What is Brand Journalism?
Brand journalism is an effective, unique, exciting component of any marketing strategy that can garner a significant amount of brand affinity from key audiences to companies of any size. Both B2B and B2C brands can reap many benefits from brand journalism done right. If you are doing brand journalism correctly, one of the main results will be the benefit of thought leadership and positioning as an industry leader.
Brand journalism involves telling a story that captures a unique aspect or offering of your brand or company. The goal is to position the brand in a positive light and leave audiences wanting to know more about the brand, a specific product, or a specific service offered.
What Brand Journalism Isn’t
Brand journalism is very different than advertising or content marketing because it is stripped free of promotional copy. Brand journalism focuses on the pull, not the push. Rather than a goal of a direct purchase action by pushing “buy now,” “call us,” “click here” verbiage, brand journalism pulls the audience in with great writing and engaging content. Instead of pushing a product or service message on your audience, brand journalism should pull readers in with a great story that leaves them wanting more.
Why Brand Journalism a Win-Win-Win
The best thing about utilizing brand journalism as a strategy is that it’s a win-win-win for consumers, brands, and writers.
- For Consumers: When it’s done right, brand journalism provides consumers with valuable, interesting, and engaging content.
- For Brands: Through newsrooms, brands can now tell their stories in authentic ways and foster real and meaningful connections.
- For Writers: As a writer or journalist, you can choose to align yourself with brands whose values, products, and culture you are proud to represent.
The 5 Fundamentals of Brand Journalism
1. Align with the Brand’s Goals
While brand journalism shouldn’t ever mimic ad copy, remember that it is still all about your company’s product or services and the benefits they offer. Find a way to gently weave your brand’s overarching goals for itself as a whole into the story in a way that keeps things light and engaging. It helps to have your brand or company’s overarching goals physically written or somewhere on your screen to reference prior to publishing your final piece of content.
2. Content Should Build Awareness and Affinity
The result of great brand journalism is that someone who knows nothing about your brand should leave after reading your content with new awareness and a positive impression. Someone already familiar with your brand’s products or services should leave after reading a piece of crafted content as an advocate and a prospective lead. Great brand journalism turns unfamiliar individuals into interested parties, it turns past customers into repeat customers, and already repeat customers into loyal advocates who will verbally pass along the “pros” your company offers.
3. Build Personas and Speak to Them
Brand journalism means speaking directly to your brand’s buyer personas in an engaging, comfortable, and, most importantly, consistent tone. These buyer personas should be pre-established before you begin any type of brand journalism or any other type of marketing, for that matter. Personas are the key to ensuring that any type of marketing you put time and effort into, brand journalism, advertising, content marketing, etc., receives the ROI that makes it worth your while. Putting in the time and research in advance will pay off handsomely after your campaign goes live.
4. Humanize Your Brand
Unlike content marketing, brand journalism is the perfect opportunity to put a face on your brand. Whether that is the face of a satisfied customer sharing how your product/service made certain aspects of their life better or a member of your company speaking honestly and directly to the audience, humanizing your offerings is a big part of brand journalism.
5. Tell a Worthwhile Story
As marketers, we often become so immersed in the products/offerings of our company we are working to promote that our brand marketing and brand journalism efforts start getting too close to the vest to truly resonate with our desires audiences.
Tell a story that will hit home with your audiences and leave them feeling that the time they spent taking in your content was worth their while. This is how brand journalism turns an engaging, well-written
5-Step Guide to Starting an Effective Brand Journalism Program
Truly effective brand journalism doesn’t come simply as the result of pouring your heart and talents into a piece of exceptional content. It is a delicate balance, almost a dance, between telling a great story and showcasing some element of your brand or its products in a manner that leaves the reader with a greater affinity for your brand as a whole. That affinity is the spark that generates tangible ROI for brand journalism. Below is an expert 5-step guide to launching a brand journalism program that will be effective and will bring tangible ROI for your efforts.
1. Know Your Editorial Mission
Every piece of brand journalism should have an editorial mission. This shouldn’t be immediate sales. Great brand journalism’s mission should be things like positioning the writer as a thought leader or growing the reader’s positive impression of the brand.
2. Tell a Great Story
Great brand journalism tells a story that resonates with the audience. Don’t be stuffy. Instead, weave a story that houses your brand’s tone and engages the reader as any good story would.
