Brand journalism starter kit

Brand journalism is on the rise and many content marketers are recommending hiring a journalist to improve communications, marketing and ROI. Whether you’re a journalist, a marketer or PR, or a client interested in hiring, we end our brand journalism blog series with a list of resources all about this developing specialism in the field of digital communications.

What is brand journalism?

Some use the term interchangeably with content marketing but there is debate over this and we’re on the side that says brand journalism is not just writing marcomms ‘in a journalistic style’ but actually creating journalistic content. While a journalist can’t be editorially free and objective when paid for a brand, transparency is key to trust so that readers can clearly understand any potential bias. Let’s start with four articles offering definitions of brand journalism – the truth probably lies somewhere in between.

1. Brand journalism – what is it, who can do it and what’s the value to business?
Due to the nature of the job, brand journalism is most often carried out by hired journalists or a content marketers with a journalistic background, although it is also becoming a term for a type of content marketing: “…essentially brand journalism applies the skills, approach and mindset of journalism to corporate content, and this can significantly affect how businesses tell their stories and the type of stories they tell.”

2. Brand News World – The Rise of Brand Journalism“Let’s be clear: brand journalism is not content marketing. Content marketing develops content related to your brand, thinking how the brand can benefit from it, whereas brand journalism looks at how an audience can benefit from content that has been created by the brand.”

3. The Role of Brand Journalism in Content Marketing
“[At SXSW 2012] content marketing strategist Erica Swallow offered an excellent definition of the term: “research, storytelling and reporting for a non-media company, in that company’s line of business, with the goal of thought leadership.”

4. Brand journalism defined
“[Brand journalism] is rooted in the principles of traditional journalism and good storytelling.

  • It creates stories that are factual, balanced, well-investigated, timely and compelling.
  • It must embrace transparency, an understanding of news values, and relevance to the concerns of an audience.
  • It uses the full range of multimedia – including HD video, audio and photography – to tell stories.
  • It invites a two-way conversation around those stories on the full range of social media platforms.
  • It marries this journalism with the core elements of strategic PR and marketing communications – visionary planning, research, incisive messages and a defined purpose.”


Discussion groups

White papers

Books / ebooks


For the text-weary, Ragan Communications has put together a seven-part series discussing brand journalism on video with a focus on corporate news sites. Here are the topics; each interview is just a few minutes long:

10 presentations on brand journalism

10 brand journalism examples / case studies

10 good reads on brand journalism

1. Are you seeking a content editor or a brand journalist?
“We’re currently hiring at First 10. A friend asked me what kind of roles we’re looking to fill. My response was, “two brand journalists“. She was puzzled, “do you mean PRs“, she said? “…aren’t there loads of people in marketing who can write?” My response: “Not really, it’s a different blend of skill-sets and a totally different motivation.” Five reasons brand journalists are different follows.

2. When Journalists Cross Over
The story of Steve Wildstrom who left Businessweek in 2009 and now writes for Cisco.

3. Brands, journalists and the truth about “brand journalism”
One on the ethical clash of brand vs journalism. “If we are to take brand journalism seriously, perhaps Paxman is the journalistic model to keep in mind: informed, insightful, mischievous, never dull, but merciless on obfuscation, evasion and cant.”

4. Brand Journalism: Ethics, Opportunities & Outcomes
A SXSW Interactive panel review: “Whether or not we call it ‘brand journalism’ is still up for debate, but really, that’s just semantics. Bob Garfield (who started out his panel discussion by saying ‘Brand journalism.  Really??’”) summed up the discussion nicely, saying, ‘It may not be actual journalism but it can be revealing, informational, and can use journalistic platforms and formats.’”

Business strategy
5. Seth Godin on brand journalism?
Marketing guru Seth Godin on his worries: “Changing the marketing without changing the underpinnings of the business is almost always a bad strategy. If all the people, the systems, the real estate, the factories and the menus are organized around monolithic marketing, slapping a little brand journalism on top isn’t going to work awfully well.”

6. Brand Journalism in the real world #smch9
A review of a SXSW Interactive panel on brand journalism in the real world.

7. Brand journalism – how the marketing department of today is tomorrow’s social media newsroom
“The reality is that, if they are to really engage with their customers and drive awareness of their brand, “modern” marketers need to create new content every day that promotes and encourages dialogue with their target audience. They must also monitor new blog entries, videos and other items using (for example) RSS feeds or Twitter. Managing this process is only possible when the work is properly organised, much the way that a newsroom is.”

8. Brand journalism success in 10 not-so-easy steps
A list that goes back to the basics of defining audience and goals, finding contributors and separating brand journalism from press releases and more sales-oriented marketing.

9. Turn Your People into Better Brand Journalists: 4 Newsroom Practices
“To excel in your role as a brand journalist, you need to go beyond what’s happening in your own organization … Doing this means functioning like a newsroom, i.e., being audience-centric, prolific and agile.”

10. 7 Tenets for Branded Content Creators
Joe Chernov at Eloqua lists some tenets of traditional media to distinguish the brand journalist’s role from PR.

Also, we invite you to read our own previous posts in this series: Three ways hiring a brand journalist will sharpen up your content marketing and Three types of brand journalism (with examples). And, of course, we welcome your comments on other resources and reference material.

Image: mock book cover adapted from a (CC) photo by Peter Denton/Flickr

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