Digiday Content Marketing Awards judge Joe Lazauskas on effective brand content

Content marketing is increasingly everyone’s game: Publishers, brands, influencers and agencies all have a hand in it. Now Digiday is looking to find and award the best in the industry at this year’s Content Marketing Awards.

Ahead of the final deadline on March 11, we sat down with Joe Lazauskas, editor-in-chief of content marketing platform Contently and a judge on this year’s jury panel, to hear his thoughts on why podcasts are such effective marketing vehicles, the importance of good distribution and the murkiness of influencer marketing.

Who’s getting branded content right?
On the branded side, we definitely are seeing a lot more brands starting to create their own podcasts. The watershed moment for content marketing was on Thanksgiving, when GE’s “The Message” podcast was the #1 podcast on iTunes. Brands can be really successful on this medium if they do it right, [and] there’s a sweet spot you want to hit.

What’s the sweet spot?
One of the reasons GE’s podcast saw such success was because they promoted the hell out of it on every other major podcast. When you look at a lot of brands’ content strategy, they are still operating with an “if you build it, they will come” mentality. When you look at the really sophisticated brands on whatever platform they’re publishing on, they’re spending a lot on distribution in terms of internal resources and external networks to make sure that people are actually seeing the stuff they put out there.

Panoply and Netflix’s “Making a Murderer Podcast” was a favorite. How are Panoply and its clients defining the medium?
This is something they know that people want more of, they put it out there and they delivered it. I’d agree — that’s a really great campaign.

Another category we added this year is Best Brand/Influencer Collaboration. How are influencers shaping content marketing?
Influencer marketing is one of the hottest spaces right now. You see it working really well with fashion and food brands. The one thing that I do raise with some reservation is the disclosure element. These influencers are developing their own media brands that are as powerful, and sometimes more powerful, than traditional publishers. With a lot of influencer campaigns, they’re in this very murky group where you don’t know that they’re working with a brand. For long-term sustainability for influencer marketing, we need greater standards in the industry. When judging some of these entries, it is something I’ll consider: “How deceptive is the campaign?”

What are the hallmarks of a successful content marketing campaign?
Stories that are rich and highly produced and are made with the audience in mind first second and third, and not worried about selling something. To sum it up in three tips: a clear sense of what they wanted to accomplish and how they’re measuring success; a focus on the audience and great storytelling; and an innovative approach to distributing content.

The final deadline for this year’s program is March 11 at 11:59PM PST. Join top brands, agencies and publishers in the competition. Check out the new categories including Best Use of a Podcast, Best Brand/Influencer Collaboration and many more here.