In the second post in our series looking at brand journalism and where it fits into the digital communications job ecosystem, we outline three key ways in which hiring a journalist will sharpen up your content marketing offering. (If you missed it, here’s our series opener on what is brand journalism, who can do it and the value to business.)
The journalistic mindset can significantly sharpen up brand content in a number of ways but below are three journalistic approaches in particular that will directly improve content quality and engagement levels. [Transparency: this post was written by Fiona Cullinan, Firehead’s blog manager and a former journalist and editor in mainstream media.]
1. Less sloppy copy
One of the first things I learnt as a journalist was to cover Kipling’s ‘six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who’?
Finding out the hard facts is a fundamental tenet of journalism and reporters bring a level of detail to editorial stories that denotes honesty and builds trust with the reader. A brand journalist will naturally source all the basic details and make sure they are included up front rather than buried or forgotten. They will also verify the facts and attribute sources within the story.
A trained journalist will also help keep a brand safe because they know how far they can go when it comes to quoting copyright material and how to avoid other legal issues, such as libel.
2. Good nose for a story
The ability to spot a potential story, and dig to get a better one, is ingrained in the journalistic mindset. Just one interesting detail can set a brand journalists’s nose for a story twitching.
Let a journalist loose on your campaign or brand collateral and that brief bit of news buried on an intranet noticeboard or interesting stat from a slide in an exec’s Powerpoint presentation may generate a whole new article. Spotting stories of interest to the reader is a skill that may be missing in marketing departments, where activity is often brand and campaign-focused rather than reader or story-driven.
A good brand journalist or content marketer will also have zero tolerance for dull, fluffy or irrelevant content. They will be the ones asking: ‘Why are we publishing this, why would anyone want to read it?’ Which brings me to another key differentiator between journalist and marketer…
3. Readers’ advocate
If a brand is paying the journalist’s wages, there will always be points of conflict – would a journalist write something that featured a competitor, would they include a fair representation of a story, would they say anything negative about the business, for example?
Despite these concerns, the journalistic advantage when it comes to delivering good content is that he or she is primarily reader-driven and will always naturally write for the reader first, whereas the marketing mindset tends to be intrinsically embedded in a brand-first mentality.
Keeping it real for the reader should make for better, more engaging and more useful content on a day-to-day basis – and bring rewards for the brand.
What’s your experience?
Have you seen brand journalism in action? How has it made a difference to your digital comms? We’d love to include more examples as we blog more on this topic, plus Firehead is also looking for interviewees for our job insight blog series if there are any brand journalists who’d like to get in touch for our Q&A pack.
Image: (CC) Nic McPhee/Flickr
Next in the series and coming soon: Some shining examples of brand journalism.