Strong Voice, Strong Content

Elizabeth HollandBlog Post


Every editor knows that the way to a reader’s heart is to write about people first and experts second.

It’s a tried-and-true formula because stories that speak to us on an emotional level are the ones readers remember.

The rule also applies to commercial content, whether it’s advertorial, native advertising or branded content. Bottom line: brands that speak to the human condition win.

Unlike editorial – where a person, issue or event often drives the story – content created for clients starts from scratch. Searching for someone who fits with a client’s message can be the most difficult piece of the puzzle piece to place.

And since we – the editors and writers in the Globe Edge Content Studio – don’t have an exhaustive list of people at our disposal and willing to be interviewed, we draw from all manner of avenues: poring over contact lists; talking to family, friends, and friends of friends; scouring online publications; and, of course, using every social media platform available.

As with all commercial content, the challenge is to be imaginative within the client’s goals, but also to dare to venture outside the grid, exposing the client to new ideas, which may initially be viewed skeptically but will, in the end, enhance the original vision.

Consider the recent “Dare Greatly” Cadillac campaign. Since part of the company’s objective was to rebrand for a younger audience, it launched a television ad campaign during the Oscars with the story of fashion designer Jason Wu and how he achieved success.

Here at The Globe, the Edge Content Studio compiled a list of about a dozen people from all walks of life who could be positioned as game changers in their fields for the pages of our Style Advisor section, and those names were presented to the agency.

Our top recommendation was Chantelle Winnie, a 21-year-old model from Mississauga who is shaking up the fashion world despite her chronic skin condition, vitiligo.

Fresh off a Diesel campaign for the European market, Chantelle was, to me, the obvious choice to kick off the two-part series – hers is a compelling story, and she’s fresh, not over-the-top famous, and the camera loves her.

It was easy to speak passionately about her as the perfect match, on many levels.

Putting behind her years of being bullied (“I was called a cow; I was mooed at…”), she not only exemplified the Dare Greatly message, she also had a wide reach on social media. (I also knew that, true to her millennial habits, photos from the shoot would end up on her Instagram account.)

The fact the story was not heavily branded helped secure Chantelle, who felt comfortable with our approach. In the end, the page ran without any visual branding, next to a full-page ad.

More recently, another perfect alignment was generated in a 10-part series we created on behalf of Pandora. Targeted to a male audience, the stories in the Man Up series appeared online, surrounded by Pandora display ads keyed to Valentine’s Day gift giving.

Finding the right people to interview took the most amount of time, but some of them – like Ish Morris and Cory Lee – were such a natural fit for a piece titled “Turning your stay-at-home night into a VIP event” that the story was a breeze to pull together.

Apart from readily agreeing to participate, the couple – both actors and recording artists immersed in the urban culture scene – happened to genuinely like Pandora jewellery, as is evident in the photo they sent (taken before the interview request), showing Cory wearing a Pandora necklace, a present from her husband.

And just like Chantelle, they have a healthy social-media following. Between that and our own channels, the client got great exposure.

Creating killer content is the everyday goal, and a solid client piece that comes together in an organic way is a special achievement.

It makes for a successful campaign from a creative as well as a numbers perspective.

Elizabeth Holland is a Senior Editor for the Globe Content Studio. Top photo of Chantelle Winnie was taken by Thomas Bollmann for The Globe and Mail)