Erica Ehm On Creating Branded Content Without Selling Out

April 16, 2014 Ben Myers
Erica Ehm is the creator and publisher of Yummy Mummy Club.

Erica Ehm is the creator and publisher of Yummy Mummy Club.

If you’ve run a blog for a few years, you’re familiar with the dance.

An email sent in earnest from a brand hoping to spread word about a new product or service. Then, you’re faced with a decision. You can publish the press release, rewrite it into an article, or try a bit harder and make something worth thinking about.

In the first two, there are risks. Blog readers can smell ‘boring’ from a mile away. If you don’t care about the topic you’re publishing, they probably won’t make it past the first paragraph.

“[The content] will be fun. It will never be patronizing. It will always be empowering. And we’ll only work with brands that understand that.”

Erica Ehm always tries harder. In the eight years since its founding, she’s grown the online magazine Yummy Mummy Club (YMC) into an award-winning hub of information and perspectives about being a woman with children.

Around Year Three, the circling brands started closing in on her corner of the internet. The offers came in, and Ehm was selective in picking her dance partner.

Knowing your audience

“We try to understand how [the content] plays out in the life of a mom, and even more importantly, how does that play out in the life of a woman who has kids?” she told the Dx3 Digest.

“When brands comes to us, we try to look at their product or service through that prism and try to understand what are some great ways to tell their stories to moms.”

That means they can’t just copying press releases. Boring content doesn’t make the cut.

“The winner has to be the reader, first and foremost,” she said, referring to the compelling content that keeps readers coming back to YMC.

The brand and the publisher enter into into a sort of negotiation. What will the audience find interesting and help achieve the brand’s goals? Brainstorming ways of presenting that content is crucial. It has to pass the smell test. The content can’t be contrived or insincere. Readers can sense that from a mile away.

“The worst thing they can do is create something that sounds or feels like they’re selling to moms.”

Creating unique content

Ehm described the unique quizzes, contests, slideshows, and blogs that are created to hit that win-win scenario.

“Sometimes the brand itself isn’t the star of that content, they’re the enabler,” she said. “They’re the ones presenting this awesome content for moms.”

As the gatekeeper and a mom, Ehm puts herself in the place of her audience.

“I’m the demographic,” she said. “The worst thing they can do is create something that sounds or feels like they’re selling to moms.”

Engaging with the YMC audience also requires a recurring commitment on the part of  the brand. One piece of content won’t do. Ehm said that she looks for long-term programs that reinforce the quality of the brand and their dedication to the YMC audience.

Making a commitment

“[Brands] build a relationship with the reader so that you’re not just popping in for a product release and then disappearing,” she said.

The first piece of sponsored content from YMC was a Fujifilm-branded newsletter about motherhood and photography in 2009. Ehm reached out to them with the opportunity, and the camera-maker was happy to jump on board.

During the 2014 Academy Awards, Random House Canada sponsored a #YMCOscars chat where spurred a conversation about the Oscars broadcast and gave away books about film. Ehm said that’s exactly the type of sponsored content they’re looking for.

“Ultimately, [our audience will] relate to it, they’ll engage with it and even better, they’ll share it.”

Acting as both defender of the YMC’s audience and its representative to brands, Ehm sticks to a creed that sounds like it combines the perspectives of a caring mom and a disciplined businesswoman.

“[The content] will be fun. It will never be patronizing. It will always be empowering. And we’ll only work with brands that understand that.”

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