A little bit country, a little bit rock n' roll. Only in this case, it's a little bit content, a little bit PR. We're talking about brand journalism, and just like Donny and Marie, when you bring together two very different elements of your marketing strategy, they can often make beautiful music together.
See what we did there?
Brand journalism has existed at the fringes of traditional marketing for a while now, but as demand for greater brand transparency grows and as savvy consumers actively seek brands that align with their values, it's becoming more of a "must" than a "nice to have." It can also be an integral part of your overall growth marketing strategy. We'll explain why and also give you some examples of brands that are absolutely nailing it. But first...
What Is Brand Journalism?
Brand journalism is a form of content that exhibits many of the qualities of traditional news media. It is generally unbiased, informative, and focused more on establishing a brand's personality than it is on sales. There are three major factors to consider when determining when a piece of content constitutes brand journalism:
Brand journalism helps establish trust with your audience. It shapes the way they view your brand, how they talk about it, and what they think about. It can also give them an exclusive glimpse at the way you do business. This kind of transparency is critical to today's consumers and also makes them feel a part of your brand story.
Isn't Brand Journalism Another Term for Content Marketing?
Not exactly. There are a few key factors that separate brand journalism from content marketing.
Brand journalism is distinct from both content and PR, though it does draw elements from both. Whereas content is often sales-driven, brand journalism is more concerned with awareness and alignment with the target audience. And while PR focuses on getting your brand out to various news media organizations, brand journalism often utilizes your own platforms to spread the word (though, when done well, a piece may get picked up by a media source).
Often, brand journalism will become a part of your overall content marketing strategy. And while it's usually not directly responsible for sales, it can contribute to your brand's growth.
Why Should I Include Brand Journalism in My Content Growth Strategy?
Using content as part of your growth marketing strategy is a must. And there are many ways you can incorporate brand journalism into your content to achieve your aggressive revenue goals. Here's how:
Use Brand Journalism to Drive Leads
Sales isn't the only measurement of a successful growth strategy. Finding quality and qualified leads is also a reflection of brand growth, and brand journalism can help you achieve that. When done right, brand journalism positions your brand as a trusted voice in your industry and in the causes that matter to you. It gives your audience something to align with and grows affinity between them and your brand.
For example, think of all the businesses that have promoted the "buy one, give one" model (e.g., TOMS Shoes, Warby Parker). The journalistic content these brands create isn't meant to drive sales, but they clearly state what the brand stands for and give consumers a solid and actionable way to support the cause. These leads may be more likely to convert because they trust the brand and stand for the same values.
Strive for a Journalistic Voice
Here's a pretty grim statistic. A majority of consumers feel that most brands are inauthentic.
Using brand journalism best practices, take a look at your content and look for areas to improve. Can you tone down the sales pitch and focus more on the values you live by? Can you craft an article, or rework an old one, to have an unbiased and neutral voice? Can you create content that gives readers an unfiltered look into what you do, how you do it, or — best of all — why you do it?
Be an Advocate for Consumers
Your customers represent more than dollar signs. They are real people with real passions, causes, and concerns. Taking a brand journalism approach to your content allows you to connect with them in a whole new way.
You're not just working to provide a product or service to them; you're working to support them. You're working to better their lives and add something valuable to society. Make them more than your customer; make them your partner. Let them know that when they support you, they're supporting something greater than a company. Instead, they're using their power as a consumer to achieve a higher goal.
Still unsure what brand journalism is and how you can incorporate it into your growth marketing strategy? Here are our best examples of the brands that are getting it right:
10 Great Examples of Brand Journalism for Growth
1. Proctor & Gamble rewards both purchases and brand engagement by donating to the causes they support through their P&G Everyday Program.
2. Red Bull launched its own media company to house its brand journalism content, as well as distribute music, documentaries, and more.
3. Ahrefs is one of our favorite SEO tools, but it's also a great example of brand journalism. Their CMO regularly posts on third-party sites like Medium as a thought leader or appears on podcasts as an expert guest. Ahrefs also has a dedicated YouTube channel where they discuss the industry from an unbiased and journalistic perspective.
4. Basecamp, a project management platform, is well-known for publishing multiple ebooks about project management, remote work, and productivity. They aren't pushing their own product but rather offering neutral insights and best practices in their industry.
5. The Coca-Cola Journey is a dynamic digital magazine and owned media channel that focuses on universally important topics, social causes, and news about the company. The publication is designed to inspire, educate, and provoke action. It includes compelling photography, video, audio, articles, and user-generated content. The interesting thing is that it’s actually their main company website.
6. Adobe’s CMO fills you in on marketing insights, expertise, and inspiration by leaders in the industry. The publication is aimed at helping CMOs and marketing leaders create successful brands in a digital world. There is a whole slew of content, from features to interviews and opinions, videos, and more.
7. American Express’ Open Forum allows entrepreneurs to stay current with the latest business news and information, with content coming from thought-leaders and business types on managing money, getting customers, building your team, and more. You have the ability to select the content you’d like to receive, making it all the more valuable.
8. Airbnb's "When Strangers Meet" campaign took a brand journalistic approach to sharing real stories from actual customers. No sales pitch required.
9. Starbucks has created a dedicated multimedia platform to share brand storytelling, industry articles, and their commitment to people, the planet, and coffee.
10. Marriot Bonvoy published its own industry travel magazine with tips on where to stay, what sites to see, where to eat, and how to embrace culture around the world.
There you have it! Feeling inspired? Don't worry — you don't have to hire a dedicated brand journalist to use these tactics in your own content growth strategy. It's simple to apply some of the practices in the examples above to use a brand journalism approach to your content. Your brand, your consumers, and your bottom line will be glad you did.