Brand Journalism: Where PR & Content Collide
I’m here at Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio, and really excited to hear about everything content, for all my fellow content marketers out there! That includes our favorite topic in PR these days: brand journalism.
You’ve heard it talked about on Twitter. You’ve heard it mentioned on all sorts of blogs. PR Daily is even putting on a workshop, ‘Brand Journalism is the New PR.’ This trend speaks to the fact that brand journalism has become a new way for companies to put content out there for their customers which is purely “information only” or value add, rather than being strictly sales-pitchy or marketing content. This content is being used by many companies to build trust with their customers or prospects, and their reputation as the ones to look to for knowledge share in their area of expertise.
What is Brand Journalism?
A very simple definition of brand journalism, by social media guru Erica Swallow (@ericaswallow) is: “research, storytelling and reporting for a non-media company, in that company’s line of business, with the goal of thought leadership.” As evidenced by the new company microsites and blogs like Open Forum by American Express, having content out there which solely to educate the public on topics that are relevant and address broad issues and have broad appeal, has been a popular move for companies.
Brand journalism can therefore be seen as using the credibility and influence of topical news to indirectly tell corporate story with the purpose of achieving competitive distinction. Companies are bringing their advertising and editorial content in-house and with it, those brand journalists who are creating more audience-centric mindsets. Where, in the past there was typically just one social media manager who handled the Twitter, Facebook and blog profiles for the company, these new brand journalists and content writers are engaged to write for the blog or write content for the company website, or perhaps to contribute lengthier posts to Facebook pages. Another way to expand your PR message and company’s presence online.
So, What Should Your Goals for Brand Journalism Be?
1) Provide true value to your readers/followers rather than directly promoting a specific product or service, and they will respond. In other words, this is a way to get them to trust your brand by offering information, rather than “overtly selling” to them. Hopefully, then, they’ll be far more likely to consider buying whatever you happen to be selling, when their needs arise.
2) Act like a journalist writing with your audience’s interests in mind – write for them and to them. Then, interact with them whenever and as much as possible. (e.g. In blog comments, replying to tweets, etc.)
3) Answer the 5 W’s
Who: Who is your audience? Why is it important to them?
What: What’s the news you’re telling? (Make your point right away.)
Where: Location, if it’s important to the story.
Why: Why does a particular audience care about what you have to say? Show them why they should care, in what you write.
How: How did this happen, or how can your audience accomplish it?
4) Your content should be tied to the strategic goals of the company. In other words, writing what you write should reflect back to some overall company objective.
Brand Journalism & Storytelling = Readable, Relatable Content
By going deeper in your storytelling writing, your goal is more than just to build a customer base – it’s to build relationships with customers. These relationships will then be ongoing – and can build customer loyalty.
Brand journalism is storytelling for your brand. It is having conversations with your customer — not bombarding them with straight facts — giving them real stories that are relatable. Stories have to be authentic, full of real people doing real things. Solid stories earn and keep trust with readers. They should be balanced, factual, timely and most of all, compelling. It combines journalism with core aspects of strategic PR and marketing communications: visionary planning, incisive messages, research and a clearly defined purpose.
With all of these goals in mind, your brand journalism will go far in attracting those desired customers, who will stick around and keep coming back to you for more information. Having them become part of your company’s loyal following is your ultimate goal in this new form of content – brand journalism.
(For more on this, check out a related article on brand advocacy in the new social age, and why it matters.)