and episodic video content. Not least, I’ve spent 24 months looking at branded video content from the Viral Video Chart and dissecting exactly what has driven success. As well as the data that Unruly are keen to ensure underpins decision making about content, I also have some observations. And square eyes.

So, lets get to it.

Before I start, its important to understand process. What I’m offering here is a framework on how to brief creators to make content that will be both shareable and meet marketing KPI’s. In terms of next steps, this framework should then:-

  • Be given to the creators to light the fire. To do what they do best and create the disruptive brilliance that they can when properly briefed.
  • As early as possible, be coherently planned with other media in the mix for effective distribution – preferably linked with it.
  • Be rigorously measured. Whats the point in doing a good thing if you can’t prove how good it was?


You’ll need:-


These 6 ingredients will have to feature but in different amounts, depending on exactly what marketing outcome you wish. The first 3 are the big hitters, the latter 3 may perhaps play a smaller part but are vital, like yeast, and their omittance may cause the whole exercise to fall flat.

Of course, there are some other factors that may be at play but they’ll be flavourings only. It’s the above that drive the lions share of success.


Briefing question: How do you want people to feel?

Demonstrated not least in Karen Nelson Fields, The Science of Sharing, content which makes us feel high intensity emotions are proven to drive twice as much sharing activity. Think about it. The last time you shared something, you will have watched it and before you even thought about anything, it will have made you feel something strongly. Hilarity, arousal, warmth, pride or one of the wide array of human emotions.

So, from a marketers point of view, that’s the viral ingredient right there. Given the fact that often earned media is a goal for digital video content this is the first thing that should be thought about in briefing.

Its notable that if your goal is at the top of the sales funnel; awareness, then it would be prudent to go heavy on this ingredient.


Briefing question: Why are people going to share this?

This is frequently forgotten in the creation of video content for digital. This is a lean forward medium, not sit back like TV. As a result, if you have an expectation to drive earned media then it’s imperative to plan these reasons in.

Unlike emotions where it’s prudent to pick 1 or 2 complimentary emotions to trigger hard, here we can plan in a variety and it won’t dilute the sharebility of the content.

It’s worth remembering that the vast majority of sharing behaviour for content happens in the first 3-4 days. So as a result, if earned media is the goal then think about reasons to share which appeal to early stage ‘broadcast’ sensibilities. For example, reaction seeking, opinion seeking or kudos. The social motivations I'm listing here are drawn from the Unruly ShareRank methodology.


Briefing challenge: Whilst maintaining the potency of the above 2, how ideally do we make the product or brand a part of the story. At least be clearly visible to drive recall?

Put simply, this media is into its adolescence and quite rightly it is now expected to deliver ROI. Good. For too long the obsession with the Youtube counter clouded sensible marketing. Its vital for the continued growth of this powerful medium that those who are exposed to the content feel differently about the brand or buy the product.

The Science of Sharing found that on average it was 30 seconds before a brand was revealed, amongst the wide set of content studied. Yet it also found there was no correlation between the amount of branding and the amount of sharing.

So be proud of your brand. As long as you have the rest of the ingredients in balance, this simply won’t matter.


Briefing questions: Who are we? Do we have the right to adopt this emotional timbre? Really, truly, is this the type of idea that our target audience will care about? Is this style of content the type of thing they are consuming in their native environments?

The above looks at the issue of authenticity from an internal perspective and then amongst a target audience. This is primarily what I was thinking about with the yeast analogy earlier. You could get everything right but if this misfires, you have a flat cake.

Its also worth reminding yourself that in inserting your brand comms in to peoples native environments you’re stepping in to someone elses party. Quite rightly, if you come across as stilted, weird or not genuine at best you’ll be ignored and at worst, vilified.

In my new capacity as director of That Lot, this is an area which is especially pertinent. Brand tone of voice in social ( tweets, updates, images, Vines etc ) is so immediate and so integrated into peoples interactions that it is harshly judged if done wrong.


Briefing question: Is this something new enough/stand out enough ( whilst staying in brand guidelines ) to drive interest? Does it have a story?

Content shock is rife. The amount of branded content uploaded has exploded in recent years. As has the speed with which we tire of it. As a result, innovation is a safer bet than imitation. If anything, this is a shout out to the genius spark of brilliance that can come out of the creative process. Nurture it, don’t suppress it.

Another interesting factor here is that so many media outlets are now seeking stories to talk about that if your video content is a truth or a point well made, then it’s easier to derive PR uptake along with paid distribution to drive earned media.


Briefing question: If this is the centre of my campaign, how do I link it effectively to everything else that is going on? If this is part of a wider campaign, how do I ensure its linked back to that activity on other platforms? How can I link this to other activity over time that will cement brand recall that it is us who have done this?

Branded content is now in a post viral world. Smart marketers are looking at a variety of content, served to different people at different stages of the sales funnel at times which is most likely to drive desired outcomes. As such, it shouldn’t live in a vacuum. It needs to reach out across time and platforms.


So there we go. Those are the ingredients for successful briefing for content creation. Everyones recipe will be unique to them, and for the specific circumstances. This can apply to a single piece of content, a set or even an annual strategy. Happy briefing.

Barney Worfolk-Smith is a director at That Lot, a social content company who create output of all kinds for brands in social as well as the brand experiences and stories that link them together. You’ll find him tweeting @mightybarnski and can reach him