Three types of brand journalism (with examples)

What does brand journalism look like in practice? In the third post in our brand journalism series, we look at a selection of examples to see the breadth of brand journalism in this emerging digital comms specialism.

Some define brand journalism as providing content that engages or informs a target audience about a brand’s products or services, as opposed to posting a series of press releases or top-down brand-oriented articles. But while writing timely, engaging content for customers is part of the brand journalist’s role, this definition is broad and fits more with content marketing in general.

In our series opener, we defined brand journalism as a niche within content marketing: the act of applying “the skills, approach and mindset of journalism to corporate content”. Taking a more journalistic approach can significantly affect how businesses tell their stories, the type of stories they tell, and readers’ view of and trust in a brand.

We’ve rounded up some brand journalism/content marketing examples that follow this more niche, journalist-oriented definition. What they all have in common is that it is a business brand hosting the news, features and other media stories on site – not an independent media brand.

1. Brand journalism produced in-house or via an agency

oracle eloqua blogCase study: Eloqua and ‘It’s all about the revenue’ blog.

Jesse Noyes is a former journalist who went to work as a corporate reporter for marketing company, Eloqua. Formerly a business reporter for the Boston Herald and the Boston Business Journal, Noyes moved over to corporate publishing where he applied his  journalist’s skills, contacts and knowledge on the company blog.

His bosses wanted to make use of his ‘real deal’ journalistic skills and not get in the way of a reporter’s fast, newsy workflow so Noyes was given the freedom to choose his own topics and hunt out stories of interest to customers. But Eloqua also made sure that he was integrated into the marketing team, kept abreast of the content strategy and trained in video production in order to help tell his stories in more engaging ways.

Read about the impact hiring a journalist in-house had on the company and see some of the customer-focused examples of the content from Eloqua’s ‘It’s all about the revenue’ blog. Recent examples of posts include:

  • dataviz charts
  • list posts/tips
  • slideshows
  • news updates
  • conference coverage
  • keynote expert takeaways
  • case studies
  • video tutorials
  • expert interviews

2. Brand journalism sites that target a specific buyer persona

HSBC Business without borders homepageCase study: HSBC and Business Without Borders.

David Meerman Scott, author of ‘The New Rules of Marketing and PR’, who coined the phrase ‘brand journalism’, said HSBC’s drive to ‘help businesses grow internationally’ is brand journalism done right:

“Business without Borders is a terrific example of brand journalism at work. It is a site specifically designed for an important HSBC buyer persona – people responsible for expanding US [and 10 other territories so far] businesses into international markets.

Unlike in-your-face product advertising that you see from most financial institutions, HSBC is actually supplying valuable information that their customers and potential customers can use to drive success. “

Here is the global edition of Business Without Borders but there are at least 10 regional editions featuring localised content. The HSBC logo runs across all of them but the content is reader-targeted rather than  brand-focused, and covers:

  • syndicated editorial (from the Economist group, Wall Street Journal and others)
  • tools and date (forecast reports, country guides)
  • global/regional trade news
  • 24 industry sectors
  • business survey data
  • topical content
  • strategies and analysis

While being of use to the business reader with an eye on international expansion, HSBC’s presence in building the site underlines the brand message that it is a global bank – one that businesses can take with them when realising international growth ambitions.

3. Brand journalism sites that create (and report) the news

Red Bull Stratos homepageCase study: Red Bull and Felix Baumgartner.

Probably one of the most quoted brand journalism examples, Red Bull has taken brand journalism and, as they say, given it wings. Brand journalists aren’t usually involved in creating the news, just reporting it, but Red Bull has become both a news-maker and a media brand, first to market with its own daredevil stories.

When it sponsored Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s 39km-high jump from the edge of space in 2012, it set up a rolling news site via multiple digital reporting strands on, featuring:

  • website
  • live stream
  • blog
  • photography
  • video
  • timeline
  • quick share mission facts and stats
  • dataviz
  • interactive infographics
  • social media share data
  • (and ultimately) a TV documentary

With the Red Bull logo right there at the top, a soft drinks brand had made the news that others were reading, writing about, commenting on and distributing via social networks. Red Bull’s writers covered it as a big media brand would – via news updates, contextual features, TV, social media – but also more in-depth to facilitate  PR coverage.

At this point, it would be fair to say that Red Bull has diversified from its core product and developed into a media brand in its own right.

More examples

What other types of brand journalism have you seen in action? We’d love to hear about them in the comments and add them to our forthcoming Brand Journalism Starter Kit.

[Transparency: this post was written by Fiona Cullinan, Firehead’s blog manager and brand journalist, following many years spent as a journalist and editor in mainstream media.]

Next in the series and coming soon: Brand journalism starter kit – links to get you up to speed.

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