Future of Brand Journalism: Cute Cats or Catastrophe?

by PR Coach on June 12, 2013

content marketing and brand journalism need real news values

Cute… but is it excellent brand journalism or crappy content marketing?

The noise around brand journalism these days is deafening. Unfortunately, a lot of it is based on poor practices or wrong information.  We need to toss the marketing and get back to creating great content.

As in irresistible content. Content that shares real news, tells stories, solves problems, informs, educates and connects with consumers.

You know. Kind of rhymes with journalism?

Personally, I’ve had it up to here with cute cats, talking goats, babies babbling and other attempts to go viral with visuals.

In a recent post, Kirk Cheyfitz called BS on uninformed content marketers:

“Apparently, the ad people peddling brand newsrooms know nothing about news. So the brand newsroom conversation has been ill informed at best and nonsensical the rest of the time.”

Cheyfitz says brand newsrooms must include a unique point of view, must care more about the audience than itself and should also predict the future.

Need I remind you your online newsroom must also contain “news”?

Three Biggest Problems When Marketing Tries to Do Brand Journalism

Does your brand journalism have "news values"?

Reporters covering 1913 World Series

There are three common problems when marketing tries to do brand journalism:

  1. Me-me-me-me-me marketing: Brands often fall into the trap of talking all about themselves, their product and its newest features. Instead of helping consumers or readers with ways the product can make a difference in their lives, solve their problems or fill a deepfelt need. Worse still, is when content marketing is driven by creative guys and gals desperate to win a creative award. All flash and no substance.
  2. No engagement: It’s that old style of marketing at fault. Screaming at prospects and failing so completely on social media. Consumers now have control of every point in the buying cycle. Millennials want to know why they should like your brand or care. Content marketing needs to engage in better ways. In every social media channel.
  3. Find the news: It’s a newsroom people. Your content needs to be based on news values, stories, and if you’re very lucky, something that is really “new.” And, you’d better have pictures and video not to mention be optimized for mobile phones.

8 News Values that Can Drive Content Marketing

Does your brand journalism have "news values"?

Does your brand journalism have “news values”?

And what are those news values? It’s often said that media have a bad news bias. In other words “If it bleeds, it leads” on the newscast or front page.

Owen Spencer-Thomas suggests that newsworthy stories include:

  • Impact on the audience; ie “newsworthiness”
  • timeliness
  • prominence; does it really matter?
  • proximity
  • conflict
  • bizarre
  • currency
  • human interest.

To that list, for content marketing, I’d add “new.”  Is your new product, feature or service really new? Many times owners, entrepreneurs, inventors and marketers are caught up in the excitement of their own discoveries. But that doesn’t make it news!

These news values are just as fresh today as they were 20 or 50 years ago in newsrooms. And brand journalists must use them or risk failure, negative audience reaction or worst of all disinterest.

Memo to Brand Journalism: Stick to News Values

Red Bull Space jump had news value

Red Bull space jump had newsworthiness

The best, recent example of brand journalism is Red Bull Stratos’ Mission to the End of Space project. What a success story! It had powerful news values and also showed many best practices of brand journalism superbly.

It’s very true consumers are abandoning TV and other traditional media. It’s also true that “old” marketing style and approaches no longer work, especiallyin social media.

What’s really interesting and makes me optimistic about the future of brand journalism? Consumers are now walking around with smartphones and tablets in hand.

Talk about an opportunity. And a huge risk. If we fail to win with great content instead of wearing down the weary consumer with marketing crap.

We can reach them anywhere, anytime. If we’re very savvy about how we do it. We just need to do it with different strategies and better content.

Still want to do cute cats, talking goats and other silly or fun creative? Excellent!  Just don’t put them in your brand’s online newsroom.

You might get a big, viral, temporary hit but you won’t build a long-lasting brand connection without some of those important news values.

What do you think? Are “brand journalism” and “native advertising” just different names for great content? Is there a future for brand journalism or is it just soup du jour? I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

You may enjoy my other related posts on the topic:

Are You Using Online Newsroom Best Practices?

Mountain Dew’s Marketing Muckup, Painful PR

Content Marketing: Sunny with a Chance of Burritos?

Author: Jeff Domansky

Visuals:  News Values/Owen Spencer-Thomas, Red Bull