After Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle, Duke Energy repair crews did more than drive around to assess the downed power lines.
They ventured out in boats, piloted drones and buzzed about in helicopters to determine where to deploy crews and equipment, Duke Energy reported on its brand journalism site.
Such stories are relevant to customers and can result in dramatic images and video. This enables organizations—rather than news media outlets—to frame their own story.
That’s why so many organizations have gone all in on brand journalism. If you’re having trouble selling your leaders on the approach, perhaps they can be persuaded when they see the benefits.
Ragan Communications Chief Executive Mark Ragan, a former national political reporter and an early advocate of brand journalism, says communicators should stop begging the media and instead become the media.
David Meerman Scott, another early advocate, defines brand journalism as the creation of web content—videos, blog posts, photos, charts, graphs, essays, e-books, white papers—that deliver value to the marketplace and position organizations as worthy of doing business with.
“Brand journalism is not a product pitch,” he says. “It is not an advertorial. It is not an egotistical spewing of gobbledygook-laden corporate drivel.”
Here are a few benefits of brand journalism that will help win your leaders over:
1. Brand journalism fills a void in business coverage.
“Newsrooms have been decimated,” Ragan says. “If you want your company’s story told, you’d better write it or shoot it yourself.”
(Ragan heads Ragan Consulting Group, which works with businesses to establish brand journalism sites.)
2. By telling your story, you control the narrative.
When Duke Energy imploded a decommissioned coal-fired generating station in Salisbury, N.C., it made sure to get video of the big blast. Buildings blowing up will always draw eager coverage, and multiple outlets, including The Charlotte Observer, ran Duke’s b-roll.
The big boom underscored news that a newly opened gas plant would more efficiently generate electricity and reduce air emissions.
3. You’ll draw more organic search.
Google is the great gatekeeper. Brand journalism can help you dominate specific search keywords. This significantly boosts the perception (and findability) of your company. It’s an effective way to become a recognized authority on subject matter that pertains to your business, as H&R Block did with an article titled “Filing Taxes When A Loved One Is In Prison.”
4. Brand journalism promotes your experts and leaders.
Cisco Systems’ brand journalism site, The Network, recently featured Mike Storm, a 250-pound, bearded, tattooed “distinguished engineer” in the company. A former MMA heavyweight fighter, he says he gets up every day excited about his job finding security risks.
Brand journalism helps reporters unearth passionate and colorful sources from within the opaque walls of your business. How else are they going to find your ex-MMA strongman?
An H&R block article on service animals notes that they—and their attendant costs—can be deducted as a medical expense, quoting a staff attorney with the tax preparer. Smaller news outlets sometimes run such stories in their entirety.
5. Reporters ’ interest in old-fashioned press releases has plummeted.
Stodgy, formulaic press releases have a way of suffocating stories. The problem is partly the rah-rah tone used, as well as the proliferation of ™ and ® symbols, all of which were annoying even back in an era of faxed press releases. It’s partly the way so many organizations persist in framing stories in ways that interest their internal audiences, rather than reporters and the general public.
Better to adopt an audience-first, dynamic approach of news reporting. Consider the newsy approach taken by Alberta Energy Regulator in a piece on how a landowner, a drilling company and AER found a way to rejuvenate a rural spring.
Besides, journalists are now hungry for content. The web has made video a must even for newspapers, and thinned-out TV staffs are eager to grab shots and even full interviews that save them a trip across town with a camera crew. Likewise for photos, graphics and executive bios.
6. You’ll attract audiences beyond journalists.
Brand journalism isn’t just for reporters. It can lure in customers, donors, community leaders, current and future employees, and industry innovators.
Cleveland Clinic’s healthessentials site is full of general health stories targeted at the public, such as one that asks, “Can I Use an App as Birth Control?” American Express’ Open Forum started as a forum for small businesses, but it has grown into a leading brand journalism site. Among them is a story that offers tips on how to generate positive cash flow. Stories like this are sure to draw a wider audience than gosh-we’re-great press releases.
Brand journalism content also opens up new channels to reach audiences. You can glean contacts for your newsletters, for example.
7. It ’s a good way to retain—and attract— staffers.
A brand journalism initiative could be a recruiting and retention boon. Who wouldn’t want more storytelling autonomy, creative freedom, integrity and editorial control at work? Or to be freed from the constant burden of having to sell stuff?
Not only is it a more strategic way to communicate, “brand journalism,” Ragan says, “is just more fun.”
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