brand journalism tips

Walmart Today, a superb example of brand journalism, features articles on company employees, customers, as well as its stores. Image source: Walmart Today

Some say brand journalism is the new PR. They might be right. Earning media coverage in the traditional fashion is now more difficult because of staff reductions and space constraints at newspapers. Fewer journalists mean fewer opportunities for media placements. These days, if public relations practitioners want to win publicity, they may need to write it (or video it) themselves.

Brand journalism, sometimes called corporate journalism or corporate media, can increase website traffic, educate stakeholders, publicize the organization’s good deeds, and attract customers.

No Place for Marketing Speak

But if PR writers believe they can produce quality brand journalism by posting corporate marketing literature on the company blog, they are mistaken. PR may need to abandon some long-held practices. Writers accustomed to producing advertorials or other types of marketing and PR copy are ill-suited for the task. Here are some tips from to produce outstanding brand journalism.

Over the past eight years, and its predecessor CyberAlert LLC have successfully employed brand journalism on their blogs to establish an online presence, improve search result positioning, and attract potential customers in PR and marketing for its media monitoring and measurement services.

Start slowly. In the beginning, build the site slowly to reduce the difficulty of starting something new. “Starting with walking seems obvious but not everybody does it. It not only builds your experience in a manageable way it also helps gain essential internal cooperation,” writes Todd Blecher, communications director at Boeing.

Be a journalist. Maintain a neutral tone that lacks marketing speak, which customers readily spot. Cite authoritative experts and documented facts. Writers with journalism backgrounds can bring the needed skills.  Instead of writing about or videoing your company and products, cover your industry. Focus on the issues and trends that matter most to your customers and prospects, spend time on research and analysis to uncover new angles on an existing subject.

“Showcase your unique opinions and point of views and give people relevant information in a conversational journalistic manner, while keeping the content fresh and engaging,” advises Regalix.

Become a story teller. A storytelling approach that features a protagonist overcoming a problem or type of standard plot can keep the audience’s attention. Start with a problem. End with a solution.

Study examples of outstanding corporate journalism. There are plenty. Cisco’s news site, features breaking tech industry news and company content, including blog posts and videos. American Express’ OPEN Forum started out as a forum for small businesses, but it has grown into a leading brand journalism site. Adobe’s CMO opines in featured articles on topics as diverse as artificial intelligence and U.S. Census Bureau. Walmart Today has cited U.S. manufacturing initiatives and a Polish candle-making company (a Walmart supplier) that opened a factory in the U.S.

Set boundaries. Define what topics your team won’t touch and what subjects it will pursue. Most avoid religion and politics and feature content that somehow relates to their brand. However, some excellent corporate sites cover topics that seem only remotely related to their business.

Promote the content on social media. Encourage all employees to share the content with their personal networks. Offer social media training and let them pick the posts to share. Consider creating pre-written posts the brand ambassadors can share. Consider boosting the reach of selected posts through social media advertising. Also, partnering with other companies to share stories can be mutually beneficial.

Develop an editorial calendar. Match your topics to industry events. List upcoming industry conferences and other events and create content linked to those events. It’s important to schedule the calendar months in advance.

Hold editorial meetings. Regular staff meetings, a standard journalism practice, can help plan story topics and brainstorm ideas. Virtual meeting tools can help geographically dispersed teams and departments with outside content creators.

Experiment. Try new ideas, see how they work. If they don’t succeed, try adjusting them or drop them and move on. Sometimes new tactics need time to gain traction.

Measure your efforts. Measurement can gauge readership and ROI and find what content to develop. Examine metrics like page views, time spent on site, comments and inbound links. A social media listening service that offers comprehensive monitoring and measurement of social media networks, blogs and online news sites provides additional data and insights far beyond Google Analytics.

“If readers key in on Product A, you don’t want to write content on Product C,” says Mike Murray, founder of Online Marketing Coach. “You want quality content that you can measure.”

Bottom Line: Brand journalism may have replaced media pitching. Why would PR need to constantly strain to pitch to the media, when brands themselves can BE the media. But effective brand journalism requires dropping traditional PR and marketing practices and acting like a journalist.