“Brand journalism”: Applying the principles of journalism to brand promotion
Whether through the creation of unique or clever brand identity elements (slogans, logos, etc.), or a particular style of communicating via PR, advertising, or other channels, products and brands have for decades been trying different approaches to grab their customers’ attention and generate brand loyalty.
One approach to emerge recently out of the marketing/communications realm is “brand journalism.” Brand journalism is essentially the trendier little brother of another popular tactic: sponsored content. The difference between the two is that whereas sponsored content is created in collaboration between marketers and journalists and published in traditional media outlets, brand journalism generally involves the production of content for a brand’s owned channels, or the creation of new channels. The modern iteration of brand journalism has been around since at least 2007 when American Express launched its “Open Forum,” a blog, networking platform, and resource for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Today, the platform has become a force of its own, with nearly 200K Twitter followers and 450K Facebook followers, even as it continues to be hosted on the main American Express website.
Since then, many successful brand journalism initiatives have come to the fore. Coca-Cola overhauled its website in 2012 with the hiring of editors and journalists to develop articles, videos, blogs and interviews for daily publication. Cisco did something similar, creating The Network, a technology and business news portal run by an in-house editorial team. Marriott (a JeffreyGroup client) has also contributed to the trend with the launch of Traveler, its news and information resource that offers travel tips and leverages the brand’s expertise in the area to establish an effective relationship with consumers.
The lessons from the success of American Express’ Open Forum and other similar platforms is that there is room for the generation of content that will be of interest to consumers between a traditional media presence (whether through advertising, sponsored content, or PR) and the writing of press releases and other corporate communications activities. The content that fills the void is brand-produced but tells stories that go beyond the brand itself, conveying to customers the company’s spirit and values without beating them over the head with a sales pitch or too many brand messages. Additionally, the goal of this content is not just to talk at consumers and convey to them the brand’s mission, but also to start a conversation and build a community around the brand, creating buy-in with existing and potential customers. Brand journalism tells the “untold stories” of its clients and customers in a compelling way, and is an essential part of a 21st century marketing/communications strategy.