I heard the term “Brand Journalism” at the end of last year as a 2013 trend to watch and it really stuck with me. What is Brand Journalism? How can this be beneficial to a brand? As we further immerse ourselves in the digital age, journalism seems to be on its way out the door. As a writer, journalist, and lover of print magazines, I got excited and wanted to unlock this value for our clients.
Brand Journalism is a form of brand storytelling that uses a centralized content hub to tell a narrative that can be consumed directly or via other social platforms through user sharing. The idea is to create a branded content hub from which most other social tactics emanate. A great recent example is Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola cultivates and creates custom content ranging from entertaining to educational to examples of brand engagement from their various soft drinks. Hubs like this are powerful because they give consumers a defined place to seek out brand content regardless of their favored social platform, and give the brand the ability to efficiently syndicate their story to as many social platforms as they wish. Is Pheed the next big thing? If you have a brand journalism strategy, then it is easy to adapt to that new platform and embrace it.
Here is an example of Fanta’s social media feed on the Coca-Cola Company site. It includes Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube updates.
Brand Journalism works because consumers are constantly looking for the best content to share, whether it is a great video, gif, or article. Reddit, Thought Catalog, and Buzz Feed are a few examples of places content curators go to find quality shareable content. Your brand can also be a content platform with the reach and impact of Reddit or Buzz Feed if you just take the time to invest in it. A great example is, Patagonia. They recently made a new Tumblr called “Worn Wear”, filled with old customer photos that have been sent in over the years. Why did they decide to create this? Patagonia’s Digital Creative Director told Digiday that “Our biggest challenge is that we have more content than we could possibly publish, which makes it hard to figure out what gets in and what does not.” Data led to the discovery that many people are talking about how long they’ve had their Patagonia products. It made sense for the brand to contribute to that conversation.
Are you intrigued by Brand Journalism? Want to be a leader like Patagonia or Coca-Cola? Here are a few ideas to get started:
Use your data to master your audience’s needs
Learn from Patagonia’s marriage of data and creativity. Every piece of content you post is a potential data source about your community that should inform your approach to brand journalism. A properly constructed content calendar should include old favorites that you know will generate a strong response as well as tests to understand what else is appropriate for your communities. Track the data closely and close the loop on performance if you can. The Content Insights feature in our Social Performance Monitor software may be able to help with optimization. Either way, once you’ve pinpointed the topics and media types that drive engagement, orient your content hub and platform strategies around them.
Build a branded narrative
The brands that succeed in social today are ones that exhibit their passion points through creative and powerful content. Tell a story that elicits the feelings you want your customers to have and make it easy to share so that your advocates can take it with them across their favorite platforms. The popular culinary product brand, Williams-Sonoma, exemplifies their passion and their mission in their one-stop website for their customers and advocates called The Blender. One of my favorite brands, Lululemon, centralizes their brand journal on their website around their community and ambassadors of yogis and runners in order to tell their brand story. One brand that really covers all the bases is Barney’s New York. They replicate their brand’s authenticity while inspiring creativity on their brand journal, The Window. In addition, they highlight their team of employees and show their passion for fashion all while making their content convenient and sharable.
Put your content at the center of a lifestyle
Feel free to stray outside of beautiful product images and executive interviews as you tell your story. Recognize that there is an ecosystem of potential content that surrounds every product and service. A great example is recipe blogging from food companies. Reese’s does a phenomenal job of sharing recipes with its communities that get people excited about their products. General Mills has Tablespoon a hub for storing and organizing recipes for every occasion. The site is engaging, easy to use, and share-friendly. And an added bonus; they even offer coupons. As a food product brand, General Mills is taking their expertise to the next level by sharing inspiration and ideas for cooking and baking in order to drive sales to their products.