How Gear Patrol Studios' Senior Content Manager, AJ Powell, Combines His Editorial and Partnerships Experiences to Create Authentic Branded Content

AJ is Gear Patrol Studios’ Senior Content Manager, leading our branded content work from ideation to completion. An integral member of the Partnerships team, AJ has been with Gear Patrol since 2015 where he’s gained valuable experience by working on both the Editorial and Partnerships sides. I sat down with AJ to talk about his experiences at GP, how he approaches creating content, and how the team is responding to our current situation with COVID-19.

Hey AJ, so tell us a little bit about yourself! What's your experience been like working at Gear Patrol?

I started at Gear Patrol in 2015 as an intern — wearing many hats and contributing across virtually every editorial desk. Not much has changed in terms of wearing many hats, and my experience working at Gear Patrol remains equal parts fun and rewarding work. Over the years I've had the opportunity to experience some amazing things and have seen GP quadruple in size.

In moving from editorial to branded content, what’s one big thing that you’ve taken away with you? Are there any key insights or lessons learned from being able to work on both sides?

For me, the biggest takeaway is that there is no substitute for good storytelling and authentic product journalism. Regardless of topic, client, product or campaign, I strive to take the same editorial approach I honed running the Outdoors & Fitness Desk and apply it to my work with Gear Patrol Studios.

I also aim to put myself in the reader’s shoes. “What would I want to know if I was reading this story?“ Asking that simple question before diving into the production process has yielded some of my best work on both sides of the business.

You’ve created a lot of amazing work for both Editorial and GPS over the past few years. Is there a memorable moment from your adventures in creating content?

Too many to count! I think my most memorable moments were made memorable by the people I was with — whether that was my coworkers, interview subjects, journalists or other people I met along the way. Though if I had to pick one to highlight, it would be producing the Western Slope chapter in Issue 4 of the Gear Patrol Magazine.

With everything that is happening in the world right now, how have you started to think about branded content? What’s the most challenging? Do you see any opportunities for publishers and brands?

I think our CCO Zach Mader said it best: “We can’t ignore our role as a champion for great products, brands and the hard-working people behind them. At Gear Patrol, we put our mission — to help people make the most of their time and money through editorially-driven product journalism — at the heart of everything that we do.“

As far as what's most challenging, I think it's striking a balance between addressing the issue at hand and belaboring the point. We need to come from a place of understanding, but also provide people an escape from the news headlines.

For me, the biggest opportunities for publishers and brands lie in worthwhile online experiences. At Gear Patrol, we’ve moved quickly to develop new ad products that allow brands to authentically reach our consumers. For example, we launched At Home — an editorially-curated newsletter for people looking to improve their lives at home. I also see a huge opportunity with social media and live hangouts. Readers and consumers are looking for ways to stay engaged with brands and remain social — providing ways for them to do this is a huge opportunity.

While we’re all getting used to a new normal, what have you been up to outside of work? Any fun hobbies or projects that are keeping you sane?

Beyond my usual socially distanced outdoor activities and putting in training miles on my gravel bike, my girlfriend and I have a new puppy. She's great and has definitely been a fun distraction from the outside world. I welcome any and all training tips!

Like this article? Want to get more just like it in your inbox? Subscribe to Gear Patrol Debrief, our monthly insights newsletter.