Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
May 14, 2011 5:15 PM

Will A Brands Next Big Move Be A Journalism Department?

Who should own Social Media in the organization?

The challenge in answering that question comes from a lack of clear definition. It depends on how you (and your organization) defines Social Media. Some see it as a communications channel, while others use it to extend their advertising. Other companies use it for customer service and some use it as a platform to experiment with content marketing. None of those are inherently right or wrong, they're just different uses (and there are countless more). The long-held debate (and yes, we're looking at over a decade of Social Media usage, at this point) was about whether or not Social Media should be a part of the Marketing department or the Communications department.

In the end, Social Media is everywhere. 

The companies that tend to benefit the most from Social Media are the ones who are finding multiple blends, tactics and campaigns to find their sweet spot. Some have used short, mid and long-term tactics against an overall business strategy, while others have chosen to blend one-way with two-way communications and more conversational types of strategies.

It's the content, stupid. 

While advertising has its place in Social Media, it's all about the content. The platform allows everyone to publishing anything in text, images, audio and video instantly (and for free) for the entire world to see. It's humbling to know that the success of your content is almost entirely driven by how relevant it is (or, how it moves your audience). It's easy to make a case for content marketing, but it's going to wind up being the wrong case you should be making.

Death to content marketing.

The problem with content marketing is the marketing part of the equation. Marketing content rarely connects with an audience. Why? Because it's really just marketing material that is thinly veiled as content, and it's quickly becoming the kind of one-sided content that turns people off. What makes great content spread is how unique and inspiring the message is, not in how it slants into a direction that ultimately positions your company as the only one to buy from.

Flipping from content marketing to journalism.

I was thinking about this Blog. I was thinking about citizen journalism. I was watching Geoff Livingston present at Webcom Montreal last week, and things started to click. Maybe the reason this Blog has some level of success is because it's more like journalism than it is about what Twist Image offers and sells (I prefer to write relevant articles about this industry). Maybe citizen journalists are the best marketers that a brand could ever ask for, and maybe, Livingston is right that the problem with content marketing is the "marketing" part. Instead of plopping Social Media into your communications or marketing department, why not start a journalism department (or start off in a more humble way by hiring a journalist part-time to write content that your organization will publish)?

What could a journalist do for your brand?

  • They could write articles about the industry you serve without slanting the piece to favor your brand (this would give you credibility and build trust).
  • They could become valuable by commenting and adding more content in the many other primary spaces for Social Media that people in your industry follow.
  • They could interview the industry leaders for you.
  • They could add a layer of credibility to the content you're publishing, because you're very clear in your disclosures that this journalist's role is not to write favorable content about the company, but to write great content about the industry you serve.

We're not talking about a journalist who is working for you as a writer.

That would be missing the point. The idea here is to start creating content that is both valuable and needed. The idea here is to see if a tactic like this could lead to an entire department of journalists that are publishing the most relevant and interesting stories about the industry you serve. It's about becoming the de facto recognized authority for your industry. It's about adding so much value that your clients (and potential clients) need you in their lives because the insights and information that you're providing are so valuable. The challenge (of course) will be in doing this in an honest and credible way. Marketers don't have a strong history of being able to pull this sort of stuff off, because we just can't help ourselves but to push our own wares in the moment of truth (which is sad). The only way this will work is if the brand truly does let the journalist be an actual journalist (instead of a corporate shill).

I think this is a huge (and interesting) opportunity. What do you think? Is the world ready for real Brand Journalism?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by bob ashley
    Mitch Joel

    Some fresh angles in this post.

    I work for local government, but your ideas here are easily shaped to fit the public realm. I especially take a shine to your section, "What could a journalist do for your brand?"

    The phrase, "add a level of credibility" is catchy and it really hits home for local government, which within the context of public cynicism and mistrust, could use all the credibility it can muster.

    Thanks for the effort on a vivid, instructive post.

    bob

    Reply
    • Without credibility and really looking at it as journalism, it will be nothing more than PR thinly veiled as journalism... which is not journalism.

      Reply
      • Posted by Jesse Noyes
        Mitch Joel

        I really enjoyed this post. Particularly, I appreciated the concept you implicitly invoked of moving from content marketing to a sort of editorial branding. I think that's valuable.

        As someone in the trenches of this (I am the in-house reporter for Eloqua with a prior career as a business reporter for the Boston Herald and Boston Business Journal), I want to urge caution when it comes to credibility. I do not believe hiring a journalist can give you credibility; that professional can merely make the credibility your business deserves noticeable to the outside world. Credibility depends on trust. People trust brands when they are up front and disclose their interests, not attempt to hide behind some nebulous concept of bias-free marketing.

