Feb 22, 2012

Tips for Effective Brand Journalism

Recently I attended Social Media Week in New York. And one subject I heard a lot of people talking about was brand journalism. To some, those might be contradictory terms. But like journalism, marketing and advertising is about telling stories. And the most successful brands are those who tell their stories the best.

Or as Dan Abrams pointed out during his keynote, “All companies are media companies.” Basically, everyone has a story to tell. If you’re selling cars, lobbying for policy, or marketing a pre-existing brand, it’s all story-telling. Somewhere in every company’s strategy is the core message of what it is they do. Whether you call it brand journalism or content marketing, communicating message is just as important as any other business function.

Now, truthfully, it’s a little bit easier to find the story in the field of journalism. The only interests to keep in mind are the facts. And now before you take me to task in the comment section, I’m by no means saying journalism is easy. The process, however, is pretty straight forward.

Selling your brand’s story can be a little trickier. For one, people don’t always trust advertisements. Nobody wants to be “sold” something. Still, companies have to get their messages out there. So what’s to be done?

First of all, brand journalism should be transparent. Nobody likes being tricked. People like it even less when said trickery is aimed at their wallets. Brands that aren’t up front about what they’re selling will see their message tarnished. Their sales will probably take a hit, too. Commercials and marketing and advertising are all accepted. Sneakiness is not.

Second, a quality message will always be embraced. Take for example this Old Milwaukee advertisement starring Will Ferrell. We can see it’s a commercial. We know it’s the beer maker’s message. Still, the piece is a quality product. (Not to mention REALLY funny!) Old Milwaukee is obviously trying to sell cans of beer here. But, it’s also a great video. Personally, I’m not watching this because I like Old Milwaukee beer. Truthfully, I’ve never even had an Old Milwaukee beer. I’m watching this video – over and over again – because it’s a quality piece.

Finally, and most importantly, any PR messaging, be it marketing or advertising, should be beneficial to whomever it’s being offered. There’s nothing worse than being spammed by a pitch that doesn’t relate or resonate. Or as Amy Vernon, VP of Strategy at Hasai, says, “The best kind of PR is the kind that’s helpful. It’s not the profession of PR that gets vilified. It’s the B.S. that does.”

There might be a more graceful way of saying that last part. But you get the message.

Author Tom Hynes is PR Newswire’s manager of blogger relations. And as you may have guessed, he has a twitter account.

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