The concept of brand journalism isn’t all that new, but people are now starting to harness the power it has on today’s massive digital audience. It is just as it sounds, essentially brand marketing through journalism techniques. Brand journalism offers insight, entertainment, and awareness without all of the off-putting marketing jargon.
These types of stories work because they’re adding value to your target audience’s lives, while still planting the marketing seeds needed for customers to become fully invested in your brand.
Quite frankly, it’s become hard to tell the difference between a news story and brand journalism content in today’s world, which is a huge advantage for businesses.
We know that big brands have adopted this style of marketing, including Adobe, American Express, Disney, Red Bull and many more, but before you hear those big names and assume it’s out of your league, think again.
Many companies struggle to get started with brand journalism because they think that you need a big budget, fancy software or an experienced team of former journalists to make this tactic successful. The truth is, brand journalism is much more about sharing your story in a unique, authentic and unbiased way.
All companies have stories, it’s time to start sharing yours.
Be a storyteller and answer real questions
If you want this to work, step one is to ditch some of those ingrained marketing methods you were taught years ago, because today’s audiences are well-trained to tune-out advertorials and other types of marketing or public relations copy.
It’s a role so critical to success that some big businesses have even developed their own “newsrooms” within the company with the sole purpose of sharing stories and stockpiling content that sets them apart as an industry leader.
How do you make this happen for your small business?
Chances are you don’t have the capacity to develop an in-house newsroom, but you probably have some folks on your team who know a thing or two about your brand and its customers. Enlist them as your “reporters.”
The first thing you’ll want to do is identify your audience. What are they asking? What do they want to know? What do they care about? Think about people, not about products, pricing, and value.
The truth is, people rarely want to be sold something when they type in the search bar. Have you ever “Googled” a question and had to click on ten different links just to find your answer buried under a popup add? Annoying, right?
In a world where we now expect to have answers at our fingertips, we are going to click away if our needs aren’t immediately met. We are happy to buy a product if and when it solves our problems. Think about that when you're creating content. It should be interesting, engaging, useful and helpful. Start with a problem, end with a solution. This builds trust in your brand.
Hold editorial meetings and get into a content rhythm
Editorial meetings can really infuse the journalism in brand journalism. Every day, newsrooms gather to collaborate on what stories should be in the headlines, discussing which ones rise to the top and which ones require extensive coverage. That’s where the team decides as a group what’s important to their audience at this moment in time.
Your editorial meetings can serve the same purpose. They allow your team to discuss what your audience is talking about now, and why.
Editorial meetings are also a great opportunity to develop a content calendar, which ensures that you’re not only hitting on the stories that are relevant to current events and industry happenings but that you’re publishing content on a regular basis.
After all, every time you create new content, you’re creating a new path for a reader to stumble upon your brand. Remember, though, that stumbling on your website is only half the battle. You’ve still got to get your audience to stay there and become a customer.
Take a unique stance and interview people
What was it about the last video you watched or blog you read that made you linger on a site longer than you intended? It was probably interesting, relatable or unique.
While it’s important that you answer questions and provide solutions through journalistic content, it also needs to be attention-grabbing. Storytelling should provide answers, but great storytelling should evoke an emotional response.
Ask yourself: How is my audience going to feel after reading, listening or watching this story? If they feel nothing, you missed an opportunity. Every business is filled with unique, emotional stories. Tell yours! This helps your audience build deeper relationships with your brand, too.
If you’re unsure where to begin, interviews are a great place to start. That could mean chatting with subject matter expert who can answer a lot of those burning questions your audience has been asking, or maybe it’s a current customer with a great story of how your brand has impacted them personally. This, again, goes back to first defining who your target audience is and what stories they’ll connect with most.
Brand Promotion vs. Brand Journalism
Brand promotion is what we are conditioned to seeing from brands. It’s the “us first, nobody is better” mentality. It’s all about pushing a product or service. Think infomercials — they are often gimmicky, exaggerated and unrealistic.
In contrast, brand journalism is centered around authenticity. Telling real stories through the eyes of your loyal customers is the best way to go beyond promotion.For example, including true interviews is an easy way to keep a company video from feeling like a cheap commercial.
Most consumers have developed a strong BS meter and can easily decipher between an interview subject who’s speaking from the heart, and one whose answers have been influenced (or even scripted).
Real stories are the backbone of brand journalism, and companies of all sizes have unique stories to tell. You don’t have to be a large organization like Coca-Cola or Adobe to use the principle of journalism in a strategic way. It’s important to understand what it is about brand journalism that resonates so much with businesses and consumers and leverage the pieces that will work the best for your business. If you are struggling to get started, send us a note, we’re here to help!