Brand 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.