Brand Journalism: Strategic Meets Idealistic
You’re a marketing person tired of having your brilliantly conceived messages fall like trees in the empty forest. You’re a journalist, wanting to tell stories but needing to get paid. You’re a consumer living in a world of plastic corporate brands all claiming to be “world class” but leaving you feeling disconnected, alienated.
Marketer, journalist, consumer—you’re all about to die and go to heaven, thanks to a simple notion called “brand journalism.”
It’s just what it sounds: The people in charge of corporate brands are realizing that the only way to connect in any lasting depth with the people who consume products is by reaching their hearts. And how do people do that? Through storytelling—the more candid, intimate and colorful, the better.
Enter the journalist, who for decades has been begging his or her employer (back when journalists had employers) for the budget, the time, the editorial conviction to tell stories imaginatively and compellingly.
It’s a perfect marriage—brand with storytelling, storyteller with brand.
And the result—and this is where I start to get more excited than is appropriate for a business blog—could be a better world. I’m not just talking about more effective marketing here—though for many companies, that’ll be the result.
I’m talking about making the world a place where people don’t feel so alienated from the companies that make the products and services that have such a bearing on their lives. Brand journalism done well will help consumers understand the human beings who work in organizations and appreciate the unique culture of the place. They’ll feel they’re spending their money not just on the company with the shiniest logo, but the one whose values they know and share.
Brand journalism will reward so many good things that business so often runs from: plain talk, human vulnerability, public listening …. And if a transparent, humanistic, journalistic ethic becomes the norm in marketing, companies that practice it will gain ground on or even kill competitors less generous of spirit and big-minded.
Forgive me if that sounds a little idealistic. But when I start talking brand journalism, that’s just what happens to me.
Clearly, readers, I need help. I believe “brand journalism” is a silly term for an activity we can never expect corporations to credibly engage in. Simultaneously and just as strongly, I see brand journalism as the simultaneous solution to marketing problems and stubborn social ills. Help me find a middle way! Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org; I’ll collect your ideas and publish them in a future post.
David Murray is a longtime commentator on communication. The editor of Vital Speeches of the Day, he also writes for magazines and newspapers. And he blogs about his work and his life at Writing Boots.