Brand journalism is the future for digital marketing, but it must be authentic

Is brand journalism the future of content marketing?Does brand journalism and content marketing represent the future of digital marketing? That was certainly the message from a recent panel discussion hosted by Outbrain.

Leading voices from the industry pointed to the increasingly important role of content marketing and the growing trend for brand journalism that has emerged hand in hand with social media.

However, when it comes to implementing content marketing, strategy must be a key consideration and brands must ensure they are developing authentic content.

That content, initially at least, should be led by in-house departments who will have the innate passion of the brand, rather than agency teams.

The panel agreed on the increasing role of content in today’s digital marketing mix, suggesting that content is the thread that brings the brand vision together.

Brand marketing is about story telling

Outbrain COO David Sasson suggested that great brand marketing has long been about telling a story and while this has been difficult using tools like banner adverts, content marketing provides a better way to tell that story.

Arif Haq, manager for digital, technology and content at Gatorade suggested that content enriches the texture of a brand’s communications, and that it is through content that people can engage and interact with brands.

While content has enormous potential, it only offers real value and credibility if it is authentic warned the panel. Both agency and in-house marketers agreed that when it comes to ownership, content strategies should be led from in-house teams, who have the knowledge, brand passion and authenticity needed to best speak to their audiences. While in-house teams should lead, Kohlben Vodden at Oglivy One explained how agencies can then come on board to implement these strategies.

The glut of new technology platforms for blogging and social media, can make it tempting to dive into content without developing a proper strategy.

Blogging alone is not a content strategy

James Carson, head of digital marketing at Bauer Media reminded the audience that blogging by itself is not a content strategy, and equally you can-not be active on Twitter if you have nothing to say. You need a content plan.

The panel pointed to the importance of understanding your audience and creating content that caters to what they want rather than what the brand wants to convey.  The panel also advised that implementing measurable and targeted KPIs is critical to understanding success and what it looks like.

While the panel agreed that there will always be a place for independent journalism, content marketing has led to a rise in brand journalism. Brands can learn from publishers when it comes to content, with the panel suggesting marketers adopt a story-telling approach when it comes to content marketing.  Looking to the future, the panel reflected that content marketing clearly has an important role to play in continuing to tell brands’ never ending stories. Through a focus on authentic, strategic content – the panel agreed content is helping to fuel the future of digital marketing.

Stephanie Himoff, UK Managing Director, Outbrain.

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  • Andrew F Smith

    For me, it’s the authenticity that is the issue.

    You say: “That content, initially at least, should be led by in-house departments who will have the innate passion of the brand, rather than agency teams”.

    I agree that in-house people will have the knowledge and the brand passion that is necessary, but i question whether they will have the objectivity and commitment to transparency that is as vital.

    People trust journalists more than they do brands because they believe that an independent journalist is a trained mind that provides an objective and critical filter to the brand’s message.

    Brand journalism needs to do the same. So, ask yourself… Can i do a BBC/Jimmy Savile? Does my brand have the guts to allow, if necessary, one part (Panorama) to investigate and objectively criticise (hopefully as a critical friend) another part of the brand (Newsnight).

    You may never need to, but if you aren’t certain that that degree of independence and objectivity is there, and if you don’t encourage it, then, your brand voice can never be regarded as authentic.

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  • Arjun K M

    Good blog Stephanie. You can also check out the video by Infosys BrandEdge about digital marketing. They’ve simplified the digital marketing to a great extent.

  • Michael Assad

    We’ve been very happy with how our content marketing strategy has played out this year. We spent $1000 on a camera, build a blog for practically nothing and spend all our time and money on the content. The results have been so good that we’ve cancelled our Adwords investment, event sponsorships and practically everything else so that we can channel more time and budget into it. And the best part is that it’s actually fun!

  • Phoebe Chongchua

    As a veteran TV journalist (20+ years) who now runs a brand journalism agency, I agree. The most credible way to showcase a brand is through storytelling. However, while the employees may have the knowledge, they typically aren’t trained journalist. Therefore they often don’t know how to tell an excellent newsworthy story. They also frequently don’t know what makes a good story. Very often they have a myopic focus instead of seeing it the way journalists (brand journalists) do. Brand journalists look for a way to highlight and advance the brand but with the end user (viewer/reader) in mind. I am always concerned with asking “Is this really a good interesting news angle?” Instead of simply pushing content out that is more like advertising for the brand. The story and angle are everything in brand journalism.

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