If your brand is creating content with the intention of driving sales, you may be missing the boat. Your customers can smell advertorial from a mile away, hence the inception of unbiased brand journalism - a service to your niche audience, which if done well, can turn into a healthy prospect list and thriving community.
Phoebe Chongchua, brand journalist and host of The Brand Journalism Advantage podcast, has said, "Brands that learn to think like journalists, use multimedia storytelling, and publish regularly the way a newsroom does, will not only gain expert authority and receive greater ROI, but they'll also attract loyal followers and brand evangelists." Chongchua believes that every company has the ability to be a media company, and to do it "right" your content must inform, educate, amuse, and help readers make better decisions. We're talking about something different than content marketing, which feeds prospects useful content but with a different purpose in mind.
Publisher of PR Daily and CEO of Ragan Communications Mark Ragan comments on the value of brand journalism: "It's a cheap way to build up your brand by targeting a specific niche (your niche) and gain followers who trust you to provide great and insightful stories. Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on one-hit advertising. For a fraction of the cost you can build a daily news operation and staff it with a few good reporters."
Sure, not every company is equipped to hire in-house reporters, but you don't need a team of ten media veterans to reap the benefits of the think-like-a-journalist mindset. Creating unbiased stories - that could help to build the most loyal audience you've ever had - is really about approaching content differently. So take off your content marketing hats for a moment and step into the light of a few companies who are setting the bar high when it comes to brand journalism.
1. First Round Capital's First Round Review
Seed-stage venture firm First Round Capital's media entity, First Round Review, publishes articles that appeal to its core audience of tech entrepreneurs. Camille Ricketts, head of content and marketing at First Round Capital, explains: "Instead of coming up with an editorial calendar of topics to pursue, we let people drive our coverage. We make a point of connecting with extraordinary leaders and technologists we admire, and then work with them to develop topics that speak to their passions but will also be helpful for our readers."
With regular cameos from startup CEOs and tangible tips for the worker bees who are making big ideas happen, First Round Review gives its audience exactly what it's looking for. Plus, the articles are so well-built it's as if you're reading your favorite tech publication. Ricketts adds, "We believe that too much valuable knowledge is trapped in the minds of experts who are too busy to share their wisdom. Our goal is to make it easier for people to learn from them."
2. General Electric's GE Reports
From impressive guest contributions like this piece by futurist Jim Carroll to articles about water treatment technologies complete with mesmerizing GIFs, General Electric's GE Reports does the impossible by turning less-than-sexy topics into interesting, helpful, and inspiring reads.
"What I like about GE Reports is that they're taking 'techy' content that is often hard for people to digest and making it not only palatable but desirable," said Chongchua. "Instead of boring press releases, the brand now turns out intriguing stories that look and feel like traditional news. They've also established a digital platform separate from their main company website to distribute their content, which I highly recommend."
Complete with a control room called "M Live" and stacked with nine screens broadcasting things like social media campaigns as they unfold in real-time, Marriott's in-house newsroom, which launched last October, is enough to make any content producer green with envy. The goal? To create an environment where Marriott employees can react quickly to potential digital marketing opportunities and combat the fact that customers aren't engaging as much as they used to be with traditional advertising.
4. Advocate Health Care's health enews
When done well, brand journalism can also get you more media hits. Within a week of launching its news site, Advocate Health Care scored coverage on CNN because of a story it published. That's what you get when you publish high-quality articles equipped with news-like photos and quotes from primary sources. Not every piece will garner this type of attention, but you sure do make it easier for a reporter to cover if you write the story like they would.
If you're looking to dip your toes into the brand journalism pool, brace yourself: getting started is actually quite simple. Ragan advises, "Start writing your own story exactly the way a journalist would. This means putting the reader and your audience first, not your company or organization. It means putting real people front and center."