BurrellesLuce recently wrote a newsletter on 5 Tips for Incorporating Brand Journalism Into Your Communications Strategy. But what exactly IS brand journalism and how does it affect PR, media relations, and marketing as we know them?
While the term “brand journalism” aka “content journalism” has been getting significant air play lately, the concept has been around for awhile.
One of the earliest references came from Larry Light, McDonald’s CMO, at the 2004 AdWatch conference where he proclaimed that mass marketing no longer worked and no single approach told the whole story.
“Brand Journalism is a chronicle of the varied things that happen in our brand world, throughout our day, throughout the years. Our brand means different things to different people. It does not have one brand position. It is positioned differently in the minds of kids, teens, young adults, parents and seniors. It is positioned differently at breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, weekday, weekend, with kids or on a business trip.
“Brand Journalism allows us to be a witness to the multi-faceted aspects of a brand story. No one communication alone tells the whole brand story. Each communication provides a different insight into our brand. It all adds up to a McDonald’s journalistic brand chronicle,” he declared.
Brand journalism, it seems, is not just a replacement for earned media or advertising or even direct marketing. Rather it ties all these things together. It involves telling stories — that do not read like a press release or marketing and advertising copy — and that make readers want to know more about your organization. Note that if you’re going to give it a try, brand journalism needs to be part of your overall communications strategy.
About two years ago, David Meerman Scott wrote, “Brand journalism is not a product pitch. It is not an advertorial […]” And here’s my favorite part: “It is not an egotistical spewing of gobbledygook-laden corporate drivel.” Ha! He went on to say, “Instead, brand journalism is the creation of web content—videos, blog posts, photos, charts, graphs, essays, ebooks, white papers—that deliver value to your marketplace and serve to position your organization as one worthy of doing business with.”
And last year, at a New Zealand IABC event, Shel Holtz said the growing appeal of content journalism to corporates was in part a reaction to the retrenchment of the mainstream media and the trade press, which were not always covering industry issues in the same depth that they used to. The real key here, he said, is that firms have to be transparent about generating or paying for such content and should not try to “pull the wool over people’s eyes.”
Along those lines, former tech journalist and editor at PC Magazine, Kyle Monson wrote in a guest post, Dispelling the Darkness with Brand Journalism, “At its most basic level, brand journalism involves honest brand storytelling that invites audiences to participate.” In another guest post for Brian Solis, entitled The Force Behind Successful Brand Journalism, Todd Blecher, The Boeing Company’s communications director, wrote, “The best brand journalism requires commitment, access, and trust.”
So back to this post’s headline, is the term “brand journalism” in itself an oxymoron? That is, if what’s written is pushing a brand’s strategy, is it really journalism? Isn’t journalism, at its core, supposed to be unbiased and impartial? It seems that along with every other aspect of the media changing these days, so are some of the core definitions of terms. For instance, most media now is actually practicing, what a few years ago was called, “convergence journalism” – now we just call it journalism as we’ve quickly come to expect access to our news across multiple channels. Brand journalism is journalism – just not as we used to know it.
What are your thoughts? Please share them by leaving a comment here on BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.