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What is Brand Journalism?
In the current age of diminishing advertising credibility, content marketing, direct-to-consumer communication through social media and blogs, brand journalism is “journalistic style” thought leadership stories about a brand or (any topic relevant to the brand) written by the brand custodians or journalists hired by the brand and published on a traditional or new media news platform, either owned by the brand or a third party platform.
Brand journalism is like any traditional news story, written in a non promotional language by marketers (or journalists hired by marketers) aimed directly at their consumers. It is a way to tell the real story of a brand and is, ideally, a true as it can get without hurting the image of the brand. It uses the credibility and influence of news or a publishing platform to tell a corporate or brand story.
Origin of Brand Journalism
The term was popularized in 2004 by McDonald’s chief marketing officer, Larry Light. Larry said that mass marketing didn’t work anymore and that no single ad told the whole story of a brand. And so McDonanld’s had adopted a new marketing technique called brand journalism.
Characteristics of Brand Journalism
- Brand journalism has certain tenets which differentiates it from other forms of marketing communications.
- It follows the principles of traditional journalism and good storytelling. In that sense it is similar to journalism and different from a press release, which is “reshaped” by journalists to make it objective and newsworthy.
- It is about stories that factual, well researched (for accuracy), objective (for credibility), topical (for viral effect), relevant to the concerns of the audience and compelling in its premise.
- Along with written text, it can also use video, audio and photographs to tell the story.
Examples of Brand Journalism
HSBC’s Business Without Borders, a website created for a specific segment of the banks customers – those that are responsible for expanding US businesses in international markets – is a good example of brand journalism. The website uses top quality financial and economic stories that matter to the bank’s clients written by professional writes and journalists to enhance its reputation as a thought leader and a brand its customers can trust on.
Redbull took brand journalism to another level when it sponsored and reported the historic 39 km high jump of Felix Baumgartner. The jump was a viral superhit and Red Bull set up Redbullstratos.com to report on the stunt and ripples created in its aftermath.
Forbes.com has a separate section in its digital platform called BrandVoice which publishes stories by corporations like Salesforce, Symantec, SAP, Oracle, etc. In its own words,
“Forbes BrandVoice™ allows marketers to connect directly with the Forbes audience by enabling them to create content – and participate in the conversation – on the Forbes digital publishing platform. Each BrandVoice™ is produced by the marketer.”