Updated: Mar 29, 2021
The Challenge: If “Southern Living” magazine, filled with recipes, home décor and gardening, stands at one end of the spectrum of publications about the American South, “The Bitter Southerner” peers back from the other, eschewing stereotypes in search of the unique and unconventional in our midst.
A digital publication read by tens of thousands, it has become a “writer’s website,” recognized for quality by The New York Times and “Time” magazine. It might seem like an odd fit for promotional branded content sponsored by the likes of Piedmont Healthcare or The Coca-Cola Co.
The challenge was to tell stories of a modern medical center and an iconic consumer brand that a magazine’s demanding followers would want to read. CMC’s assignment was to make the match work.
The Strategy: The strategy was simple: Tell good stories in the voices of those who lived the stories.
At Piedmont, for example, a chaplain who ministers to one of the most diverse congregations around would explain how spirituality becomes part of the healing, or a night nurse would describe the night shift as another world, not just a day shift in the dark, or a beloved country doctor in jeans and a rodeo belt-buckle would tell of high-tech medicine in rural North Georgia.
At Coca-Cola, the voices spoke of the traditions of a family distributorship in Mississippi almost as old as the company itself, or a grandchild who helps find and restore the faded brick-wall signs that her grandfather had painted in downtowns across the South for decades, or an archivist who preserves the classic Coke memorabilia.
Writing was only part of the job. CMC contributed to brainstorming sessions to determine story and photo assignments, project management, editing and design. Balancing input from the magazine and its corporate sponsors and meeting a series of on-going deadlines were challenges that called upon CMC’s extensive experience in journalism.
The Outcome: The six installments in each series, all of which can be found on the sponsored content section of “The Bitter Southerner,” were read by tens of thousands, meeting the objectives of the magazine’s good-read standards and the desire of its commercial sponsors to have readers see them in a new way.