What is a Brand Journalism Approach to Content Marketing?

May 2023

A group of employees, smiling as they collaborate and take a brand journalism approach to content marketing.

When it comes to writing marketing copy and content, anybody can put words on a page. But that page is as good as blank if it fails to tell a substantial story. At KWSM, we have spent the past 13+ years helping businesses tell their stories to better engage and connect with readers, establish themselves as authorities, and drive traffic and conversions. Our brand journalism approach to content marketing emphasizes telling the stories of the people behind a brand or company.

I have worked in the digital marketing industry for five years and spent years freelancing as a copywriter before I was able to find my home at an agency where I could do meaningful work in content marketing. At KWSM, we prioritize brand journalism and I’m getting to tell some amazing stories about our clients and the customers they serve. Along this journey, I’ve learned something important: There are two kinds of marketing writers in the world, copywriters and copywriters.

Some content mills (who shall remain nameless) reduce copywriting to an assembly line, ripping the heart and soul out of the words. These are copywriters; all that matters is putting words on a page. Brand journalism, however, requires copywriters. These people identify and tell a compelling story about a company to better engage with readers, establish authority and trust, and create a long-lasting relationship between businesses and customers.

This journalistic approach to digital marketing pays off in driving leads, showcasing employer branding, and improving search engine optimization as Google combats the imminent AI incursion. By positioning businesses as thought leaders and connecting with their audiences, brand journalism creates demand, loyalty, interest, and, ultimately, conversions.

What is a Brand Journalism Approach to Content Marketing?

Brand journalism is a form of content marketing with the traits of traditional news media, like investigative research, real-life interviews, and commentary from experts in the field. It is more concerned with aligning the content with the experiences of the target audience and is objective, honest, informative, and focused on establishing a brand identity instead of generating sales.

Unlike conventional content marketing, which is focused on products and services, you aren’t just writing sales copy; you’re telling an engaging brand story. Key elements of brand journalism include:

  • Integrating journalistic skills into your content creation
  • Using an objective POV to give stories a journalistic polish
  • Telling stories about the humans behind your brand and the humans your brand helps
  • Using your social media accounts, website, YouTube channel, and other platforms to gain traction and spread the word
  • Building brand awareness and affinity
  • Finding and telling stories that convey the brand identity and personality

“Brand journalism highlights the heart and soul of a company, as well as the experience and expertise, by telling stories that are unique to that brand. This type of content is engaging for the audience, and creates an emotional connection – which in turn drives consumers to seek more information and build a relationship with the brand.” – Katie Wagner, President, KWSM

How is an Example of Brand Journalism for Content Marketing?

The brand journalism approach to content marketing humanizes businesses through storytelling. Here are three different ways you can leverage this tactic:

Driving Leads with Brand Journalism

When implemented by an experienced digital marketing agency, a brand journalism approach to content marketing sustainably generates high-quality leads by addressing your audience’s pain points and wants, and needs. You’re giving them direction, building your brand awareness, and growing an affinity between the brand and its customers. 

Case Study: One client I write for is a trust litigation law firm. They partnered with KWSM to drive more leads. I worked to establish a brand voice and identity and position them as industry authorities by conveying their story.  

In order to create powerful content, I have interviewed the attorneys at the firm about the kinds of cases they frequently work on and the circumstances surrounding them, their expert insights on relevant news stories, trends in trust litigation, and what distinguishes them from other firms in the space. I write articles from their POV that align with their core values, brand story, and personal experiences.

In one instance, we posted a third party article on their LinkedIn company page along with insights from one of the partners who disagreed with the findings of the article. The article, essentially, said that employees were losing more cases because of remote court proceedings during COVID, but she argued that they were winning more cases based on her experience in trial.

Because we leveraged her expertise and seasoned insights, the post reached thousands of attorneys who either agreed or disagreed with her point. Still, the effect was the same: it drove engagement, traffic and impressions. 

The content we create for this law firm consistently generates inquiries and leads. Over the last year, the firm has experienced:

  • Nearly 700,000 impressions on their content
  • Over 52,000 page views on their website
  • Nearly 12,500 clicks on content
  • Over 370 first-page keyword results

The results continue to grow with each piece of content that we publish.

Brand Journalism for Employer Branding

Marketing isn’t always customer-centric. I’ve used brand journalism in content marketing strategies to help several clients overhaul their employer identities. Take, for example, one of my clients in the marine services industry. 

Case Study: This client came to KWSM for help improving retention and attracting new employees. We devised campaigns to target current employees and prospective employees that showcased their award-winning culture.

How did we tell the unique story of the employee experience? Well, like any journalist worth their salt, I talked to the employees directly and extensively, which required thoroughly preparing questions and interviewing people with first-hand experience. 

