Today’s brands are publishers, and brand journalism is an exciting and effective marketing strategy for brands large and small, B2B and B2C.
I led a team of brand journalists at a big B2B software company, and here are the five fundamentals we lived and worked by in our brand newsroom.
1. Editorial Mission
All major newspapers and magazines have an editorial mission. This statement should clearly showcase what you’re trying to accomplish with your content.
5 Fundamentals of Brand Journalism by @amandalnelson
As a publisher, it’s what motivates you and guides you every day. It creates focus, and ensures you’re always creating content that is relevant to your audience, themes, and goals. Many media outlets post their mission publicly on their site. Now, more and more brands are following suit.
An editorial mission not only keeps you on track, but it cements expectations for your employees, writers, and audience.
All marketing is about storytelling. It has a beginning, middle, and end, highs and lows, morals, main and supporting characters. Good marketing evokes emotion. Without these aspects, your audience won’t consume your content.
Think about what you read and share. It’s information on topics that interest you. It makes you feel something, such as humor or sadness. Storytelling is about:
- Succinctness. Do not to confuse storytelling with babbling. You need to get to the point quickly. After all, this is journalism.
- Relevance. Your story must be tailored to your audience, as well as your brand. What makes brand journalism different from general journalism is the topic speaks to your company’s strengths and perspectives.
- Smarts. Brands that truly want to embrace brand journalism need to stop thinking about themselves and start thinking about their audience. You cannot win if you’re constantly thinking about metrics, charts, figures and balance sheets. When you start thinking about the customer’s needs, you’ll begin to break through. Thinking about your readers and what they need and want is what journalism is all about.
3. Customer-First Mentality
In order to put your customer first, you need to understand them. Who are they and what do you they like? What do they strive for? Know their pain points. Know what they are looking to achieve in their personal and professional lives.
Depending on a B2B or B2C brand, the customer mindset could mean different things. On the B2B side, getting promoted, hiring someone new, increasing efficiency, or speaking at a conference could be their goal. B2C goals can be personal, such as buying a home, saving for a trip, learning a new skill, or starting a family. Understand the mindset of your audience. Then, serve them relevant content that meets those needs.
4. Objectivity and Subjectivity
This might seem impossible, but balancing objectivity and subjectivity is another way that brand journalism differs from general journalism. Journalism, in the traditional sense, is about tracking down the story and covering both sides. Ideally, there’s no favoritism or bias toward one side or the other. In fact, doing so could result in a lack of credibility for that newspaper or magazine.
In brand journalism, the story is told the same way, except the brand needs to be heavily considered. Therefore, painting your own brand in a negative light, mentioning competitive products or services, dropping trade secrets, or publishing proprietary company information is not acceptable. Your article is posted on your brand’s website or via the blog, forum, or other outlet, so you have to be cognizant of your message.
5. Awesome Writing
Your writing needs to be spot on each and every time. Everything you write is a reflection of the brand you work for and your personal brand, and it’s much easier to build your reputation on a strong foundation than to change a bad reputation built on crappy content.
A brand journalist not only knows how to craft a story, but they know how to artfully communicate that story. They can take you from point A to point B in an engaging, smart, well-written way. If you can’t do this, brand journalism will be a tough nut to crack.
There are many different styles and approaches to great content. There’s no single style or format to writing an article as a brand journalist.
- Interviews. Interviews are great for getting other voices on your blog, such as interviewing your CEO about industry trends or product roadmaps, interviewing customers about best practices in your space, and interviewing your community with crowd-sourced questions.
- Evergreen content. Support content marketing with some helpful, non-timely, “evergreen” posts. These post have legs, and often include tips, tricks, and takeaways relevant to your audience. They can be written over a long period of time as you gather insights from internal or external sources, or they can be quick, easy-to-post articles that cover a basic term or topic.
- Newsworthy. Depending on your industry, big announcements and stories could be constant or rare. Either way, creating content around breaking news adds credibility, makes you stand out, and establishes your company as a source for news and information. Be the brand that is there for their audience, providing the late-breaking information they need in real time.
What brand journalism fundamentals guide your team? Share your thoughts in the comments below.