Don’t confuse a great brand journalism story in the world of marketing with the traditional style of “story” that may come to mind. Take Airbnb’s 2016 campaign that still has marketers talking about the power of relaying a brand’s overarching message and telling a story through two sets of simple lines:
- “Don’t Go There, Live There.”
- “Live There. Even If Just For a Night.”
3. Think about what your readers desire, and tell a story about how your products or services can meet those needs while always keeping it a story, not a sales pitch.
For example, one of the common reasons that people make a purchase decision or a subscription choice is simply because whatever they are purchasing, the money spent is worth less than the time that whatever being purchased will give back to them (think robotic vacuum cleaners like a Roomba or a Shark). Instead of stating that it will give them time back, tell the story of how they can finally get around to relaxing on the porch and reading the book they bought in Paris that’s been on the shelf collecting dust. You can tell the story of what it would feel like to walk in the door after a long day to a floor that’s already been robotically vacuumed. Showing your audience tangible value and benefit is how brand journalism will pay off for your company.
4. Always Balance Objectivity with Subjectivity
The integration of objectivity with subjectivity is one of the pillars of what makes brand journalism so unique. Pay attention to your story to make sure the two are equally balanced. This will build your brand’s credibility with your audience while still getting your message front and center.
5. Make Sure You Have Incredible, Engaging Writing with the Brand’s Tone Consistent
Every single piece of content you write as a brand journalist needs to truly shine. Each piece should tell a story in your brand’s tone and style. Prior to starting your brand journalism campaign, take the time to craft the elements of your company’s brand voice and write them out with your team.
For example, a medical office would write content with a voice and tone that would vary greatly from a fast-casual-themed restaurant. Taking the time to sit down and mold a voice for your company will help you stick to it. For example, does your content use conjunctions such as “shouldn’t” or does your content use “should not?” Having a set template of brand voice and tone descriptors will also allow you to delegate writing to other team members.
5 Top Brand Journalism Tips
There are hundreds of tips that will help you to become an expert in the art of brand journalism. Unlike advertising or traditional marketing, brand journalism takes a unique combination of mastery of brand journalism itself, along with the ability to be creative and engaging in telling a story that will get your company’s message out without having your desired audience feel as if they are watching a dreaded ad that interrupted their favorite show or keeps them hanging before they watch a video. We’ve compiled the five top tips to excel at the art of brand journalism!
- Gain trust from your audience by publishing content that is always honest and direct.
- Write for the reader (your ideal persona), not to promote your brand. That’s content marketing.
- Be consistent with your content publishing schedule. Groom your audience to expect content from you, not receive one-off pieces of content randomly. This is why having an editorial calendar is so essential to all of your content, including your more organic brand journalism and not just your content marketing pieces.
- Use captivating imagery to grab the reader’s attention. Today’s modern audience is more visual-centric than ever, and more overwhelmed with content click-through options than ever. This means that typically the main image being shared and the headline are your best chance to garner a click-through. Remember that imagery sets the tone for the story.
- Let your audience tell you what’s working and what isn’t. Take the time to listen to your audience on every available platform for feedback. They will tell you what type of content is working to engage them, make them brand advocates, and, as a result, drive ROI for you on your content. Take the time to check comments, feedback, and reviews. Additionally, closely monitor Google Analytics to see what content is engaging. For every piece of content, you publish as a result of your brand journalism efforts, you should know have a handle on the subsequent metrics. This will help you gauge what works for your audience. Keep track of analytics like the number of unique visitors, time stayed on the page, additional page views, bounce rate, and any other metrics of value to your efforts. Dig into how visitors found that specific piece of content. Then, write more of the content that worked for your site visitors.
Brand journalism is truly a craft. It requires a unique set of skills to excel as a brand journalist expert. It takes the ability to weave together talent to organically capture your company’s target audience’s attention and the talent to tell a story that will entice that audience and leave them considering a purchase decision without blatantly marketing to them.
Certain innate skill sets make a successful brand journalist, such as the talent tell a great story while still ensuring brand messaging reaches the consumer to ensure ROI. These require some level of natural talent. The guide above will help you take steps to become an expert brand journalist that will help position your company as a brand to trust and its leadership as thought leaders in the industry. Never underestimate the power of a powerful story woven by an expert brand journalist!