If you saw the blog post on Monday, I promised to talk a bit more about letting your content do the work while your brand reaps the benefits. That post was about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon and how unrelated ice is to Lou Gehrig’s Disease. This post takes that same theme of unrelatedness and expands it into an entire strategy.
If you happen to have HBO or be the kind of person who acquires their TV online regardless of where it first aired, you may be aware of the show ‘Last Week Tonight’ featuring John Oliver of Daily Show fame. Oliver did an amazing piece on ‘native advertising’, which is very close to what Internet marketers are calling ‘brand journalism’. In short, native advertising is when you put disclaimers on a news-lookalike story so that it’s nearly impossible to tell what is advertisement and what is actual news, but the intent is to sell a product or service rather than inform the public. It’s also often called ‘sponsored content.’
Brand journalism, however, is on the other side of the coin. Brand journalism is essentially actual journalism — complete with actual research and actual reporting — that just happens to be sponsored by a brand. In fact, in the Oliver piece above, he points out an infographic produced to advertise the next season of Orange Is the New Black, and mentions that the information is real and the story is good — we would call that ‘brand journalism.’
So why is this an important distinction? Well, on Monday I said this:
When you want to get people talking about something, you have to start with something that people want to talk about. It’s not your product or service that’s going to get people talking — it’s the sheer cool factor of whatever content you create that will do that.
One of the easiest way to find that ‘cool factor’ that you’re looking for is to actually find newsworthy, industry-related stories and publish them. In short, it’s creating content that’s intended to meet the consumer’s needs, not the creator’s needs — which has always been the essential difference between the news and an advertisement. When you start appealing to the needs of your consumer rather than the desires of your business, but you keep that logo, that ‘sponsored by’, and those other small connections between your content and the entity that pays for that content, you’ve moved from native advertising to brand journalism.
And while that move may seem like a very small shift along a graded axis of moral questionability from an outside perspective, the things that it does to your business are enormous. When you shift the focus onto ‘what would the consumer like to read about,’ rather than ‘what do we want the consumer to read about,’ you shift the fundamental focus of your entire marketing team advertising department consumer outreach division.
In a way, this takes us full circle — back in the days when you had to go to a movie theater to see news clips that came on before the film started, those news clips came with 4-5 second “sponsored by Bayer”-type ads. Today, we’re starting the process of taking out the middle man and having Bayer (or whomever) simply have a journalism department that finds and publishes the news directly — and while the wisdom of that move on a societal level is questionable, it’s proving to be a successful enough business tactic that I fully expect brand journalism to become a new milestone in content marketing.