What Brand Journalism is And How Companies Are Using This Strategy
We’re in the content era. Content now is as valuable as the products themselves. That’s why brands are investing a whole lot of money in it.
Content Marketing has helped companies understand how to plan their communication, produce at a large scale, and distribute pieces everywhere.
To keep going, marketers had to think of new ways to publish content with different purposes, such as lead generation, increasing brand awareness, and others.
That’s how they remained creative and continued the conversation with customers. The term brand journalism then became prominent as a strategy to talk to users differently.
Brand journalism can be confusing for people. Many think that it’s just another expression for Content Marketing. But it’s not. It involves a whole new mindset. That’s what we’re going to cover in this post.
Here’s what we’re going to see:
- What is brand journalism?
- Why is it important?
- How is it used?
- How are those large companies using brand journalism?
Are you ready? Let’s go!
What is brand journalism?
Back in the day, whenever brands needed journalistic promotion, they had to go to outside channels and third-party companies and then pitch whatever they wanted to publish.
Today, that’s not necessary anymore. We have brand journalism.
Brand journalism consists of a brand using its own media to publish stories about itself and engage readers. It’s pretty much like a company thinking of itself as a newspaper.
McDonald’s CMO, Larry Light, created the concept in 2004.
By incorporating the mindset and even the professionals of an industry, they get different results and drive more attention to them.
So, brand journalism stands between traditional journalism and Content Marketing. As it seeks to inform people objectively, but also try to convince them to engage with the company.
However, it’s important to point out that brand journalism is not as sales-oriented as Content Marketing usually is.
Even though businesses use brand journalism for several purposes (which we will discuss later on), it’s clear that the strategy doesn’t focus on driving sales directly.
Instead, it’s more of an informative channel to create value and let people know what’s going on inside the company.
While Content Marketing is interested in the outcome (the decision users need to make), brand journalism concentrates more on the effect and impact that articles and stories provoke.
By compellingly telling those stories, marketers aim to attract new audiences and show them exciting things to read.
Another key difference is: Content Marketing tends to be about subjects your company and your customers are interested in.
Brand journalism is about your brand. You talk about your people, the challenges you’re facing, the case studies, the hacks you use, and more.
But, even though they are about your company, those articles are still stories. They need to be personal and showcase your staff’s reality in a way consumers can believe and relate to.
It’s about humanizing a company and presenting it as someone customers can trust. Also, it’s essential to tell those stories in such a compelling manner that users will feel the urge to share.
In addition to all we’ve said, we should mention that brand journalism applies a lot of the tactics traditional journalism uses.
So, it is objective, honest, and reliable. It’s not at all about telling lies or inventing stories to push people. You have to be transparent.
Why is it important?
Ok, let’s talk a little more about the importance of it. For that, let’s go through the usual purposes.
One of the main reasons marketers try using brand journalism is to increase awareness. So, the point here is to make more people aware of who you are and what you do for a living. By publishing unique stories very often, you can get there.
If users find value in what they’re reading, they will stay connected to your brand. After all, they will know that your blog is an excellent channel for them.
Be a thought leader
Brand journalism is also fundamental to establishing your brand as a thought leader. That is, you start to guide your readers’ reflections and inspire their thoughts and considerations.
When you choose to talk about a topic, you create demand and generate attention to it. So the subject becomes relevant to everyone.
It’s like being a well-known source of authority in your business. If you start focusing on personal stories about your brand, you will get there.
When you’re at this level, you’re the one who creates discussions about subjects that matter to your business. This way, it’s easier to educate people about what you want them to learn.
Brand journalism paves the way for your Content Marketing, then.
Address industry news
Brand journalism can also be used to inform industry news. The company will let readers know what’s trending, what’s new, and what needs their attention.
Again, you can educate people by addressing those topics that are most valuable for your business.
Since traditional journalism is all about informing news, using its tactics for your brand-oriented content is as good as it gets. By putting journalists to work on that, you get their expertise to do it the right way.
The best way to connect with an audience is by being honest. When you craft great stories about your brand and tell them, people tend to engage with that in response.
Then, conversion and lead generation is a natural result. Even though you didn’t go for that, you still get it.
That’s even clearer when analyzing certain case studies (as we will do later in this post). Many companies embark on a brand journalism journey without even establishing purposes.
They only want to tell stories for the sake of it. People respond when you do so full of passion and truth.
