01 December 2014
Given the amount of attention the term “brand journalism” has been garnering over the past year, it would be easy to mistake it for a new idea or a hot young cousin of content marketing. But brand journalism has been around as long as there have been brands—what’s new(ish) is that brands have in many cases stopped relying on agencies or friends in the press to tell their stories. Brands have become publishers, with behemoths like GE and Coke leading the way.
Whereas content marketing is, well, marketing (it wants to sell you something, however subtly), brand journalism appears at the widest part of the classic marketing funnel, helping a brand build awareness and likeability. As Sarah Skerik says in Content Marketing vs. Brand Journalism, a recent post on B2C, “success in the uppermost reaches of the funnel requires organizations to put corporate agenda in the back seat, and instead adopt a more journalistic approach to crafting and publishing their stories.” Put another way, brand journalism requires a focus on the audience and an appreciation of what might interest any likely reader on any given day.
GE’s Txchnologist website is a great example of an upper funnel (or maybe on-the-rim-of-the-funnel) approach that feels more like journalism than branding. In fact, with the exception of the three words “sponsored by GE” beneath the Txchnologist logo, the brand is barely mentioned.  Coke’s much publicized plunge into brand journalism puts the accent more on brand than journalism, with coverage ranging the gamut from its 27 brands to music to Water for Africa.
As Skerik points out, “Telling the brand’s stories in a compelling, audience-focused way can create affinity, earn media, build brand credibility and (when coupled with search and social strategies) deliver long-lasting online visibility.” As she notes, Starbucks’ newsroom does a great job of creating affinity with articles like this one on the origins of a Starbucks’ holiday mug. Cracker Barrel, whose newsroom is powered by TEKGROUP, likewise gets into the holiday spirit and brand journalism groove with an article about a former apprentice clock maker who creates the ginger cottages sold at Cracker Barrel stores.  
Whether your version of brand journalism places the accent more on “brand” or more on “journalism” depends on the audience you’re trying to reach, the evolutionary state of your brand, and your long- and short-term strategic goals. What’s essential to doing brand journalism today is to be your own publisher—to have a reliable, mobile-friendly online platform that gives you the flexibility to add sections or change tactics easily, without waiting on your IT department or paying an agency. You need your own platform—your own soapbox— to publish and distribute your news. If you can’t tell your own story, some one else might, which means you won’t get to shape that story. Or worse yet, no one will tell your story, and that’s the saddest tale of all.

Got 15 minutes? Contact me for a free demo of the TEKGROUP v.11 mobile-friendly online newsroom.


Steve Momorella

Online Public Relations
Email: steve@tekgroup.com
Phone: 734-945-7790
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