        The straight truth is that people know your company is producing content that leads people back to your online hub, where you products and services live. By and large, they don't care about that. But they don't want to be hit over the head with it. Bringing a reporter in-house provides your brand with the unique skill-set of seeing narratives where others don't, understanding what an audience is looking for in the content they consume, and an unflinching commitment to consistent disclosure.

        If your company is not prepared to be honest, don't hire a reporter. If you already know you are a credible company that follows ethical marketing practices, a journalist can be one of your best investments.

        Thanks for the place to comment on this issue, Joel.

        Jesse (@noyesjesse)

        Reply
  • Posted by Bill Laidlaw
    Mitch Joel

    I have lamely tried to do this via Elance, but your right of course a dedicated person even part time is the answer. Thanks for the help in overcoming the resistance Mitch.

    Reply
  • Posted by SM Kelly
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, another great post!

    I think you're imagining organizations building the capacity to speak to and engage with stakeholders in an authentic voice. Establishing and committing to the function of interpreter, ambassador, between the organization and its internal and external stakeholders.

    Now, this journalist you're imagining: what kind of person would this be?

    He or she would be a great writer and editor, of course. And a master of the various media modalities and channels.

    He or she would have a grasp of business fundamentals and strategy; deep insight into the mission, mandate, values, structure and competitive strengths of the organization; and solid understanding of the industry category, and the competitive and regulatory environments.

    Our journalist would be a great storyteller with a nose for news. Advanced social skills would be required in order to roam freely in the organization, harvesting the kind of stories that would connect with audiences.

    And the person would need tons of confidence and integrity, in order to withstand the inevitable pressure to "spin" the stories more into marketing content. It would sure help if they had a personal belief and connection with the mission and values of the organization.

    Anyway, wow! I think this journalist / ambassador / interpreter role would require an incredible person! They'd be worth their weight in gold!

    Reply
    • ... or maybe this person is just a journalist and we let them do what they do best: tell interesting stories that create a halo effect. The challenge is in not getting them mired in the business. We don't want these people to be shills.

      Reply
  • Posted by Alexandre Lamarre
    Mitch Joel

    Hello Mitch,

    I think this is a good idea. I'm convinced it is.

    But pushing a bit further, I believe that only having a journalist could be a bit restrictive. Of course, that person could bring tremendous value to a brand's customers but I'm sure that for other brands, an entertainer or a comedian could do the same job. It all depends on the values of the brand.

    For example, a young and edgy beer brand whose customer base is 25-45 year-old men could decide to hire a comedy writer to produce a two-minute bit of comedy each week to keep its audience interested, as long as it doesn't feel like it's done to plug the brand's name every ten seconds.

    So basically, it leads back to publishing content, wether it be information, entertainment or else. The shift must happen in agencies. They have to start refraining from stupidly plugging the brand all over the content and find more intelligent ways to link the brand to the content to make the audience go «these guys always have good stuff for us. They never waste my time.»

    But for small brands that don't have a big budget to spend on content publishing, I agree that a journalist will probably be step one, providing the best bang for the buck.

    Thanks for the post!

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    wow definitely lots to think about here. it's a topic that i've been thinking about a lot lately.

    i agree with Alexandre, the idea of a journalist is too restrictive. not sure why you avoided the term 'blogger'? from the journalists that i know, they don't think like bloggers.

    for example, a lot of newspaper websites treat the comments section as a painful add-on, and they don't even repurpose the content for the web so as to solicit reader feedback.

    as for the role of marketing in all this: it's still a valuable department for this because even if the organization can produce great content, someone has to help get the eyeballs on it.

    what i do like about the journalism take on this is what you mention about un-bias and non-promotional.

    great post mitch.

    Reply
    • Bloggers don't always have the experience, knowledge, nose-for-news and content creation experience that a journalist should have. There are always exceptions and, yes, Bloggers can be Journalists and vice-versa. The idea here is that they are true journalist, not just publishers of content.

      Reply
  • Posted by treb
    Mitch Joel

    Great post Mitch... I love the idea you are sharing... I myself is a Virtual assistant and I'm thanking you for sharing the thought of having people like us working for somebody... Thanks for the post!

    Reply
  • Posted by Jeremie Averous
    Mitch Joel

    Hi Mitch
    I'am disturbed by your post... and the use of the term "journalist". That's a profession on the verge of extinction. One of those professions and institutions that will be swiped away by the Fourth Revolution. Journalists were the workers of the broadcasting media. They had a union. It was an institution.
    I like the logic of your post. We definitely need people that know how to write good stories and do the necessary background research. Probably people a bit freer to write what they want than the communications or marketing employee.
    But please don't use the term 'journalist'! That's outdated now!!

