While many companies may not know what brand journalism is, the one thing that all entrepreneurs can all agree on is that using the right tools, tactics, and style of journalism to tell their brand story is essential. At a time when consumers have started losing trust in companies at face value, companies need to figure out ways to change the way consumers perceive them and how they make buying decisions. Traditional approaches to PR and marketing are not working as they did before – customers simply don’t seem to be responding to those types of campaigns anymore. For this reason, the practice of brand journalism has entered into overall strategies for companies to gain exposure for their brand.
For as long as people have been communicating, they have used stories to relate to each other, make sense of the world around them, and help them make decisions as they go through life. Currently, advancements in technology have people sharing a more considerable amount of information, and they are finding themselves making more decisions based on stories. As humans, we generally desire to make real and meaningful connections. By using good storytelling, companies and organizations can humanize themselves. They can also establish genuine connections with people while remaining transparent, responsive, and – above all – accessible.
Real Quality Stories vs. Scripted Advertising Content
Interestingly enough, companies have never thought to use personalized stories to connect with audiences. From the days of traditional advertising to the current Internet era, companies have used their content to deliver advertising to readers, using one-way communication tools to get people’s attention. But now, companies need to use brand journalism to tell quality stories about their brand and spark curiosity among consumers. This means having a conversation with consumers and giving them real and interesting stories that they can relate to rather than creating marketing or advertising copy that bombard them with scripted messages. Since people are now so overwhelmed by advertising and marketing messages, a well-crafted story is the best way to get your brand’s message out there.
Brand journalism has been around for quite some time, first establishing its roots in the franchise industry. According to McDonald’s Chief Marketing Officer Larry Light, mass communication no longer works because no single ad tells an entire company’s brand story.
He defines brand journalism as a method of recording what happens to a company in the world and creating ad communications that will, over time, tell the whole story of a brand. Franchise systems adopted the practice early, and more and more giant corporations are adopting this approach. It has now become one of the most productive ways for businesses to generate leads and engage customers. Given the current content marketing era that we’re in, brand journalism is now the primary marketing trend. As a result, the quality of stories that brands put out can have an enormous impact on how effective their marketing is. For this reason, companies are rushing to hire journalists and PR professionals to create engaging stories.
Why do we need brand journalism?
Before the internet, companies could only rely on hiring PR agencies to create newsworthy content to distribute to media professionals. Nowadays, they have the added option of bypassing publications and PR firms completely and publishing their articles using their own blogs, online reports, websites, email, and social media instead. In this way, companies now have the ability to communicate directly with their customers and other audiences using journalism-style storytelling.
While companies can create their own content, it is still advisable to seek insight and advice from PR experts and journalists to know precisely how to create quality newsworthy content. PR agencies like Pressfarm help startups to create quality content that will make a journalist’s head turn. We are skilled at creating everything from email pitches to press releases, guest posts, and press kits.
Along with creating content, Pressfarm helps you to put this content in front of your target audience. For starters, we provide access to over 1 million media contacts through our media database. Moreover, our account executive will create a personalized media list that fits your brand so that you can connect with the best journalists in your niche to help you tell your brand story. Overall, our team of experts will boost your online visibility by helping your brand feature in relevant search results across different search engines.
How to use brand journalism for marketing
1) Connect with your audience
According to experts, brand journalism is about appealing to different people with “different desires in different contexts.” Your content should not serve the needs of customers alone. Rather, the aim should be to reach existing and potential customers, company employees, business partners, and others. Defining your audience should be the starting point of any brand journalism strategy because it gives you focus.
A way to identify who you want to write for is by creating buyer personas and analyzing their needs and challenges. Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers/audience. These personas help you to understand your audience better. Your business objectives should cater to the personas you create.
Having a clear picture of the people who make up your audience makes it easier for you to create content that addresses their needs.
Stages of the buyer journey
Once you determine your buyer personas, you also need to understand the buyer journey. This is the active research process a persona goes through leading up to making a purchase. The three stages of the buyer journey include the awareness stage, consideration stage, and decision stage.
