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Why Content Marketing Needs To Ensure Brand Safety

Table of Contents

You’ve probably heard a lot about brand safety this year. With bigger brands like Adidas, The Guardian and others taking extreme steps like pulling out their ad campaigns from YouTube in order to protect their brand image, the tactic seems to be taking the center stage. Here’s why it needs to be as important in content marketing too.

The current state of brand safety

According to Marketing Dive, 64% of marketers struggle to implement effective brand safety strategies. The reason being that streamlining where and how they want to reach out to their target market with brand-safe measures, might limit their reach drastically and result in lesser effective campaigns.

On the other hand, trying to cater to wide interests, actually might take their marketing campaigns to an audience that is not relevant to their brand or don’t perceive the right things about them. The same holds true when a brand is investing in content marketing.

While content marketing helps brands generate 69% more leads than those who don’t, it is also putting them at the risk of being misinterpreted by their target market, if not thought through right. That is why brand safety should not just be the responsibility of the branding department, but also the content marketing team.

Why is brand safety important?

As per a study, online advertising and brand safety are now closely connected. A brand cannot possibly trust programmatic placements of their ad campaigns and hope that they appear next to absolutely no objectionable content. The reason stated here being that consumers tend to lose trust even in a brand they have been interacting with for years if they see them advertise near content that doesn’t sit well with them.

brand safety in content marketing



But what happens when you end up being the person who is creating content that your audience doesn’t believe in, has a problem with or finds objectionable? Well, you don’t just lose their trust for that campaign, but also lose authority in the market almost instantly.

Take for instance a blog that actively writes about gender equality. Just to grab some eyeballs, they publish a content piece titled ’10 reasons why you should not believe in gender equality’. While the blog still covers 10 reasons that make a person like that sound really stupid and promotes equality, a typical internet browser is more likely to pick up only the title and shoot the brand down for being irrelevant.

In some cases, internet users even tend to dig deeper into a content piece, trying to find more faults that could taint a brand’s image. Considering how fleeting the attention spans have become today, this comes as no surprise really!

This is not to say that content marketers should not experiment with titles or tactics. It just means you need to know what will keep your brand safe in a digital landscape where consumers tend to form an opinion about something a little too quickly.

What does brand safety look like in content marketing?

As brands across all industries push out more content and their audience gets more ways to share their opinion on it, it is up to the content marketers to take brand safety in their hands. Here are a few things you need to have in mind before even ideating on a content piece.

The very first step content marketers need to take, is understand what is unsafe for the brand they are marketing and also identify the severity of the risks if they plan to venture into unsafe grounds to grab some attention.



When talking about brand safety in the digital space, it is all about how your brand’s vision, mission, perspectives and actions will be portrayed in the eyes of the consumer. And this can be completely opposite from the values that you actually follow through.

Simply put, every social media post or every blog you put out there, can hamper your brand’s image in the eyes of the consumer. You get one word trying to keep up with what’s trending in the industry, you put your brand at a huge risk of being shamed.

To make things simpler, here are some content categories that put 90% of brands under the radar – although it might vary from business to business:

  • Military conflict
  • Terrorism
  • Hate speeches
  • Illegal drugs
  • Crime
  • Death/ injury
  • Arms
  • Obscenity
  • Adult
  • Piracy
  • Spam/ Harmful sites
  • Tobacco

Simply put, as Times Internet suggests, it is always a better idea to stay away from drastic comments or something that your target consumer market feels about too strongly.

When it comes to brand safety, there are a few ways in which your content can put you at risk. Right after publishing a piece, you should know what to look for to ensure it isn’t creating ripples that you didn’t even remotely think about.

The first typical reaction is the conversations that start around your content piece. Be it on your blog itself, social media or on communities and groups. Make sure you’re at the top of things by using social mention tools to monitor such activity. If you notice any discrepancy in how your content is being perceived, don’t ignore it. Address the conversation by joining in and come back to incorporating the feedback your consumers are sharing, in the content piece.

The second reaction that can backfire severely and cause a quick bad mouth in the digital space, is when people pick out sentences or claims from your content and share their ‘very specific’ opinion on it. We all know how quickly these quotes spread right?

The third type of reaction to content is the one that can possibly cause long-term damage on search engines. This is when people start to link irrelevant content to your site, claiming that you support it or back it some manner.

Honestly, it might seem like a lot to keep track of for a brand. But thanks to a few content marketing tools, you wouldn’t have to pull your hair out every time you publish something new.

