Do companies need brand journalism?

Adelle Horler is group head of content at New Media.

It’s been around for over 120 years, so something must be working, said Adelle Horler in an interview with Media Update.

Media Update: What exactly is brand journalism?

Adelle: Brand journalism – content created for or by a brand – has a lot of forms, from hard-sell advertorial to content marketing, which in its ideal form offers useful information that customers want, that makes them feel positive towards that brand. Native advertising is also a form of brand journalism, but differs in that the brand creates meaningful content and then pays to have it placed on independently owned channels that deliver a desired audience.

When did brand journalism become a thing?

Content marketing and native advertising may feel like pretty current buzzwords, but brands have been creating content to support their products for centuries.

The first brand magazine is believed to be The Furrow from John Deere, which offered advice to farmers. That was created in 1895, it’s still going strong in 40 countries.

The Michelin Guide was first published in 1900, with motoring advice and travel tips. Clearly their content strategy was ‘get out there and burn more rubber!’

American Express was a courier company in 1850, then added a travel service in 1915. By 1922 they were producing travel guides for their customers – it was natural move to branded content.

How does brand journalism differ from traditional journalism?

In terms of the quality of journalism, it shouldn’t differ at all. If it’s going to be trusted, it needs to meet – even exceed – the high standards of good consumer journalism.

Its aims are similar too. Like a traditional journalist, a branded content creator wants the consumer to feel something, to be informed or entertained.

But this is publishing with an agenda – the content has been paid for, and the desired outcome is that the consumer feels positively towards that brand. However, when it’s done properly, the consumer is prepared to accept branded content because the information is sufficiently useful and valuable.

It’s important though that the consumer is absolutely clear that the communication comes from a brand. Try to hide or disguise the ‘sell’ and you’ll lose trust – and possibly that customer.

What is the aim of brand journalism?

According to the Content Marketing Institute, nine out of 10 companies in North America are marketing themselves through content, because it’s often a better way to engage customer attention than through a hard-sell, one-way push advertisement.

Good content marketing solves a customer’s problem or provides useful information they’re actively searching for. That way they choose to engage with the brand, rather than having the brand broadcast at them. When a brand is giving you the solutions you want, you’re more inclined to choose them when your wallet is open.

How does one do brand journalism well?

Good brand journalism solves a customer’s problem, it’s often that simple. New Media Publishing produces Woolworths Taste, and the concept is extremely simple but massively effective. Through recipes and advice the magazine and website explain what you can do with Woolworths food products, which is a far more compelling temptation to buy than a straightforward product push.

There’s so much content out there, and not all of it’s good. An advantage of branded journalism is that it’s often the most credible, because brands must get it right if they’re to keep their audience. If you want to make perfect Hollandaise sauce, who are you more likely to trust: the Taste experts, or a shaky, homemade online video?

The ‘how to’ section on Taste complements a wealth of searchable recipes – there’s a huge amount for customers or any food lover.

Another good example is content New Media creates for Mediclinic. Both the online Info Hub and quarterly magazine distributed in the Group’s hospitals equips patients and visitors with information on health and hospital procedures, which demystifies what can sometimes be a scary process. Crucially, the content quotes Mediclinic doctors so the credibility is built in – and that neatly reflects Mediclinic’s vision statement, which is expertise you can trust.

That’s the key to good content marketing – offer value and utility, and the brand message will communicate itself.

Anything to add? Please comment below.

Written by Adelle Horler

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