The next thing you know, you have many new friends that are part of your lead base. And then, all that’s left for you to do is to maintain a healthy relationship.
In addition to generating more leads, you also drive more qualified ones.
Consumers already come in knowing more about you, about the daily routine of your teams, and about how you changed people’s lives before. So, the negotiation is way more productive.
Develop your voice on your own media
Investing in brand journalism is essential so the brand can have its media. That’s better than having to publish content on third-party websites.
After all, if it’s yours, you can have it as long as you want. When the content is not on your server, the other company can delete it anytime they want.
Brand journalism helped managers pay special attention to that. They started to realize they needed a website, a blog, and their own content. By doing that, they could personalize their content and develop their unique voice.
That also includes the importance of having skilled people inside the company. Managers then started to hire journalists and professionals who could write great stories for them.
How is it used?
Usually, brand journalism is a combination of Marketing and journalism through PR. So, people consider it as an area for your traditional PR staff.
This way, you connect journalists, content marketers, and PR professionals towards one goal.
It’s not uncommon to see companies crossing the boundaries between Content Marketing and journalism. So, they stretch the limits of each strategy to get the best of both worlds.
Brand journalism these days feels pretty much like branded content that tells stories in a particular way — that we’ve already discussed.
How are large companies using brand journalism?
Ok, let’s go through some real examples to show you how businesses apply that.
The Red Bulletin is one of the most famous examples. It showcases how a brand can forget its sales metrics for once and focus on stories.
Red Bull uses this magazine to talk about lifestyle in general: sports, culture, music, traveling, etc. They address great people doing great things to inspire their readers.
Also, they discuss how corporates can change society. So, they educate readers about using technology for everyone’s well-being.
In this case, besides telling stories, the brand assumes a point of view and makes statements. They seem worried about the world’s problems and engaged in possible solutions.
That’s valuable for consumers nowadays. After all, people like socially active companies.
Adobe uses CMO.com as a way to inspire marketing leaders. They curate content from the internet to help them understand more about their job. Also, users can get to grips with the innovations and trends in their industry.
CMO also offers a lot of original content. Adobe selects a group of skilled people to express their point of view and produce exciting articles.
Microsoft also has a website for its content. They call it “stories” and make it look like a magazine.
The site showcases images and videos about what the company is doing and how it’s doing it. They also touch on social issues.
The most interesting case study about the blog is the article: “88 Acres: How Microsoft Quietly Built the City of the Future“. They tried to pitch it to traditional media but couldn’t get it done. So, they did it themselves.
The result is they drove a lot of sales because of it, even though that wasn’t the article’s purpose. The post gave them half a million views. All of that happened due to the power of telling fascinating stories.
Intercom uses its blog to talk a little bit more about its experiences in the market. So, they recommend some tips and teach some insights and lessons.
Users can even find their suggestions based on the historical context and recent events.
So they focus more on creating real value for their reader rather than only selling products.
Ahrefs also presents one of the most famous examples of brand journalism.
The company’s CMO, Tim Soulo, is very popular on the internet. He personifies the brand by appearing online and creating excellent content.
Tim is on Medium. He usually shares his experiences there, showing customers his standpoint as a marketer in a large company.
On Medium, Tim provides tips, insights, and advice for his readers. Therefore, consumers engage with the brand since he’s always friendly publishing information to help them.
Besides, Tim is also on social media, discussing those same topics.
The gigantic Coca-Cola is also on board. The company has a blog to discuss how they engage in social causes and how they transform people’s lives.
The organization talks about sustainability, diversity, and human rights. For that, they share reports on their strategies.
They also cover innovations in the market and their relationship with partners.
Coca-Cola uses images, videos, user-generated content, and an attractive design.
Intel has a blog magazine about technology and innovation too. The company brings in experts and market leaders to share their experiences.
The important thing is that the blog covers different fields as well, which makes it helpful for a wide range of readers.
Cisco created My Network Life. The blog tells stories about their culture and the innovations they’ve been working on.
The writers address the internet of things, cloud, mobility, security, and more.
They also showcase how people at Cisco use technology to change their lives and the world around them.
As we’ve seen, brand journalism can help your brand use content in a different way to engage customers.
The company can adopt that as a tool for several purposes, like the brands we’ve analyzed in this article. By the way, it’s essential to check out and learn from real examples to get some inspiration.
If you want to discover more about brand journalism and how other companies perceive it, watch our recorded Jam Session with GE’s chief storyteller, Tomas Kellner.