The marketing world is full of disorienting buzzwords. “ROAS.” “Snackable.” “Turnkey.” It’s enough to make you question whether or not you’re in a simulation.
One buzzword, however, is as legitimate as it is catchy: brand journalism. If you haven’t heard of it, I’m here to enlighten you on its power when it comes to content marketing.
Brand journalism content marketing hasn’t been around for long, because brand journalism itself didn’t arise until 2004. It’s a journalistic approach to marketing that centers around telling engaging brand stories rather than shoving product features and benefits down the throats of consumers.
What it makes for is a more conversational, authoritative style of content marketing, one that stages you or your clients’ companies as industry experts worth trusting, following, and buying from. Whether you’re representing your brand or several at an agency as I do, brand journalism is effective across the board.
To find out why brand journalism is the ideal way of sharing brand stories nowadays, and how to reach your audiences through compelling narrative-first content, be sure to contact KWSM for support.
Brand Journalism, Defined
The root concept of brand journalism was born within the walls of a globally-loved brand, and my go-to breakfast before a long drive: good ‘ol McDonald’s.
In 2004, McDonald’s CMO Larry Light realized that mass marketing needed a better way of telling stories. He adopts brand journalism: a way of recording “what happens to a brand in the world” and basing advertising on those elements. Over time, the collection of these ads would tell a brand’s broader story.
It’s all about telling journalism-style stories about brands that answer reader questions, strike an emotional chord, and build credibility through a unique voice – all while avoiding sales-esque language.
When you partner with KWSM as your digital marketing agency, you’ll work with writers who are brand journalists and know how to tell your story the way it deserves to be told.
When sharing a company’s story, be it your own or a client’s, there are a few standards to keep in mind.
Brand Journalism in Content Marketing
When Larry Light thought up brand journalism, content marketing hadn’t even been born yet. It was 2004. The year Facebook first went live in Zuck’s dorm room.
However, the general idea of brand journalism isn’t tough to deconstruct and reapply to content marketing. It’s journalistic. It tells a story people can relate to. It engages potential customers with a conversation, rather than inundating them with blasts of nonsensical visuals and copy.
So while Light never offered a blueprint for content marketers, only traditional advertisers, the idea is fairly self-explanatory: gather all you need to tell your company’s or clients’ stories in their unique voices and tones. There are a couple of ways you can do this. The third tip is for when you actually put pen to paper.
Brand journalism is centered around either your or your client’s story, and what better way to capture it than with a direct interview?
Say you represent a client, whether you’re a freelance writer/marketer or at an agency. In the past, most of your monthly blog topics could be researched online and stitched within the hour, right? Half research, half writing.
Not only is this contrary to brand journalism, but Google’s newest E-E-A-T standard probably won’t take to the stitching. That’s when you pull up a few articles and take a bit from each for your own piece. Even if you link it, you’re obviously not the expert on it, and Google will find that out – and probably keep you low on the rankings. They need to know that the writer has the experience they say they do.
So, you interview the person who’s supposed to be the expert. A phone or video call is always best. An email with a list of questions is runner-up in quality, but the winner in convenience.
I do both every month for a handful of clients. Video calls tend to last longer, and I get a reservoir of information to sift through and work with. When a client needs to resort to email, it’s not as time-consuming, but less context is never better for a writer. We’d rather have that firehose of data to read through, rather than fill in the blanks and risk a false ad-lib.
During these interviews, it’s important to look out for possible quotes. Your client might say something unique, punchy, insightful, or a beautiful combination of the three. When it happens, be sure to capture it.
“Original,” Quoted Material
I throw quotes around “original” because, let’s face it, there are only so many words we can write.
When we speak, we have tone, pace, and pitch – on top of our already unique voices – to distinguish us. When we write, we’re limited to Merriam’s word bank. It’s only natural for some things to sound similar.
Still, gathering distinct quotes from your clients (or internal members if you’re pulling some employer branding/in-house) will keep your content on a journalistic level, since it’s coming straight from the source.
After nearly two years of this, I often forget I’m in digital marketing. The technical tactics remain, sure, but gone are my habits of 100% research-based and SEO-led articles and web copy. My weeks are full of client interviews to gather information and quotes, rather than hours of research for the same information, but without that narrative foundation that truly touches readers. This brings up another point.
Brand journalism is writing for humans. With an SEO element, definitely, but not led by it. Here’s what I mean.
Keeping It Human
Brand journalism is still a marketing tactic, and digital marketing still largely leans on healthy SEO strategies. If you’re telling your company’s or a client’s story online, SEO will still matter.
Keyword research surely won’t go away. Neither will on-page SEO such as header structure, optimized metadata, or proper alt tags.
But nowadays, with Google’s E-E-A-T standard emphasizing clearer experience with that extra “E,” classic copywriting tips such as stitching and leading with SEO are fading away. And you thought I was going to bring up ChatGPT.
Keywords are here to stay. Only, with brand journalism, they don’t lead our blog articles or web copy. We tell the client’s story first and plug in those elements later, because the messaging should revolve around the client’s narrative – not a set of phrases that are ranked by robots.
This keeps our writing human and audience-first. Focused on what the reader wants, while still employing those foundational (and advanced) SEO tactics.
Brand Journalism Content Marketing: Telling Stories the Right Way
Tell your company’s story the way it was meant to and reach your audiences in a way never thought possible. Our content and copywriters will adapt to your brand’s voice and tone seamlessly while employing tactical SEO strategies that build your audiences.
Contact KWSM today to tell your story the right way.