    Reply
  • Posted by Astrid Karsten
    Mitch Joel

    I do think journalism would be a great opportunity to gather, make and spread valueble information within the industries. I also agree on the fact that content should be written out of need from client or industry point of view.

    But losing the term content marketing for the term 'brand journalism' is not logical. You just spelled out that content should be made by a journalist to be independant and not being a marketing campaign for the organisation.

    For that matter, you should not use the word 'brand' in combination with independant and valueble information from a consumers point of view.

    I think we could stick with 'industry journalism' or, that seems to be the name anyway, 'journalism'.

    I'm sorry for my very bad Englisch (I'm from the Netherlands) but I hope you still get my point.

    Reply
  • Posted by Rene Schlegel
    Mitch Joel

    I guess many customers will resist marketing more and more... both for a certain degree of tired numbness aswell as overload......
    Your approach outlined here could change that. The issues that would have to be looked at more are
    -Credibility
    -Authenticity
    -Integrity
    A contracted journalist would have to have all those "on his own", attached to his/her name so to say, quite apart from the brand/company he/she works for. This would exclude journalists as employees outright, but contracted journalist bound to certain ethical standards in the contracts rather then unfallible loyalty to the contractor could go a long way.
    Thanks for the interesting post.

    http://twitter.com/#!/Rene_Schlegel

    Reply
  • Posted by Morten Myrstad
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch; really enjoy your thinking! And I really hope for a development where content is produced, edited and distributed in the interest of the brands stakeholders, not only the brand itself. But I am not sure if it is possible that this role could be really independent, maby not even wanted? Your use of the phrase ”brand journalism” also indicate this, and is not that different from "branded content", ”content marketing”? I still do hope that ”owned” content is heading towards ”earned” content, and away from ”bought” content. Maby content curation in combination with journalistic skills could be the way forward? If curation is really going to work, the curator has to be transparent about intentions and context strategy, giving value to its followers and credit its sources. As I understand that your ”new” journalist should be. But the link between the content and the brand still has to be there, somewhere, or what?

    Reply
  • Posted by Don O'Connor
    Mitch Joel

    Lots of food for thought, Mitch, thanks! What do the schools of journalism think?

    Reply
  • Already happens. What else are bloggers?

    Reply
    • I don't think they are one and the same. An open platform that allows anyone to publish is slightly different that what a professional journalist does - though, they can both slip and slide into one another's territory.

      Reply
  • Posted by Andrew Rusk
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,

    Really interesting post that speaks to the need for corporations to reevaluate their process of content marketing.

    I wonder, however, what the difference is between current content producers (either client side employees or copy writers agency side) and your proposed "journalists"? I think the skill set you're after in these two positions is the same.

    The problem you're describing is a hesitation for senior executives to fund the production of content without a clear CTA or any way to track the content to sales. It doesn't matter who is producing the content, this proposal would only be possible if there was a transition in thinking among senior executives.

    @JeremieAverous - Journalism, like most careers, experienced a hit in the recession that was compounded by decreasing ad revenues. While print experienced an undeniable hit, The Economist, Wall Street Journal, among other industries experienced increases in revenue. Journalism is far from dead, its simply restructuring.

    Reply
  • Posted by Eric Buchegger
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, has usual, you have given me something to think about.

    I think there is tremendous opportunity for companies here. However, as you alluded to, marketers face a significant challenge - overcoming the credibility gap.

    Maybe there is a need for companies to create portals for relevant information that consumers/customers/vendors etc will value, with contributions several journalists or bloggers that have already established a strong degree of credibility and neutrality.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mary Tod
    Mitch Joel

    Your post makes me think of something Deloitte - yes, the audit, tax and consulting folks - have done. They call it DBriefs - essentially online webcasts where experts in their Tax area provide hour long sessions on a wide range of tax topics, free of charge and with opportunities for interactivity. Their audience has grown substantially on a worldwide basis and these sessions have expanded to all parts of the organization and to multiple languages including Mandarin and Japanese. Not bad for an industry that is seen as fairly conservative!

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    So many great burning issues here. Most revolve around the questions of what is quality content, how do you create it and with what resources? SEO algorithms are all constantly moving toward rewarding quality and not quantity or gaming the system. Hence the increased interest in better quality.

    If “marketing” is a problem word, so is “content.” Content implies a generic commodity. In publishing content now refers to what used to be called editorial, which included or at least implied some kind of wall between the journalists and the marketers and advertisers. That wall collapsed when marketers stopped being willing to support the advertising model because the results couldn’t be tracked or quantified. Nothing wrong with that! Trade pubs now have a fraction of the staff they once did. No matter how you measure it, less staff stretched across multiple mediums equates to much lower editorial/content quality levels. In many industries and markets, no one has yet filled that quality breach.

