brand journalism

Brand Journalism: What Is It

brand journalism"Brand journalism" is one of the latest online marketing trends, along with "smarketing", "gamification", and "native marketing" (which we will over in a later post). What is brand journalism, and is it something that you should be doing with your business? Is it something that you might already be doing, particularly if you're already publishing things about your brand? We're going to cover that today.

What is Brand Journalism?

McDonald’s Chief Marketing Officer Larry Light defined brand journalism as a way to record “what happens to a brand in the world” and create ad communications that, over time, can tell a whole story of a brand. Lisa Ostrikoff, owner of social media marketing agency BizBOXTV, makes a good point about brand journalism in the Globe and Mail:

Brand journalism is about facts and balance. It’s about telling an engaging story, and the goal is to educate rather than blatantly market. This way, readers or viewers are informed, and they become engaged with your business and it’s mission.

Combining those two points, brand journalism is telling your brand's story with the facts and balance that make good journalism. This means that it's not about marketing or making a sale, but about offering a variety of content types and perspectives that's meant to engage many interests and audiences. It also means that brand journalism is likely to be something you are participating in already in some shape or form.

Brand Journalism Options

Brand journalism involves a variety of content types, but there are three primary options of where you can have your content placed for exposure: paid media, earned media, and owned media.

Paid media is exactly as the name states; it's exposure that was paid for or is "rented" (once you stop paying, the exposure goes away, for the most part). Examples of brand journalism in paid media include product placements, pay-per-click, and social advertising. Guest posting could also be included here as we have run across cases where online publications charged to publish your guest post (which you should never do because if it includes backlinks, then you've essentially paid for links that Google doesn't like that).

Earned media is more of a partnership. You've convinced the media entity that your content is worthwhile to publish. Common examples of this include guest posting (where you don't pay), editorial coverage, expert opinion pieces, and social media. Social media is earned media because if your content is shared, that's earned exposure. It's also earned media because if Facebook were to disappear tomorrow, you wouldn't have your page or this outlet for your content, so you've earned some space on Facebook to share your content.

Owned media is sharing content on outlets that your company owns. Unless you close the outlet, you never lose it as an option. Examples of brand journalism in owned media include blog content, web content, events/webinars, videos, and images. Of course, all of those could be the other two if they are placed on a third-party medium, but they are primarily owned media because they are typically created by you and published on the media that you own.

Is Brand Journalism for You?

Brand journalism seems daunting, but it is something that smaller businesses can participate in as well. As long as its understood that brand journalism exists outside the corporate mandate and isn't treated as simply another marketing tool, then brand journalism can be successful for just about anyone. Articles, news stories, and reports are considered some of the most credible sources of of company information, so taking this power into your own hands instead of waiting for someone else to use it or to give it to you is, well, powerful.

Remember to tell a good story in brand journalism. Tell it with poise, clarity, and intelligence. Businesses have stories too, and they are much more than the products and services you have to offer.

Related Links:

What Everyone Needs to Know about Brand Journalism

Why More Blogs and Online Publications Should Allow Sponsored Posts

Why Brand Journalism isn't Such a Bad Thing

Why Brand Journalism isn't Such a Bad Thing

brand journalismBrand journalism, according to reputation management firm News Strategies, is defined as "achieving greater competitive differentiation in today's digital era by creatively using the appeal, credibility, and influence of news to tell a corporate story." When done right and responsibly, brand journalism can do a lot to increase a company's brand awareness and credibility.

However, there is still a lot of pushback to brand journalism. Eloqua outlines four myths about brand journalism, but a fifth one I would add is that it could never provide authentic, educational content. Most recently, I had an editor at a very prominent blog reject a few articles of mine before putting a ban on articles that are a result of brand journalism. The editor said that readers wouldn't appreciate discovering that the articles and there contents are being paid for, while not stating that the article has been paid for or sponsored.

I argue that just because someone is being paid to write an article doesn't mean that the article doesn't offer anything of value, or isn't authentic at all. I argue that an article that's paid for can still be educational and useful to readers, that it still be something that the writer truly means or believes in. Seventy-seven percent of people understand that an organization's goal with content is to sell something, but people are okay with that as long as the content provides value. Whether or not it's stated, consumers get it. As long as the article isn't an advertisement or a sales pitch, and provides information that can sole a problem, should it matter that it's sponsored?

I'd also contend that adding a sentence stating that it's paid for/sponsored will only make the article less authentic, not more. Adding the sentence creates a sense of doubt that the writer meant what he or she wrote, and just put together something for money. Brand journalists aren't spokespeople who are only doing public relations. Brand journalists are trying to tell a story. They are trying to provide information that may be of value to the general public. Does payment for their hardwork really nullify the value of the story and the information they provide?

It shouldn't, as it shouldn't matter whether or not the journalist is writer is compensated for their work. Brand journalism is one more way for small businesses to utilize content marketing and to tell a story that is honest, credible, and quite possibly something that hasn't been told before. It's presumed that the money is spent to buy a positive review, when really the money is spent to hire a quality writer who's able to write engaging, educational cotnent that doesn't read like an ad or sales pitch. The money is spent to compensate a writer appropriately for his/her skill. Companies really ought to spend the money on a good writer and a good end result, versus spending it on content marketing techniques that are meant to game the search engines or just flood the Internet with low quality content. At least with brand journalism, the final product is something readers might actually want to read.

Also, press releases and company blog are just other forms of brand journalism, and there hasn't been any problems with either of those methods of telling a story. Small businesses have great stories and valuable information to share. Sometimes they're not paying for a story to be told a certain way. Sometimes, they just want the story to be told well. That's what brand journalism is all about.