Introduction, from the book. Find the companion website here: www.brand-journalism.co.uk
What the Brand Journalism project is about
This book is about how to do journalism for a brand.
And by brand I mean any organisation: any corporation, B2B or B2C company, any government department or quango, any third-sector body, any charity, cause or campaign. The book demonstrates how any organisation can use brand journalism to help it attain its business and marketing goals, and shows how it can function effectively as a publisher.
What brand journalism is
Brand journalism is a hybrid form of traditional journalism, marketing and public relations. It has emerged as a reaction to what Tom Foremski, a former Financial Times journalist now reporting on Silicon Valley, has dubbed EC=MC: Every Company is a Media Company. (1)
Brand journalism is a response to the fact that any organisation can now use journalistic techniques to tell its story direct to the public.
But while it is rooted in some of the main principles of traditional journalism and good storytelling, creating stories that are timely and compelling, it also differs from traditional journalism. There are serious issues over balance, independence and fairness that must be addressed, and we shall.
Brand journalism's hybrid nature also sees it incorporate core elements from strategic PR and marketing communications: visionary planning, research, incisive messages, a defined purpose, and a requirement to quantify what has been achieved through it.
The result is an integrated, brand journalism-driven communications strategy.
Because brand journalism is a new and still-evolving discipline, there is much disagreement about its validity, the form it should take, the value it represents and the threats it may pose to traditional journalism.
This book takes a direct and practical approach to its subject. By bringing together 97 case studies of how a wide range of small and large commercial organisations, charities, campaigns, government departments, public bodies and others are actually using it, this book aims to be the first comprehensive, practical guide to how to do brand journalism.
Who this book is for
This book, and its companion website, are designed for journalists, for brands, and for those working for brands: in brand management, marketing, public relations, communications and customer service.
For journalists, it’s about how to bring the skills you learned, or are learning, on your undergraduate or postgraduate journalism course, into the alien environment of an organisation that is not principally a media company. It also provides an essential guide for any working journalist who is switching from employment by a media organisation to working for a brand.
For brands and their non-journalist employees, it shows, now that every company is (or could be) a media company, how brand journalism can be made to work for you.
What we cover is also known variously as content marketing, inbound marketing, brand storytelling or – most colloquially - how to sell without selling. Whatever you call it, our focus is on how journalistic techniques can be used to transform the quality of the material brands use to communicate with their communities of customers, clients, supporters, whatever.
We focus on those areas of content where journalism can do most to help; where journalists' skills and creativity can have the most impact. We don't deal directly with the wider context of content strategy – for example, the processes surrounding the creation and maintenance of the many hundreds of pages of basic service or product-focused information that many brand websites have to carry. That's not to say good journalistic writing can't help in any context. It can, and what we cover here can be applied across the content-creation board.
What the book will teach
To exploit the enormous potential of brand journalism as a business tool, a brand will need to introduce a new skill-set within the organisation. It will need an editor-in-chief and a team of brand journalists, either in-house or run externally by a third party. It will need to give brand-journalism training to those within marketing, public relations, communications and customer service who will be creating content and engaging with customers or clients via social media and other platforms.
The book puts creating journalism for a brand in the context of the organisation’s business or marketing goals. It covers establishing brand journalism strategies to help deliver those goals; monitoring the performance of that journalism; and using monitoring and analytics to demonstrate the return on investment that the brand journalism strategy has delivered.
How and why this book is different
As far as I am aware, there are no other books on brand journalism. There are a number on content marketing, but they tend to be heavy on process, and light on how to create the right content. This book aims for a better balance. While we cover the processes involved in creating, implementing and managing a brand journalism strategy, we put greater emphasis on analysing how particular brands are writing on their websites and blogs, developing customer magazines, engaging on Twitter, Facebook and other social media, creating video, apps and games.
Most journalism textbooks are written from the perspective of students getting a job with a publisher or broadcaster. That made sense when most journalism jobs were offered by media companies. It makes a lot less sense now that jobs in traditional journalism are nosediving, while this large new market in brand journalism is developing. The Brand Journalism project is designed to address and correct that mis-match.
What this book won’t do is teach the basics of doing modern social, mobile and multimedia journalism. I covered all that in Multimedia Journalism: A Practical Guide, (www.multimedia-journalism.co.uk Routledge 20120) which is a comprehensive programme that takes journalism students through from day one to graduation, covering every practical, journalistic aspect of a journalism course.
This book, Brand Journalism, is about applying those broad journalistic skills to working for a non-media organisation. But its companion website, www.brand-journalism.co.uk will offer a full range of support for any reader who has gaps in their training, or whose skills need updating.
The website will feature guidace in the use of the platforms we cover here, plus many links to sources of further teaching and information, including to Multimedia Journalism itself. There will also be essential updates, to keep everything entirely current as brand journalism develops as a discipline.
You’ll find this learning programme most valuable if you are able to apply what we cover to a real-life brand journalism operation, or to a brand-specific project you are working on.