Brand Journalism Connects: The Next Era of Business Communications

By Steve Kayser, Expert Access

QUESTION: What exactly is Brand Journalism … and why should any company care? I’ve heard David Henderson and David Meerman Scott write about it. But is there anything to it? Can a company really resist putting an obvious, or worse, disingenuous sales slant on  a topic?

EDITOR NOTE: Good question. I’m familiar with the concept of Brand Journalism, use it and am an advocate. The goal is to explore an issue, idea or story objectively without an obvious slant or “we’re the greatest”self-serving slant. Readers, customers and prospective buyers appreciate a good story told straight. Builds trust. Respect even. A lot of this is a backlash to traditional journalism. Many companies don’t have a prayer of getting coverage from the media because of the slashing and downsizing of the media workforce. So … tell your own story. Create your own news.

ANSWER: Since you mentioned David Henderson, he’s going to provide an in-depth answer. David lives and breathes the concept. He’s the expert.

David Henderson

David Henderson

DAVID E. HENDERSON is an accomplished author, veteran communications strategist, Washington-based consultant, speaker and award-winning former CBS News correspondent. He is president and owner of News Group Net LLC, specializing in online crisis management, issues advocacy and brand journalism. The firm is based in Washington, DC, with European representation in the U.K.  –

Over many years of working closely with chief executive officers and other leaders — first as a journalist for a major television network in the United States and now as a strategic communications advisor — I have seen how important it is for a communications program to be a “valued asset” in their eyes.

Today’s executives value unique business initiatives that deliver competitive advantages and meaningful results.

Unfortunately, many of the techniques of traditional public relations, marketing, communications and advertising have not changed in decades and are considerably less effective in the digital era. I’ve known many executives to view those traditional techniques as expense items, not assets for their companies.

That is one explanation for the growing and considerable interest in the technique of what is being called “brand journalism” – both in the U.S. and Europe – as a means to connect with audiences, broaden awareness and build trust in corporate brands.

Stated simply, brand journalism helps to create a timely competitive edge through the appeal of real news and corporate storytelling, created by professional journalists. It is an effective model for managing how a company, issue, image or brand is perceived and talked about.

Brand journalism is a refined and contemporary new approach to communications for a company or organization in today’s noisy and crowded world of traditional marketing. It creates clear distinction for what you have to say.

Using the credible principles and standards of journalism and legitimate news, brand journalism is particularly effective online through interactive news sites similar in appearance and style to websites of any other respected news source. Enhanced by news-style photos and video, audiences can easily recognize unique value.

While the original concept of brand journalism was spawned by forward-looking marketing experts some years ago, it is today neither a marketing discipline nor associated with PR. It is not about the traditional style of pushing out announcements, promotions or press releases that seldom get any attention.

I describe brand journalism as a seamless triangle of interaction and engagement that merges journalism, strategic communications and online technology in order to connect people … audiences.

The pillars of journalism – facts, openness, balance and transparency – work together with the core elements of strategic communications – visionary planning, research, clear messages and defined purpose. This chemistry becomes powerful when utilizing the vast spectrum of online communications tools that we have, just a click away on our computers.

At a time when the mainstream news media is struggling to maintain profitability and viability around the world — challenged by the spectrum of new resources for news and information-sharing offered by the Internet — brand journalism gives companies the ability to tell their own stories credibly, transparently and accurately.

Trust in what a company says has never been more important. After all, customers and consumers make buying decisions based somewhat on how a company behaves and what it says. Brand journalism gives an organization the power to manage its news through credible storytelling and clear, no-frills news writing — regardless of what other online voices may be saying.

Is contemporary brand journalism proven and successful as a business technique? Yes, absolutely.

In working together with a variety of companies and organizations, my company has found that brand journalism helps key audiences to better understand the value of products and services. Interestingly, we are often engaged by companies after traditional and more expensive PR and marketing attempts have failed.

What once was envisioned for marketing now creates unique differentiation, competitive positioning, leadership, and tangible return on investment for companies and organizations. Brand journalism is a valuable asset for companies that genuinely embrace the immediacy of the digital era and want to manage their own news … and, their own brand image.

Brand journalism today, I believe, defines who will stand in the spotlight of awareness and distinction and who will choose to remain in the shadows.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Brand Journalism, by David Meerman Scott.

Advantage of Brand Journalism Delivers, by David Henderson

Can Journalism Help Establish Your Brand? – David Henderson

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David Henderson

DAVID E. HENDERSON is an accomplished author, veteran communications strategist, Washington-based consultant, speaker and award-winning former CBS News correspondent.

He is president and owner of News Group Net LLC, specializing in online crisis management, issues advocacy and brand journalism. The firm is based in Washington, DC, with European representation in the U.K.

David is a leader in online communications, starting with his launch in 1999 of BoomerCafé.com, one of the most popular online magazines for baby boomers with active lifestyles. He remains Publisher of BoomerCafé. Since 2003 and the evolution of blog online technology, he has pioneered new and more influential communications purposes for the interactive and social media power of blogs. His personal opinion blog – DavidHenderson.com – focuses on trends in the fields of communications, online brand management and the media.

With extensive credentials in the field of strategic and crisis communications, image and reputation management and media outreach, he works with clients to create and strengthen original online content, deepen engagement through online communities and develop new business models for the digital era.

His most recent of four books is “Making News in the Digital Era,” published by iUniverse/Author Solutions in September 2009 (ISBN 978-1440153075). The book explores new marketing and brand management opportunities in the digital revolution and helps readers to navigate and make sense of the fluid and complex online media environment. David is also author of “Making News: A Straight-Shooting Guide to Media Relations.”

David has provided professional counsel to clients around the world on reputation management, media relations, crisis communications, and competitive leadership challenges. He has represented BBC News, CSX Transportation, RLTV, Imperial Sugar Company, Learjet, ICB Kuwait, National 4-H Council, Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board and numerous other leading corporations and organizations. Additionally, he is an advisor and thought-leader for public relations organizations on the changing mainstream and dynamic new-media online environments in the U.S. and Europe.

CONTACT:

To contact David go to David Henderson.com

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