The Era of Brand Journalism

Welcome to the Era of Brand Journalism. Every brand is a video publisher now. Every brand is its own TV station. You’ll now see more and more content marketing professionals who are classically-trained journalists because those skills are an integral foundation to compelling content. This is why branded content, especially in the video realm, is so fundamental for your overall marketing strategy going forward. In fact, Larry Light, a former CMO at McDonald’s wrote in an article in Ad Age that “brand journalism is a modern marketing imperative.” But wait, you may be thinking that brand journalism might just be a buzz word that’s a synonym for content marketing. We hate to break it to you but these terms are not, in fact, synonyms. Yes, they do share the common thread of content but they have different uses.
Content Marketing vs. Brand Journalism
First thing’s first, let’s make the distinction between these two terms clear. We’ve found a handy infographic from Prowly Magazine to spell it out for you:

Content marketing, based on this diagram, has much more to do with producing, synthesizing, and transmitting content that will lead consumers to your product and service. The funnel is a driving factor for content marketing because you’re actively trying to elicit actions from consumers. As for brand journalism, it really focuses on the stories that are going to drive engagement and let the brand convey its personality. But yet both work to attract and retain customers, it’s just that the medium might be a little bit different. The two are not mutually exclusive, however. So you don’t have to choose between one or the other. You can easily implement both into your overall strategy.
So now that we’ve gotten this little distinction out of the way, how can one best think about how to implement brand journalism? Let’s revisit Larry Light’s article. Brand journalism doesn’t mean that you can throw your strategy out the window. You do need to maintain your strategy but by using the brand framework already put in place you can use it to delineate where you have the freedom to be creative in curating compelling content, or as he calls it “freedom within framework.” Not only does it best adapt to the imperative to have a compelling brand story, it also helps to generate a conversation since we’re no longer in a marketing paradigm where companies talk down to their audience. Given the “multilogue” nature of communications it’s a significant factor to consider. Plus, by thinking like a journalist, you’re able to marry the best of compelling storytelling with brand management that makes this marketing tool work.
Who’s Using It
In September of this year, Spanish bank BBVA announced that it has begun to implement brand journalism across its global website in light of the fact that the way consumers look for information has, according to Global Communications Director Paul Tobin, BBVA has started to work with digital native journalists to create content their users want, that engages, and then be placed on the appropriate channels. An example is a recent article talking about a banker at a branch near the US military base in Rota, Spain. Another financial entity that has taken brand journalism to heart is HSBC Holdings, in its News and Insights page. The news and insights published read more like articles you could find in The Wall Street Journal or The Economist than in an academic journals.
But companies implementing brand journalism is not a trend specifically in the financial sector. We have, in fact, mentioned one of the brands that has been wildly successful in one of our previous posts. We mentioned, in our conversation about how brands have to compete with media outlets for engaging content, Red Bull is having tremendous success that puts it in the same level as Vice or BBC Storyworks. In fact, we called them the star student. The Red Bull Content Pool, which is part of the Red Bull Media House allows brands to have partnerships with Red Bull to take advantage of Red Bull’s already extensive content production.
Moving beyond Red Bull, other brands have integrated those who know how to best generate engaging content to help spearhead their brand journalism efforts. Cisco, as part of The Network news channel the company owns, hired thirty ex-journalists as staff writers. The news stories are listed side-by-side with more traditional press releases. In contrast, Coca Cola’s Ashley Brown announced plans to phase out the press release while describing the company’s experience with brand journalism. As part of their initiatives they redesigned their entire corporate website and in 2012 announced that they were going to integrate a network of bloggers as part of their Coca-Cola Content Journey Platform.
Here’s a recap of what these brands have done:

Company Result of Use of Brand Journalism
BBVA Generate editorial content that engages and adapts to the new ways consumers absorb information
Coca-Cola Creation of glocal content platform consisting of global Coca-Cola Journey website, local Journey pages in 30 countries and 14 languages, Coca-Cola Unbottled blog (which included a network of bloggers), and corporate social media channels
Cisco Hired 30 ex-journalists to write for The Network, its very own media site
Red Bull Created a media house that provides content brands can use and opportunities for partnerships between brands and Red Bull to create engaging content
HSBC Production of owned media of high quality through its News & Insights section that makes their research and company activities more engaging.

At the end of the day, what do these examples and more, all have in common? It’s as Maria Perez, the Director of Online Community Services for ProfNet and PR Newswire for Journalists explains in the Prowly article: Consumers want more from companies than just products and services – they want to know companies care about them, about their goals, their dreams, and their lives. When done right, brand journalism allows companies to connect with consumers more personally than through a traditional ad.”
And did you know that many of these brand journalism adopters integrate video into their strategies? We here at Stark Crew can help you navigate through the new frontier of brand journalism and help you reap the benefits video marketing can bring to you.