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One night as my six-year-old son, Dean, was saying his good-nights, he hugged his dad and said, “Daddy, I had so much fun with you today.”

So sweet, right?

Sure, but the statement left me baffled, as I was actually the one who spent most of the day with Dean. My husband arrived home late that day ““ sweeping in just a little while before bedtime and playing a few minutes of basketball with Dean.

So wait, where is my shout out (raising hand)?

“Dean, what about mommy?” I asked. “I was with you all day!”

“Yes, but daddy gave me more attention,” he replied with that amazingly blunt wisdom of a six-year-old. “You didn’t play basketball.”

Yikes! I will admit, most of that day I was on my laptop, cleaning, and organizing; and Dean was playing, reading, and running around. As a working mom who is often on the go, I made the assumption that my presence was enough. However, what Dean was teaching me is that time spent together is a start, but what creates a meaningful connection is true engagement and quality moments — even just a few minutes of basketball.

I’ve taken this lesson from my six-year-old son and even applied it to how I can measure success in my work with branded content. Just as in our personal lives, in content marketing, we often believe presence and time spent is sufficient for driving results. However, that alone is not a strategy that will build a trusting relationship with our audience over time.

That’s why we at GET Creative, USA TODAY NETWORK’s branded content studio, strive to go deeper to make meaningful connections through engaging storytelling that puts the audience first.

It’s core to our mission to develop content that inspires our readers to engage, and here’s why:

Engagement equals value.

Creating content that drives engagement leads to value for businesses using branded content. Studies show that there is a direct relationship between attention time with content and brand lift for these businesses. More attention means more of an impact on brand perception. We use a new metric, Engaged View Rate (EVR), to measure the quality of our reader engagement. We define EVR as the percentage of readers that were engaged with content for at least 10 seconds. This form of measurement gives us insight into the quality of our content viewership and engagement.

Quality of time is more important than quantity of time.

Our industry has become accustomed to using average time spent as a key metric. However, what does a high time spent really tell us? Do we know whether we are actually capturing the attention of the audience or is the content just present on the screen? To answer this question, we utilize third-party measurement for attention. Our “Active/Attention” metric captures the time a reader is actively consuming content. We’re tracking every second the user is on the page so we know how long the user viewed the content in an active tab of the reader’s browser. An activity like scrolling and mouse movements signals that the reader is still active and paying attention. Once that activity stops, the clock stops. High attention time tells us we’ve captured quality interest from our audience in a way that drives awareness, action, and relationships.

Ultimately, the principles that drive what has proven (through metrics) to be great storytelling are the same that we see in other forms of human connection. It’s about knowing the audience. It’s about connecting through shared interests. It’s about quality engagement. That’s what builds the storytelling moments that matter.

As a mom, I’ll have to look for that hug or smile from my son when we go see the Harlem Globetrotters, to make sure my level of engagement is on point! However, in branded content, EVR and Active Time metrics will help us ensure that we are creating stories that deliver on quality engagement and meaningful connections between brands and our audience —  just like me and Dean.

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