What is brand journalism's role?

There is much debate about the role that brand journalism plays. No matter where you stand on the issue, it’s undeniable that there are 3 things that will make a brand journalism effort successful.

I have been having discussions lately about the role of brand journalism. One of the big questions is, “Should brand journalism show an organization’s warts?”In trying to offer a point of view on this, I’ve come to the conclusion that this may not be the place to start the discussion.

Let’s start with talking about what brand journalism is. If you ask the sales guys, they’ll tell you that it’s a way to move prospects down the sales funnel. If you ask the content marketing folks, they’ll tell you it’s the best way to help prospects move towards a buying decision.

It’s a subtle difference, but an important one.

The sales people tend to oppose showing anything that could be construed as negative. The content marketing people will tell you that being transparent and honest will build trust with your prospects, and that’s more powerful than any sales message.

So, should brand journalism show an organization’s warts? The answer is a definitive, “It depends.” It depends on where an organization is. We’ve seen this with clients at my firm. Some organizations are more ready than others.

Rather than debate this, let’s put the question aside and focus on what can make brand journalism successful. It comes down to three things:

  1. Understand your audience - nothing leads to quality brand journalism like truly understanding your audience. It’s really the only way to ensure you will create something that is useful to them.
  2. Identify their challenge or opportunity - if your intent is to offer real help, then you need to have a solid handle on what they’re facing. Plus, understanding their challenge or opportunity ensures that the content you create will be right on target for your audience.
  3. Offer them something relevant and valuable - create something that helps them move towards a decision. It could be a tool, a comparison, an educational piece, and more. Be generous with your help and you’ll have a prospect that moves quickly to become a customer.