How to make brand journalism work for any organization

Your company or enterprise, regardless of size and budget, can employ this marketing tactic. It’s all about sincerely engaging with consumers. To start, ask your employees to share their stories.

Brand journalism offers insight, entertainment and awareness without off-putting marketing jargon and tactics.

Great stories work because they add value to your target audience’s lives, while planting the marketing seeds that help customers become fully invested in your brand.

Many smaller organizations struggle with brand journalism because they think you need a big budget, fancy software or an experienced team of former journalists to make it succeed. You don’t. Brand journalism is about sharing your story in a unique, authentic, noncommercial way.

All companies have stories; it’s time to start sharing yours. Here’s how to start:

1. Be a storyteller, and answer real questions.

Ditch the decades-old marketing methods; today’s audiences tune out advertorials and other types of marketing or public relations content.

Today’s marketer must think like a journalist, operating as a strategic storyteller.

Many organizations have developed internal newsrooms whose purpose is sharing stories and stockpiling content that sets them apart as an industry leader.

How do you make this happen for your small business?

Even if you can’t develop an in-house newsroom, you probably have employees who know a thing or two about your brand and its customers. Enlist them as your “reporters.”

Next, identify your audience. What are they asking? What do they want to know? What do they care about? Think about people, not about products, pricing and value.

People rarely want to be sold something when they type a word or phrase in an online search bar. We demand answers at our fingertips, and we’ll click away if our needs aren’t immediately met. We are happy to buy a product if it solves our problems.

Think about that when you’re creating content. It should be interesting, engaging, useful and helpful. Start with a problem, end with a solution. Doing so builds trust in your brand.

2. Hold editorial meetings, and get into a content rhythm.

Every day, journalists at news outlets gather to collaborate on what stories warrant coverage, discussing which rise to the top and which require extensive reporting. That’s where team members decide as a group what’s important to their audience at that moment in time.

Your editorial meetings can serve the same purpose, allowing your team to discuss what your audience is talking about now, and why.

They are also a great opportunity to develop a content calendar, which ensures that you’re not only covering current events and industry trends, but also publishing content on a regular basis.

3. Take a unique stance, and interview people.

What was it about the last video you watched or blog you read that made you linger on a site longer than you intended? It was probably interesting, relatable or unique.

It’s important that you answer questions and provide solutions through your content, but it also must grab readers’ attention. Storytelling should provide answers—and evoke an emotional response.

Ask yourself: How is my audience going to feel after reading, listening or watching this story? If they feel nothing, you’ve missed an opportunity. Every business is filled with unique, emotional stories—so tell yours. That helps your audience build a deeper relationship with your brand.

Start with interviews. That could mean chatting with a subject matter expert who can answer your audience’s burning questions, or maybe it’s a customer with a great testimonial anecdote.

4. Distinguish between brand journalism and brand promotion.

Brand promotion is all about pushing a product or service. Think infomercials—gimmicky, exaggerated and unrealistic.

In contrast, brand journalism centers on authenticity. Telling real stories through your loyal customers’ eyes goes beyond promotion. For example, include candid interviews to keep a company video from feeling like a commercial.

Most consumers have a strong BS meter and can easily distinguish a sincere interview subject from one whose answers have been influenced (or scripted).

A version of this post first appeared on the StoryTeller Media + Communications blog.

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