Controversy and Conflict Surrounding Brand Journalism

What are different kinds of journalism?

Journalism can be defined as the activity of gathering, assessing, creating and presenting news and information. The purpose is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, the communities, their societies, and their governments. Both traditional and brand journalism aim to provide useful information to their audiences, but their motivations come from a different place. Brand journalism is about business and traditional journalism is about providing needed information.

How has journalism changed over time?

Journalism has adapted and changed its ways of reporting information due to the changing nature of technology. It started with the printing press, and then it became a mogul over television. Today’s generation are getting more up-to-date stories due to social media. Social media is changing the way we receive the news. It is also changing who is liable. Today everything has become more transparent and accessible, meaning anyone and everyone can become a journalist. While traditional journalist only had print to tell their stories, citizens have multimedia. Now you can publish your news yourself, and connect directly with your customers, clients, supporters of your cause or whatever directly via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Foursquare, Pinterest, Instagram and many other platforms. Since brand journalism is on the rise, it is unclear what will happen to the traditional journalist.

Social media has changed the equation. We no longer live in a world where the rich and powerful control the means of mass communication. Now, anyone can publish news, views, comment and analysis. Social media brings the added dimension to the dissemination of news and information that it is passed among groups of friends, colleagues or those bound by some other sort of self-defined common interest by way of personal recommendation (In defense of Brand Journalism).

What are some of the controversies between journalists and marketers?

There has been controversy over the last few years between journalists and marketers. Journalists believe advertising in journalism ruins the news. Marketers not only see brand journalism as a way to make money but also as a way to keep publications on the web. Without brand journalism many publications would not be able to have online and mobile access. They need brand journalism to survive, but the controversy still continues.

Brand journalism is a mixture of many different things including content marketing, public relations and corporate communications. It’s a method of recording what’s going on with a specific brand, and how it relates to the world around it. Brand journalists form content that tell the story of a brand over time. Unlike traditional journalism, it aims to build credibility between a brand and consumer. Traditional journalism focuses on explaining the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of a story, while brand journalism puts more emphasis on the “why.” Our societies have become acutely aware of marketing and advertising efforts, and have developed an uncanny ability to tune it out. Today, we’re more likely to find our own trusted sources and seek the opinions of others before we make any major purchases. We don’t just let companies sell us things anymore (Larry Light – Brand Journalism Is a Modern Marketing Imperative ).

Although, the general public thinks traditional journalism is on a decline, it mainly hasn’t found a way to reshape itself within the past decade. Just like “snail mail” and e-mail, regular mail has still had a strong presents even though e-mail is the essential way people communicate now.

Effective brand journalism features truthful, well-investigated stories that stick to the basic principles of journalism, which are impact, timeliness, prominence, conflict, and proximity.

While brand journalism is a newer term, it has been around for quite some time. Starting in 1895, John Deere published The Furrow, a customer magazine that had useful content for farmers. The magazine now reaches more than two million people across the world. In 1900, tire manufacturer Michelin published the Michelin Guide to help drivers maintain their cars and find lodging while traveling in France. In 1903, Jell-O published their first recipe book and distributed free copies, and sales reached $1 million just two years later. In 1969, NASA’s public information team grew to 146 employees at 15 locations to keep journalists informed about the Apollo missions (Christie Barakat -The History of Brand Journalism Infographic).

Seven reasons why content marketing needs a brand journalist:

  1. They know how to tell a story.
  2. They put the audience first.
  3. They know how to simplify
  4. They approach content with a mind like water.
  5. They tell the truth
  6. They quote their sources.
  7. They bring journalist’s sensibility to build a brand.

A brand journalist wouldn’t produce anything negative about the company. A journalist working at a traditional publisher would. Both have a role, and I’m not suggesting that brand journalists stand in for traditional news reporting. They are two different things. We need both in our world (Ann Handley -Seven Reasons Your Content Marketing Needs a Brand Journalist).

How has brand journalism helped save a company?

A company that has taken brand journalism to a whole different level is none other than the McDonalds Corporation. During the earlier part of the millennium, McDonald’s sales were on a major decline, so they had to figure out a better way to get to their consumers. In the mean time, they were being tarnished because of their low wages, how they treated their employees, how their company was out of date and how its time has passed. The CEO Larry Light says that all the changes he initiated were in pursuit of one central goal: McDonalds had to be demand- rather than supply-driven. He says: “The mindset had to change from selling what we want to provide, to providing the brand experience customers want” (Andy Bull -How McDonald’s invented brand journalism, and how brand journalism saved McDonald’s). The brand journalism approach to marketing involves appealing to different people with different desires in different contexts.

To help McDonalds with a better slogan, they created “I’m Lovin it” which helped them create content that fit the image and personality of the brand they wanted to develop, which significantly helped their sales.

One-way McDonalds helped save their brand was to invite Mothers to do a quality check on their food and corporation. The response to the quality check were varied, but helped the general public decide whether McDonalds was a suitable place to take their family.

“My impressions of McDonald’s have changed since the beginning of my Moms’ Quality Correspondents experience. Before our trips, I didn’t think I would learn anything, really, that would change my perception that McDonald’s was anything but junk food. Going into McDonald’s to grab a meal doesn’t leave me feeling completely guilty any more. I know I have options to feed my family a nutritious meal out, just as I am able to feed them a nutritious meal at home. It’s all about my choices.

Moms should know that they could choose, and help their children choose, healthier options at any restaurant. I love the Big Mac sandwich just the same as everyone else, but I know, and now my children know, you can’t eat it everyday. Balance is the key to any eating regimen” (Andy Bull).

While not getting the most favorable of reviews, McDonalds did the right thing and let the general public know how their food is processed and how their company provides their business. With the reviews, it leads the consumer to make their own decision and helps then decide whether or not they trust the company. Promoting the truth is better than lying. It makes them more trust worthy.

While many things can be said about brand journalism and how it affects our society, either good or bad, it’s a new way to promote a company and product.

Starting with journalism and print, brand journalism has found a way to meet today’s standards of social media. It is a way for journalists, marketers, brands, and consumers to build relationships and communicate with one another. Using the general public as a voice to get a product sold has changed the way advertisers created business. Not only do they hire people to write about the product, the citizen journalist is the way of the future. Again, Brand journalism aims to earn and keep the attention of a potential audience, so the customers will see the media as a trustworthy source. Brand Journalism builds a stronger brand voice than the traditional advertising medium. It may be flooding the world with content, but it keeps traditional journalists on their toes, pushing them to create increasingly better articles. Traditional journalists, on the other hand bring a level of expertise, quality and integrity that every brand journalist should obverse, and learn from.

With the rise of brand journalism it is safe to say that it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. If anything it’ll keep changing with the evolution of electronics and social media. Brand journalism won’t replace traditional journalism by any stretch. But we’re seeing a shift in which major media outlets are covering an ever-broader range of topics with an increasingly stretched editorial team. Meanwhile highly specialized content is moving to specialized outlets, including blogs and branded channels. This is the opportunity for brands to serve up targeted, expert content designed to meet the specific needs of their audience. In doing so, these brands become better known, create a loyal community and demonstrate their value as an expert source. Done well, brand journalism can be a powerful complement to traditional media relations.

Journalismbrand journalismtraditional journalismSocial mediaEffective brand journalism

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