As the term “New Media” continues to evolve and sort itself out, the emergence of an old-school medium—with a twist— has many companies rethinking how they approach their marketing efforts.
“Brand journalism” is nothing terribly new, not even terribly inventive, and certainly not terribly veiled in its usage. It has its roots in marketing vernacular as far back as 2004. Often cited as the impetus for the phrase is a speech given by Larry Light, McDonald’s former chief marketing officer. He opined, “We don't need one big execution of a big idea. We need one big idea that can be used in a multidimensional, multilayered and multifaceted way."
Brand journalism is a permutation—or rather another branch of the same “branded entertainment” tree. This type of editiorial satisfies the need to produce engaging, relevant content for a company’s viewers. But it also makes the promise of bringing readers back full circle to the company as the solution to their prospective needs. At the very least, it establishes the company as an authority in their market segment. And while it sometimes falls to corporate P.R. departments, it’s very different than traditional P.R. in that instead of pitching stories to the media, this tactic turns the model on its head and “becomes” the de facto media.
Academically, the idea of brand journalism may not seem very transparent. But in everyday practice, mitigating bias has developed into an art form that can suck viewers in and make them brand “fire breathers.” Jesse Noyes, a noted speaker on brand journalism and managing editor at Eloqua, describes the trend as companies “… bringing in some of the editorial skill sets developed inside the media industry developed over the last 200-300 years.”
He describes the need for companies to “… create content that engages people, that brings them in at that high level awareness and keeps them coming back to you.” While this has been the job of the traditional media – many brands are cutting out the middleman and manufacturing content that is interesting, relevant and timely to their prospective customers. The hope is that this type of informational exchange will keep them top of mind. And these aren’t merely blog posts. The information comes in many shapes and sizes, from infographics, to video, to podcasts, to slide shows with audio, to copy-heavy articles and, of course, the ubiquitous blog post.
Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and co-author of Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, says, “… good content isn’t about storytelling; it’s about telling a true story well.” She points out that a major pain point for companies is being able to create meaningful, compelling content. She favors the advent of companies hiring their own content creators in the form of brand journalists or corporate reporters.
She contends that this tactic will serve to foster the overall strategy of “… uncovering the stories about your brand and how your customers are using your products and services; narrating them in a human, accessible way; and sparking conversation about your company, customers, or employees.”
And by the sheer number of large and small companies adopting these tactics, it sure doesn’t appear to be the latest marketing “snake oil.” At the very least, it makes for more interesting web copy. At its most impactful, it will bring new, excited customers to your door. Without a doubt, this translates to new-found revenue…something every company sees as the holy grail.