In the awareness stage, a potential buyer realizes a want or need for a product or service. At this point, they start researching to understand more about what they are looking for. They are generally seeking information to answer questions and resolve pain points. To effectively market your product, you must use your content to provide solutions to the pain points the buyer is interested in resolving. The next stage is consideration, and it involves a buyer’s evaluation of different solutions available to them.
Some examples of content geared towards this stage can include product comparison guides, expert guides, and live interaction to deliver critical information to help buyers make the best possible decision. Finally, the decision stage is when buyers have decided on a solution and have a strategy to address their issues. Even so, they are still deciding on whether they want to buy anything as well as the brand they want to buy from. At this point, buyers have already spent lots of time poring through data, reviews, and other materials to gain confidence in their decision.
2) Craft inspiring stories
While insight into your audience provides a general idea of what topics resonate better with them, you still need to narrow down the types of topics you want to cover. Brand journalism can take many forms, including brand stories, industry trends, curated content, and pop culture.
Usually, brand story pieces focus on the innovations and initiatives taken by a brand. These types of stories work best if your company is doing outstanding work in a newsworthy field. Moreover, in a digital landscape where there is so much information about different industries, curated content helps filter out the noise from your competitors. Finally, many consumer brands are in a great position to drive inspiration using pop culture trends. By using this type of content, you can connect better with your audiences.
You can figure out what types of content will help your brand fill content gaps within your industry. Bonus points if you can do this while capitalizing on your strengths and satisfying your customers.
3) Produce engaging content
According to a 2020 survey done by NewsCred, most brand journalism is managed by in-house teams. This is because they tend to have a better understanding of the company’s inner workings. They, therefore, have a better ability to differentiate their message from the competition. You need to ensure that the people creating content are skilled at storytelling, reporting, interviewing, and writing. There are all essential qualities for a brand journalist.
4) Establish strict editorial guidelines
Editorial guidelines ensure that everything your company posts is consistent. They also act as a beacon for both internal and external contributors. Furthermore, they give your company’s publication a sense of familiarity, so your audience knows what to expect. Rather than focusing on syntax and grammar rules, editorial guidelines should define a tone for each piece. Decide what your end goal is, and lay out some ground rules.
Some questions that can help you create your guidelines are:
- How do you want your reader to feel at the end of each piece?
- What tone will the publication take on?
- Which topics work well and which ones do not?
- How valid are your research sources?
- How will the company attribute sources?
5) Publish content consistently
Having a consistent publishing schedule can help keep your team more focused while also setting readers’ expectations. You must pick a publishing schedule that is realistic for your team and relevant to your niche. You should always prioritize quality over quantity. In other words, having a handful of high-quality stories is a lot better than having a bunch of mediocre content that no one wants to read.
6) Distribute content widely
As media continues to evolve, so does the packaging and distribution of content. When packaging your content, you need to consider a couple of points. First, you need to view all the different content formats. At the moment, brand journalism exists in the form of blogs, stand-alone websites, podcasts, video series, newsletters, and print publications.
Before creating content, you should think about how you can better tell their stories to your target audience. Would members of your target audience like to listen to your story during their morning run? Is it more likely that they will become engrossed in a lengthy written feature? Is video the perfect way to highlight the company’s work? Frequently, a story may need multiple elements to enhance its impact. For this reason, you might have to produce a story accompanied by high-resolution images and short video clips.
When it’s time for content distribution, you can send out content through your company’s email list. This is because existing customers and subscribers are the best sources of initial feedback for a company’s content. Secondly, social media platforms can also offer unique opportunities to repurpose and promote your content.
7) Measurement of Success
Finally, it helps to have tangible ways to gauge whether you are headed in the right direction. A combination of traffic and social media shares is what brands currently use to track success. There is no exact formula to measure the impact of your brand journalism. Even so, some things that you can keep track of include traffic, bounce rate, social shares, and publications.
Brand journalism offers companies and marketers an exciting new opportunity to create a narrative about the brand and present it to the public. Be that as it may, you need to be patient when it comes to creating content. After all, it can take time to create a positive brand image, and it is an ongoing process. However, with a bit of patience and skill, you can create content that builds a positive brand reputation and increases sales.