What Is It?
Brand journalism is another kind of journalism that is produced on behalf of a brand. What this means is that advertisers hire journalists to write real looking pieces in real news publications in order to advertise a brand or a product.
Where Does It Come From?
According to the article “A Giant Leap Content Marketing: The Evolution of Brand Journalism” the author Annie Zelm states that NASA’s public information masterminds brought global attention to brands such as Hasselblad, the first camera on the moon, and Sony tape recorders, the tapes used onboard the capsule. “It’s difficult to define exactly where or how brand journalism started, but there’s no doubt NASA’s approach played a key role in redefining the traditional approach to marketing, news production and distribution” (Zelm, 2014). Brand journalism has been around ever since the man landed on the moon, which means it actually has its roots in the franchise industry.
In 2004, McDonald’s Chief Marketing Officer, Larry Light, said that mass marketing no longer worked because no single ad was telling a complete story and that McDonald’s had adopted a new marketing technique: “Brand journalism.” Light defined brand journalism as a way to record what happens to a brand in the world and create ad communications that can tell a whole story of a brand. Ever since, big companies like Adobe, American Express, Disney, RedBull, HSBC and several others have adopted brand journalism with the goal of building a personal connection with the consumers, adding value to their target markets’ lives, and telling their story without making it read like marketing or advertising material.
Why Does It Exist?
The intended purpose of brand journalism is to arouse the interests of brand consumers the same way that editorial content does. It is similar to the concept of content marketing but it takes it to a whole new level because it appears on news outlets and it applies the skills of traditional journalism and content marketing together.
A good example would be Babble. This is a Disney owned website, provides mothers with tips and information on everything from pregnancy to raising healthy and active children.
It’s Current Status
Brand journalism is currently a trend for modern marketing because it’s redefining the concept of news and how it is communicated, which is shaking up traditional views of journalism. Brand Journalism is also one of the most conflicting advertising tools. “The advertising industry commonly refers to it as content marketing, brands disintermediating news professionals by writing and distributing thought leadership content. It’s one of the most quietly talked about areas in the media industry today, ultimately destined to shake up 100 years of journalism” (DVorkin, 2012).
The term brand journalism is used by corporate PR agencies and considering this, it is clear to say that business ethics are not the same as journalism ethics, so can consumers trust corporations to act as journalists? “I prefer the term corporate media. Corporate media spans the entire spectrum of publishing by a corporation. It can include material that is journalistic in its construct and intent. For example, large companies such as Cisco, IBM, and Intel employ people who used to be senior journalists and veteran broadcasters to produce corporate media, but is that journalism?” (Foremski, 2012). Powerful PR corporates have influence over the media, but many journalists state that this may compromise the integrity of their career.
Disadvantages of Brand Journalism
PR corporates continue to insist that they have interest in telling their brand stories, and that they want to partner with those who know how to tell them and also have the credibility that will help them reach their target audience. Since journalists are tired of freelancing, layoffs and buyouts, these jobs offer a middle ground between journalism and copywriting, and a way to take home a decent paycheck without feeling like they have sold out completely.
“The problem with journalism is that journalists feel a sense of entitlement that they don’t have to pay attention to the business. Their job is to write. Or to edit. And if the CEO or the sales executives can’t turn a profit, well, then they’re not doing their job” (Golberg, 2013). Many companies are bringing in journalists, however, if they work for communications and marketing heads this means that they are their employees, meaning that they will do as they are told and that is certainly not free independent press or journalism.
Since brand journalism is a type of journalism, branded content still has to establish ethical boundaries and maintain integrity in regards to the stories that they are publishing
Brand journalism must stand up to the finest values of traditional journalism in order to be credible:
- It should answer the 5 W’s: Who, what, why, when and where.
- It should be based on facts,
- It should be fast
- It should be consistent.
- It should give value to its consumers.
- There must be complete transparency about the origins of its content.
But one of the biggest problems with brand journalism is that as sponsored journalistic content and branded publications increase, it is getting more difficult to figure out where a story comes from and who paid for it. “The line between editorial content and advertising in news media is getting blurrier and blurrier” (Oliver, 2014).
Studies have shown that more than half of the article readers don’t know what sponsored content actually means and are not aware that advertisers pay for the article to be created and have influence on the content that is in the article, so maybe The Storyboard editors should publish more clear information on who produced the story as well as a statement explaining their editorial independence or decision making process to make it more clear for their readers or viewers.
Advantages of Brand Journalism
Merging journalism and marketing together makes it easier for people to buy the products that are being sold, the reason of this is because journalism gathers all the information about the brand or product and turns it into a story which increases trust into that respective brand or product. The job of the news business is to inform and advertising helps pay the bills, and in regards to marketers, digital publishing has made it possible for them to be a different kind of content creator.
“There is a lot of crap journalism out there, so sometimes it bothers me when people get all high and mighty about branded content. I really think it’s the story, not where it comes from.” (Bennet, 2013). Journalism’s mission is to inform and the business of journalism is to provide marketing partners with new ways to reach consumers, and according to some journalists this is a “win-win-win” for consumers, brands and journalists themselves. For consumers, engaging and valuable content, for brands, telling their stories is now authentic and meaningful to make a connection with the consumers and can help reaching a larger audience, and for journalists and writers, there are new, more exciting, and better paid jobs opportunities in which they can choose to align themselves with the brands that they like.
Will Brand Journalism Exist in the Future?
The truth is that brand journalism is a fact and it is not going away whatsoever, and even though there are controversies that surround it, brand journalism is still growing and it provides more money for journalists since consumers are increasingly savvy; but this also means that it is important for brand journalists to create content that educates the consumers, because the job of producing quality news no longer belongs to marketers only.
But how could marketers learn how to do brand journalism well and with transparency? In conclusion, the only way the term could become less controversial might be for media consumers to demand more up-front information on how a story was produced and who paid for it. This could be done by adding a larger and more visible disclaimer in the articles that they publish. If this is something that corporates and publishers accomplish to manage, we will be witnessing a fundamental shift in the traditional relationship between brands and publishers, they will most likely become loyal to each other in order to create new form of content together, meaning that brand journalism will be an increasingly important part of marketing and journalism’s future.
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