Making Sense of Brand Journalism and Content Marketing

With the decline of traditional media and the rise of online and social media outlets, a new approach to public relations and communications is necessary to maximize exposure and stay top of mind. Some agencies will look to do “brand journalism” for their clients, others will tout “content marketing” efforts. What does that mean, though, and how can it help you?

Brand journalism and content marketing must be part of your overall strategic communications plan to succeed in today’s market. That plan should also consider more traditional community and media relations tactics to create broader reach and synergy through coordinated efforts. At Devaney & Associates, we use a holistic approach to PR that incorporates all of these elements. Here’s how we define them.

Brand journalism consists of creating news stories for a specific audience, often about information relating to a specific company or brand. It uses investigation, research and reporting to deliver news of interest to a target audience. Those stories may or may not focus on the brand or company creating them, but they will always convey expertise and be of interest for the audience. Essentially, brand journalism is journalism with a point of view, as opposed to the impartial reporting that typifies traditional journalism.

Content marketing is the process of creating and curating information of relevance and value to your audience with the specific goal of influencing behavior.  Content marketing material usually focuses on some benefit to the consumer. It may provide education or entertainment, or some functional utility. News stories produced under brand journalism efforts may be part of your content marketing strategy.

The difference between the two is in intent. Brand journalism focuses on reporting on stories that reinforce a brand’s positioning and create awareness and affinity for the brand. Brand journalism does not seek to influence consumer behavior, but to influence consumer attitudes and perceptions and reinforce the brand’s positioning. Content marketing uses stories, information and entertainment to influence levels of affinity, engagement with a company or brand. Content marketing uses a range of platforms to influence not just how the audience thinks about a brand, but how the audience interacts with the brand.

Both brand journalism and content marketing may use free or low cost distribution channels, but they require resources to be done well. Take a look at these top content marketing campaigns from 2014 (http://www.exacttarget.com/blog/the-30-most-genius-content-marketing-examples-of-2014-so-far/) and you’ll notice that all of them are the result of great planning and dedicated resources to execute the plan. The same goes for brand journalism. Take a look at GEreports.com, for example. Or visit Coca Cola’s website, which was revamped starting in 2013 to function as an integrated brand journalism experience. Both of these sites have invested heavily in brand journalism, and it’s paid off for them.

Brand journalism influences attitude. Content marketing influences interaction. Integrated into a strategic marketing and communications plan, they can create strong positive opinion and relationships with a brand that are deep and enduring.