Traditional media in the digital age is going through a major restructuring. News organizations and journalists have always faced tight deadlines. Now they are expected to meet even more online and offline deadlines per day with dwindling resources.
But there’s good news in this shifting media landscape. Thanks to the same advances in online technology that are challenging the mass media industry, individuals and organizations have the time and resources to tell their own stories and grow an audience. While traditional media still has enormous reach and prestige, it’s no longer the only way to get noticed.
BECOME THE MEDIA
Whether you’re working solo or in a large organization, the power to be a digital publisher or broadcaster is at your fingertips. You don’t have to wait or beg for media attention. Any business can be a media company. You can write, shoot and digitally “publish” on your own.
Before the digital media revolution, one of my friends was the media relations director for a small college outside a big city. The school leaders were always urging him to get the college featured in the big city media.
As he gently told them many times, reporters working in that urban center are at least a two- hour drive away from this campus so unless there’s a tragedy, they’re not going to come. The big city journalists get all the “feel good” stories they could ask for at the many colleges and universities right in their own back yard. Plus, if a crisis on campus got their attention, would the school leaders welcome the big city news spotlight? Probably not.
Today, the college reaches the audience it wants through its digital presence. It creates its own content in a digital magazine, blogs, videos, podcasts, photographs, live streaming, etc. It regularly posts fascinating and fun stories about campus life on its own channels and shares the college’s stories broadly on social media.
Now if the college gets traditional media coverage, they make the most of it, but they don’t spend all their time pitching reporters. The college has become its own media outlet and tells its “good news” stories using brand journalism.
MAKING CONTENT MATTER
The term brand journalism is a bit controversial. It is not “Journalism” and is not meant as a substitute for independent objective news reporting.
“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.”
(attributed to George Orwell)
“News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising.”
(attributed to William Randolph Hearst)
What brand journalism is, is journalistic content made on behalf of a company or brand. Other names are corporate media, corporate storytelling, corporate journalism or brand storytelling.
Andy Bull, author of Brand Journalism, calls it is “a hybrid of traditional journalism, marketing and public relations.” It brings a reporter/producer’s editorial thinking and media skills together to create content for a business.
A practical strategy includes a mix of digital content, not just brand stories. Some content will be designed to drive traffic (SEO) and some will market your products and services. Brand journalism is not marketing content. It aims to to increase brand awareness and credibility by applying the journalistic skills of reporting and storytelling to create content on behalf of a company.
Some major B2B and B2C corporations have become leading players. You can see examples on sites for American Express Open Forum, Coca-Cola Journey. Red Bull’s Red Bulletin, Mayo Clinic News Network and Cleveland Clinic’s Health Essentials.
Becoming your own media outlet is not right for every business. It takes time, patience and a willingness to invest in setting up a system to consistently find and produce quality stories. Some businesses may simply want to outsource a few of these stories to freelancers to add to their existing blog. Other businesses may want to hire journalists and digital media producers, develop in-house brand newsrooms and content studios, create a separate digital magazine website, produce live web TV shows, podcasts and more.
That said, people love good stories and telling stories well is a powerful draw, For brands that commit to this approach, it’s a whole new way to connect with customers.
A modified version of this articles appeared on LinkedIn Pulse