We had our video department film interviews and used both video and text to tell their story in a way that would resonate with current and prospective employees alike.

In one piece, I wrote a memorial for an industry legend who was an Executive Vice President at the company at the time of his passing. I interviewed someone close to him, so I could understand who I was writing about. The client said the memorial blog I wrote brought them to tears. I didn’t just announce his passing; I put his legacy into words. 

This is the power of brand journalism. I showed current and prospective employees how the company appreciates and celebrates their people, and I used this story to demonstrate that they create a deeper connection with their employees, positioning it as an ideal workplace. 

This blog’s performance reflects the impact it had. Because we appealed to the employees who knew him and told his story, this post has been one of our top-performing blogs. It has had 899 page views over 2 months, 300 (34%) of these people have revisited it, and when it was posted on social media, it was one of the highest engaged posts.

“Thank you, Josh, for putting your heart into this story. I was brought to tears reading this and remembering my friend.” – Client

The writing I have done for this client has realized continuous improvement in SEO rankings, employee engagement, and job applications:

  • Improvement in SEO rankings: When we started blogging for this client in October, their site received 372 clicks and 5,953 impressions. One month later, we saw an immediate increase to 453 clicks and 6,022 impressions. Six months later we saw a 65% jump in clicks to 612 and a 99% jump in impressions to 11,820.
  • Improvement in employee engagement: We send our blog posts out in an email newsletter that only goes to employees. The open rate since we started this campaign has been 62.54% and the click average has been 15.3%. The industry average for both of these metrics? 16.93% and 1.68%, respectively. 
  • Improvement in conversions/job applications: Before we started blogging in July of 2022, the average number of applications our client received was 86 per month. In March of 2023, the average monthly number of applications skyrocketed 56% to 134, and our client has also reported an improvement in the quality of applicants.

“Using brand journalism in Employer Branding helps companies share their team’s story and how their people grow culturally within the business. This is growing more valuable for businesses looking to retain their top talent and attract those star candidates who may feel unfulfilled working at a competitor. This is brand journalism at its core, sharing the stories through experiences and emotions of those who serve your clients or customers well.” – Jeff Soto, Vice-President, Strategy and Client Relations, KWSM.

Search Engine Optimization with Brand Journalism

Brand journalism also offers SEO benefits. As Google continues to evolve and adapt to the introduction of AI, businesses must evolve and adapt, too, or they risk falling in rankings and conversions. 

E-E-A-T is a criterion Google emphasizes that helps determine whether a piece of content is valuable. If Google recognizes the content as valuable, you naturally rank higher. This is done by establishing first-hand experience and genuine authority on a topic. E-E-A-T stands for:

  • Experience
  • Expertise
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trustworthiness (arguably the most important)

You have probably heard of ChatGPT and other AI tools that rapidly create content. Google has updated its search quality guidelines to combat this. E-E-A-T homes in on the limitations of AI because it can never truly replicate the human element of writing. 

Ultimately, a brand journalism approach to content marketing is more important than ever because, when implemented correctly, it satisfies all the E-E-A-T criteria, boosts rankings on Google search engine results pages (SERPs), amplifies traffic, and drives leads and conversions. 

Why Brand Journalism is Important

Brand journalism is an important component of a strong digital strategy in 2023 and beyond. By establishing authority and trust, businesses see more conversions. Many customers have the same gripe about businesses: they seem inauthentic. 

I regularly help clients establish an authentic and cohesive identity and a reliable journalistic voice – from their website to their social media to their email campaigns – in order to generate leads. No matter the company’s size, this is the foundation for marketing success.

I’ve worked with marketing agencies and companies in different corners of the world. One thing is clear: Trust is the ace up the sleeve for small businesses. It’s what makes customers choose them over larger, possibly more convenient competitors. 

Case Study: For one of my clients, an accountant, I have weekly calls to discuss the ins and outs of her work to get expert insights, and we’ve worked closely to refine the voice and tone to be more engaging and reflective of her identity and values. 

I ask questions about what separates her services and gather real-life examples of the benefits she offers. Using these personal accounts and insights, I craft a compelling narrative that tells her story. The results?

She receives several leads per week and consistently says she’s too busy to take them all on, which is a good problem to have. Plus, we edit the copy live, so I can hear the genuine human reactions, like laughter when she reads it – which is what good writing should evoke. 

Every Company Has A Story, And KWSM’s Brand Journalists Ensure It’s Told Well

As a copywriter, I can tell you that not all copy is created equal. But there’s still a silver lining: We control the quality of the copy we create. Ensuring your copy is engaging, informative, authoritative, and effective is the basis of a brand journalism approach to content marketing

Your organization’s story is, in many ways, its greatest asset. Fill out the contact form below to schedule a consultation with the KWSM Team to start telling that story and reaping the rewards.

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