The worlds of media and marketing are colliding as more and more brands become publishers.
The practice comes in many guises—brand journalism, corporate journalism, brand publishing, the list goes on—but the endgame is always the same: to gain the trust of your audience by publishing material that’s honest, credible and, most importantly, tells a story.
People are hard-wired to love stories, and organizations are capitalizing on this innate trait to forge meaningful connections with their readership. They’ve become more adept than ever at using the art of storytelling to connect with their customers.
So what exactly is brand journalism?
Historically, all forms of media have been leveraged as one-way communication tools designed purely to get people’s attention—otherwise known as interruption marketing. The purpose of traditional marketing and advertising channels have been to push customers towards taking a desired action, without really taking the time to cultivate and nurture a relationship with them beforehand.
Brand journalism is where journalistic-style stories are told by or about a company, in the hopes that it will pique the interest of the reader in a way similar to that of regular editorial content. The goal is to tell a brand story without making it read like marketing or advertising material. No bullet points. No promotional copy. Just genuine and engaging stories that customers can relate to.
It’s designed to be the complete antithesis of traditional marketing messages, which consumers are bombarded with on a daily basis and have learned to filter out. Sounds a little bit like content marketing, doesn’t it? Well, it kind of is. But it takes the concept to a whole new level by applying the skills of the traditional journalist to the role of the content marketer.
Brand journalists are modern day PR Specialists
Once upon a time, the only way a journalist could be employed by a brand was to work in its public relations department. Now, however, altogether new titles are emerging in the corporate sector—from “Managing Editor” to “Corporate Journalist”.
In recent years, organizations have increasingly enlisted the help of freelance journalists to help carry out a marketing department’s content goals. But a new trend is emerging. Companies are now hiring in-house journalists to work at a more senior level within the organization, in an effort to give them a deeper involvement in the brand’s publishing efforts.
Corporate media is giving the mainstream a run for its money
In HubSpot’s Dan Lyons’ article, “It’s Happening: Corporate Media is Getting Better than Mainstream Media”, he explains how companies are leveraging the art of visual storytelling—the practice of creating compelling narratives by using a combination of video, graphics, images and text.
“I just finished publishing an article about Google's amazing Reunion video and up pops this incredible package from Microsoft's media team, called "Digital Detectives." It's an article about the Digital Crimes Unit at Microsoft, and a new Cybercrime Center that Microsoft has created. It's a great article, and the stuff they're doing is straight out of one of thos CSI crime shows on TV, but what really struck me is the packaging and the presentation of the story. The whole thing has to be seen to be believed, and it's way beyond almost everything that the mainstream media is doing.”
Branded content is becoming more and more impressive, meaning that the days where companies had to rely on mainstream media for publicity may well become a thing of the past, as brands establish their own publishing operations.
Who’s doing it well?
American Express’s OPEN Forum is a great example of a brand acting as a publisher. American Express describes it as “an online community to exchange insights, get advice from experts, and build connections to help you power your small business success.” AmEx uses the forum as a brand journalism approach to target a key group of customers: small business owners.
Its goal is to help them develop their companies by forging connections and providing helpful advice from credible third-party providers, including business owners, CEO’s of major organizations, and even well-known publishers like Mashable.
Brands are moving into the space previously inhabited by media companies, and media companies are now moving into digital marketing. These two sectors—media and marketing—are gradually morphing together and producing all kinds of new content.
What we’re witnessing is a fundamental shift in the traditional relationship between brands and publishers. And we can’t wait to see what’s next.