Brand journalism, it sounds almost like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Aren’t brands only about self-promotion? They’re not about objective reporting of the facts. In years past this was true, but things are changing and brands need to start seeing themselves as being in the journalism business.
I came across an interesting blog post by Mark Schaefer titled “Content Marketing is Not Journalism.” Mark reported on a panel discussion at SXSW where this very issue was debated. There was sharp disagreement as to whether brands were or should be involved in journalism. Those that were against the brand journalism theory seemed to have a very narrow view of what would qualify as brand journalism. I left the post more convinced that brands are and should be involved in journalism, or storytelling if you prefer. The idea is not that brands should become experts on world affairs, but that they seek to promote the common good for consumers and become objective storytellers in their industry.
It’s about community
The socialization of the web is leaving less and less room for broadcast marketing. Consumers are increasingly going online to engage in community and seek out information that will be of some benefit to them. Are they also going online for product/service information and to make purchases? Absolutely! But a smart brand will recognize the balance needed in its content strategy and address all of these online behaviors. A content strategy that focuses only on making the sale will put a brand at a disadvantage now and especially in the years ahead, because the web will continue its social evolution.
Put on your journalism cap
How can a brand develop a journalistic mindset that capitalizes on the realities of the new web? Here are some questions to consider and let guide the content planning and development process.
Is your content:
- Designed to build relationship, not just sell?
- Helpful and offers some tangible benefit to the consumer?
- Accurate and objective, stemming from the brand’s role as an industry leader?
- Designed to be fresh and educational?
- Developed from a community focus that will add value to everyone that consumes it?
A new paradigm to embrace
The idea of brand journalism is undoubtedly a difficult concept for some brands to comprehend. It’s a long-term strategy, and one that’s more difficult to quantify. It shouldn’t represent a brand’s entire content strategy, but it should be a growing part of it. If it is, there are benefits for brands and consumers. You could certainly call it a win-win.
What’s your take? How do you feel about the rise of brand journalism?
Author: Steve Sonn
Steve Sonn is the Principal of S2 Marketing Communications. He has more than 25 years of marketing and PR experience with health care and business-to-business companies.