Brand Journalism – Part 1: What is it?

Today, a percentage of business is locked up in its brand vision. Branding is now considered key to any successful business. 5 years ago the debate was about social media how that can be used effectively to create a positive brand image. Today the debate has moved onto Brand Journalism.

brand journalism

Brand journalism is the term given to content generated by companies but in a journalistic style. The public relations industry has now shifted from ‘story telling’ to ‘story selling’, and brand journalism is a way of doing this. Stories generated by companies are not necessarily always about their product, but discuss topics that they feel their stakeholders would be interested in; their communications strategy therefore becomes more than just a series of press releases and product launch events.

The idea is to build up brand loyalty and trust by acting as an authoritative voice on a particular industry, for example, food, music, sports, cars etc. Such stories often appear on a company’s own media channel. Arif Haq, Manager for Digital, Technology and Content at Gatorade, suggested that Brand journalism pulls together all aspects of a company’s brand marketing strategy into one clear vision.

Thomas Scott suggests that the way these stories differ to normal marketing copy is their journalistic style; the way they are told make readers want to know more. Their journalistic quality means that people are less likely to ignore them when filtering our other marketing-style messages.

Using this communications tactic has been deemed as essential in any PR strategy by PR Week, and was listed as one of the ‘top 12 trends in public relations’ for 2012 by The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

However, there is some ambiguity surrounding the term ‘Brand Journalism’, which has caused some confusion amongst PR practitioners and therefore its implementation is either patchy or ineffective. Journalism implies objectivity and a balanced view, however content generated by a company cannot be objective as the story they are telling is being told for a reason, i.e. to sell their product. Ex-Financial Times journalist, Tom Foremski, believes the term ‘brand journalism’ is an oxymoron and in order for people to grasp the idea behind it, it should be renamed ‘Corporate Media’ as This term goes further in incorporating all types of media published by companies.

The term ‘brand journalism’ is in its early stages of being defined, but it goes far into helping the understanding of Foremski’s idea that every company is a media company. Some PR professionals believe the term is unnecessarily confrontational as it riles journalists by making it appear that we, as PR practitioners, think we can do the job of a journalist, which is not the idea behind brand journalism. In actual fact, many of these companies are hiring out of work journalists, who are finding themselves unemployed due to the decline in print media, to compile and write such stories.

The reason the term has been coined to use the word ‘journalism’ is because creating content for brands is likened to the idea of a newspaper’s attempt to boost its circulation; both want to encourage brand loyalty and trust. As agreed upon by member of the Global PR Summit held in Miami, ealrier this year in October, the concept of brand journalism, whether or not it is renamed as coporate media, is here to stay. It will undoubtedly shake up the traditional media and journalism world but it will not replace it.

Follow the #BrandJournalism on Twitter to get involved in the conversation.

twitter brand journalism

This post is part of a trilogy. Parts 2 and 3 will discuss how to use brand journalism effectively, how it can be applied to all companies and how it will affect the traditional practice of PR.

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One response to “Brand Journalism – Part 1: What is it?”

  1. Thomas Scott says :

    Good post!

    Don’t think corporate media will stick. The term brand journalism is awkward for some and I find other practitioners and myself often using the term ‘brand storytelling’ which seems to work better.

    If brand journalism was the big PR trend in 2013, brand storytelling is the big SEO trend in 2013. SEO companies are struggling to learn how to write relevant copy that real people vote for by reading. Search engines are ranking better-written content (longer word counts, too – up to 2,000 words per page). Since almost all transactions use the search engine, understanding who PR, corporate communications, SEO and social media intersect and overlap is the key to successful lead generation for most businesses. At the center is journalism-style, relevant storytelling which is what people who want what a business has to sell really want.

    Brave new world!

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