A couple of weeks back, I attended a panel called “Democratizing The Conversation: The Future Of Brand Journalism In Social Media” at the Art & Culture Content Hub at Hearst Magazines during Social Media Week. After hearing a brief introduction on the topic and the differences between brand journalism and content marketing (brand journalism is more useful tips and information vs. content marketing, which is more promotional like Burberry’s Instagram stream), I did more reading on the topic.
As this Fast Company blog post explains, at its most basic level, brand journalism involves honest brand storytelling that invites the audience to participate.
In fact, corporations like Microsoft, have created their own not-so-mini news organizations to share their content with employees and customers. Instead of featuring content created by marketers and executives, brand journalism features content created by topic experts (i.e., engineers, product managers and even independent journalists). Some companies have even created “editorial” departments that don’t even fall under Marketing and their facilities often rival those of traditional news organizations. For instance, a Social Media Week panelist said a major shipping company had a better TV studio than some local news networks.
Over at Cisco, they are creating compelling content on specific topical areas the company’s employees care about. In many cases, this content could have appeared on any other technology or business news site, however, Cisco is creating in the hope that its employees share it and become more educated on the topics that are important to the company and its customers. Apparently it’s working, after Microsoft’s first year of brand journalism, its top five bloggers averaged more than 19,000 views per post.
While some companies may fear consumers will not trust their content, studies have shown that is not the case, as long as companies are transparent about where the content comes and their reasons for providing it. A recent Nielsen study found that branded website content is more trusted than paid search advertising. The survey found that 52 percent of consumers trust companies’ official websites when they find them through organic search rankings or other methods, whereas just 36 percent of respondents said they respond this way to pay-per-click ads.
Bottom line: If your company is looking to get into brand journalism because you feel you know the industry better than anyone, you probably should, just be transparent about it.