Brand Journalism – Part 3: How Will It Effect Traditional PR?

How to do it properly

It is important that when incorporating brand journalism into a communications strategy that it is done properly and that the copy itself upholds to journalistic principles, in which case a company would need to spend money on hiring media industry professionals. Content must be as authentic as possible as well as interesting in order to reach its full potential as part of a communications strategy. The experience of journalists entitles them to know what makes good reading and how “to cut to the heart” of stories, which companies will find invaluable.

Brand journalism incites trust amongst potential consumers but it also promotes a consistent brand message and therefore the investment in Brand Journalism as part of a communications strategy is a long term one. This information need not only be interesting, but also useful, for example, in the form of guides and ebooks etc, which will become a PR asset. It is also important to have one company channel as the main outlet for your content. Companies need to comment on all relevant events and material, not solely on their products.

Below is a video from Simon Sproule, CVP of Global Marketing Communications for Nissan, describing the importance of Brand Journalism to Nissan’s comms strategy:

Transparency not objectivity

The advantage of using brand journalism is that it creates a sense of transparency around an organisation. The idea is that the stories told are balanced, transparent and appealing which subsequently builds trust between a stakeholder and a company, and makes an organisation appear more ‘human’. Stakeholders must not confuse transparency with objectivity. Although these companies provide a sense of transparency, ultimately they have an agenda in which to sell you something, thus they are not truth seekers.

What will happen to the traditional media?

To some extent these new channels will be competing with traditional media outlets, however they will not replace them. These channels can act as an extra source for journalists to gain information and create stories suitable for the mass media. In-house PR teams can use it to build upon reputation, journalists can find a new source of income and PR agencies can benefit from and help the process by using the content for their campaigns.

What does this mean for the daily operations of PR?

It seems apparent that the PR industry is still stuck in its old ways regarding the pushing of information towards its publics, and ignoring the notion that a more intelligent public, wise to marketing and PR tactics, is no longer listening. We are living in the age of the expert opinion, in which case the traditional PR industry needs to use this to its advantage.

The PR industry has evolved before from solely writing press releases for print media, to creating content for online publications and websites. The ability to tell stories and talk to consumers directly has never been so easy for organisations, and its impact can be enormous. If your company is not producing online content then your competitor is likely to be, and thus consumers are more prone to finding out about competitors’ products rather than your own.

How do we know it’s worth the investment?

All of this is based on the assumption that investing in content will benefit the relationship between corporation and public. Like all parts of PR activity evaluation is difficult, especially as measuring the success of brand journalism focuses on engagement with stakeholders. Practitioners can measure the amount of time each visitor spent on a webpage etc and see how this translates into sales. There is also some anecdotal evidence that this kind of content does strengthen consumer-company relationships however as the implementation of brand journalism on a mass scale is still fairly premature, this will need to be monitored.

A Final Note

I hope this small trilogy has provided some insight and understanding as to why the practicing of Brand Journalism as part of a comms strategy is so important. Don’t forget to add your own thoughts to the conversation on Twitter. K

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