Last year, Forbes published an article called "Publish or Perish: Why the CMO Must Become a Publisher to Drive Growth." The piece, which was both validating and predictive, included an executive briefing that outlined the importance of both owned media and brand publishing best practices.
"Our ongoing research in this arena suggests that CMOs are not yet very good at managing, distributing, and 'optimizing' the content they create-a process now critical to growing the top line," writes Forbes' Chief Insights Officer Bruce Rogers.
To offset the "PR gamble" of piquing reporters' interests and speak to customers on a more intimate level, more brands are experimenting with owned media and the think-like-a-journalist mindset. But there's still a blur around how to make brand publishing an effective extension of marketing campaigns and communications strategies.
For those looking to create integrated brand journalism strategies of their own, I explore five things successful brand publishers do (and know) here.
1. They get the difference between content marketing and brand journalism.
Where the main goal of content marketing is to push leads further down the funnel, brand journalism focuses on: creating unbiased news stories through effective and emotive storytelling; building trust and credibility via thought leadership; and solving customer problems. Content marketing and brand journalism might be close cousins, but they're not the same thing.
2. They embrace the power of human interest stories.
Just like in traditional journalism, stories about real people catch interest by putting the audience/customers at center stage. Children's Hospital Colorado published a story about Garrison Hayes, a patient with bone cancer and the prosthetic leg that's allowing him to train for the Paralympic Games. The content is celebratory, positive, and sheds light on the hospital's innovation in a non-exploitive way.
3. Their content ladders back to greater marketing and communications goals.
Journalist Michael Sheehan, who was hired to write for Intel's "Free Press" site, explained his then-new role on his personal blog HighTechDad. The piece "I'm Writing Tech News for You to Steal" explains the main goal behind his work for Intel Free Press: to make it easy for the press to pick up well-researched and professionally written stories.
In his post, Sheehan writes: "With Intel Free Press, the goal is to write articles that adhere to true journalist style. We aim to cover tech news and write articles so they can be reused, adapted, or rewritten to fit whatever story a writer is trying to cover." This demonstrates how brand journalism can be an extension to public relations and communications strategies. Companies who have success with brand journalism have a deep understanding of how owned media supplements earned-media efforts.
4. If they do mention themselves, they do so strategically. (Otherwise, they avoid it.)
Companies with strong brand equity can get away with it, but most of us can't. For example, Coca-Cola Journey publishes stories about its history -- nostalgic fanfare that catches the attention of collectors and long-time customers.
It's also acceptable to mention your brand if it's highly relevant to the topic you're covering or if you're referencing your own data. But as a general rule of thumb, it's best to keep the focus on industry trends, news your readers can use, or other topics your audience would benefit from. Because a brand that writes solely about themselves is as intriguing as a colleague that over-touts their accomplishments. (Zero fun. Zero effectiveness.)
5. They strive for simplicity.
If you can rewrite a sentence in a way that makes it easier to read, you should. Omit needless words and avoid corporate jargon that can dilute your messaging. Write articles as clearly and simply as possible-same goes for titles and headlines. By simplifying wording in this way, your content is likely to have better SEO value as well.
In the end, brand journalism isn't it's own wing within an organization. It's a supplement and driver of more empowered communications, branding, and marketing strategies. If done well, it helps to support various functions by bringing the reigns of storytelling in house and filling news holes in traditional media. Many of us are still learning the ropes, but it's becoming more of a science as we speak.