How to ensure brand safety in content marketing

While there is no sure shot way of keeping consumer reactions in check, there are definitely a few things you can do to keep things in control.

1. Social listening 

As soon as you publish a content piece, send it out to your subscribers and followers, keep your eyes and ears open for any kind of engagement. It could be positive or negative reactions on a Facebook post, comments, the lack of shares, or re-shares with opinions and feedbacks.

The best way to be efficient at social listening is using a smart tool. I personally like using Mention, Hootsuite, SumAll and of course, Google Alerts.



2. Tracking PR

PR platforms are the ones that usually tend to pick up quotes or statements from a content piece and bash them over for being ‘not consumer-centric’ or otherwise. This is where you need to watch out because such publishing platforms can instantly taint your brand’s reputation in the eyes of thousands of readers.

If you’re reaching out to publishers to share your content with a wider audience, make sure you’re reaching out to the right ones. Ask them for what their audience sets look like, where they plan on sharing your content and how. Digging deeper into their strategy can help you ensure brand safety on a bigger level.

3. Monitor backlinks 

Some of those that I work with, call me a little crazy every time I mention the search engine. I’m no expert at SEO, but I sure know that every content piece you write needs to be search engine friendly to be able to reap benefits from it over a longer period. While your content pieces may be optimized by the right keywords, the backlinks to it could cause some harm.

That is why you need to monitor the backlinks to every content piece, consistently. Getting more backlinks is always a good idea, but once dubious sites start to give you those, it is reason enough to worry as it might change the demographics of your website audience drastically.

As an SEO-obsessed content marketer, you might think that backlinks are always a good thing. But backlinks from disreputable sites not only ding your credibility in search, it typically means your content is being referenced in a space that isn’t safe for your brand. Monitoring referral traffic in your web analytics and backlink statistics in your SEO management platform is a powerful way to catch sites or conversations that are possibly associating your content with ideas or ideals that aren’t accurately reflective of your brand.

For this, I would recommend using SEranking or Ahrefs.

4. Create better content 

I believe that one of the best ways to ensure brand safety is to always focus on creating good content. And by good content, I don’t mean how frequently you publish blogs to stay in sight of the consumer. I am referring to whether or not you’re able to add value to your consumers with each of those content pieces.

Your content marketing strategy needs to be focused on what the consumer is talking about, the information they are looking for, their common concerns and how you can address them with a certain content piece.

[bctt tweet=”No matter which industry you’re in, it is always ‘quality over quantity’ in content marketing. #marketing #contentmarketing” username=”VanhishikhaB”]

5. Balance out targeting 

You want your content to reach the most number of people you possibly can. But at the same time, you also want to ensure it is reaching the right kind of people. Instead of targeting too specific a group and lowering your reach, or reaching out to too big an audience and risking brand safety, aim at finding a balance in your targeting.

Instead of just shortlisting the demographics you want your content piece to reach, focus on defining proper consumer personas – look into who they are, what they do, their educational backgrounds, what content they are interested in, how and where they interact the most online and more. Your targeting should look like you’re talking to an individual or a segment of people that are similar.

6. Establish strong relationships 

Brand safety usually becomes an issue when consumers relate your brand with something that you don’t support and something evokes negative emotions in them. If even 50% of your consumers tend to believe everything about your brand online, you’re lacking a ‘loyal customer base’ and need to pivot your growth strategy to focus on building stronger customer relationships.

Because if your relationship with a customer is strong enough, they will know what your brand stands for and what you can or cannot support. So even if they come across a content piece that is likely to taint your brand image, they wouldn’t engage in shaming your brand. In fact, they might just be the ones to clear the air around what you support.

[bctt tweet=”The goal is not to sell a product. The goal is to build a lasting relationship of confidence and trust.  #branding #marketing #brandsafety” username=”VanhishikhaB”]

After all, people trust people. A consumer standing up for you is going to be believed more than you holding even a press conference to settle a debate online that impacts your brand.

The way forward 

As the new year kicks in, it is time for brands to understand how seriously consumer-centric the market is becoming. You need to remain on your toes to not just appeal to the customer but also establish a good name for yourself in the industry while keeping up with various content marketing trends.

Not sure if your content marketing and brand safety can go hand in hand? Let’s chalk it out together, over a good cup of tea (or coffee if you prefer) and formulate a plan that helps you achieve the goals of both!


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