    The problem with citizen journalism—we have a decent such newspaper locally that has killed the for-profit competition—is that the quality isn’t that good in terms of writing, copyediting, and layout, but mostly story selection, which is just what people who work for free want to write about. That’s obviously how most blogs start.

    Reply
    • To me, this is exactly why it's an interesting idea for corporations to hire journalists and let them roam free to develop more powerful content (sorry, couldn't come up with a better word ;) for the industry.

      Reply
  • Posted by nihal seif
    Mitch Joel

    Hey.. alot of insights in this article, and i believe that culture plays a huge role in how effective using a journalist rather than a blogger or a citizen journalist to do the job.. because although the content would be un-biased which is the positive part, you still want it interesting and you dont want it to read like a "newspaper article" or "press release" you need a "feel" to it..and journalists are trained to be objective..thus no feel. that's just mu humble oopinion..and this is actually my fisrt post ever on any blog..as much as believe in social media i'm not a very tech person..but trying to catch up :)

    Reply
  • Posted by Neil Bailey
    Mitch Joel

    Great article! Thanks for sharing, Bob Ashley. However, I'm using the mobile site, and there are no social media 'sharing' links on the page - should probably add those if the subject is premised upon social media.

    Cheers,
    -Neil Bailey

    Reply
  • Posted by VBear
    VBear

    Thought-provoking as ever with great comments to boot (another great reason to like this site!).

    The move to "corporate journalism," if you will, sounds like a wonderful idea. As noted by others here, the credibility this would offer would be invaluable for brands.

    I wonder at brands ability to embrace this though - to give up what they have been using as a marketing channel and an avenue for redirecting messaging and highlighting missed stories. Will they be able to give up the control here and allow the stories to be more overarching in terms of industry and trends; will they be able to embrace flaws on their own properties?

    Clearly another good conversation to start...

    Reply
  • Posted by Lima
    Mitch Joel

    Amen, hallelujah, thank you very much, please hold while I share this on every Social Media Channel I have.

    I'm a writer/journalist and in the past few weeks have been in the unique position of trying to explain to various people why having a journalist on their team is essential. It's about establishing connections, showing thought leadership, exhibiting your passion for your industry by sharing news about it, whether it pertains to your company, or has nothing to do with your company/brand.

    In a recent email, I explained to a client that journalistic blogging, integrated with a friendly, approachable Social Media strategy basically offers you a chance to be that cool guy at the party or industry event. You're in a room full of people you don't know and you start chatting about interesting ideas, stories, anecdotes relevant to all of you (no obnoxious self-promotion permitted). You start initiating riveting conversation and even gain some new ideas and insights from your peers. In the end, you'll be the guy invited back to the next party or event because your presence was both enjoyable and valuable. Meanwhile, self-promotion guy is stuck at home with a stack of lonely business cards ...

    Do your business a favour, hire a journalist.

    Thanks for this excellent, excellent post.

    Reply
  • Posted by Chris Parente
    Mitch Joel

    Good post. In general this is what my agency does for clients. Publish good, interesting content around a topic of expertise, DON'T make it recycled PR/Marketing stuff, take positions, express opinions. Promote said content online to networks and communities of interested people. Build an engaged audience, then appropriately apply it somehow to the business goals of the org.

    I realize you'll say that doesn't go far enough, and we're still beholden to tell the client story. Yes we are, but if we don't create good content everything else fails. So the content HAS to be good. This approach works if the client gets it, fails if they don't.

    I work in B2B and B2G, and even this approach is new to many firms. So my answer to your closing question would be NO, my clients are not ready for what you propose, and the ROI would be extremely hard to quantify if they were.

    I do know one example however. I kept waiting for you to mention ThreatPost. Kaspersky Labs hired a bunch of laid off tech journalists, let them write what they want, become a leading tech pub yourself, and benefit from the respect the pub has in the industry. I have no idea on ROI, but it's a great read.

    Reply
  • Posted by Michael Giguere
    Mitch Joel

    Very interesting point of view... I think that valuable objective journalistic information brought by a brand has more to bring to potential customers than brand-related marketing information.

    Reply
  • Posted by Paul S
    Mitch Joel

    I guess I'm going to be a contrarian. While I agree that content is what it's all about, I disagree that your content can have a strong marketing bent. You are right that most marketing consists of a one-sided message, but it wasn't always that way. Marketing communications done right do engage, get responses and are effective. But most of what's out there today is focused on the company, not on the needs, wants and desires of a prospect/customer.

    Reply
  • Posted by Dan Bischoff
    Mitch Joel

    As a former newspaper reporter, I dig this post. I want to show it to my boss for job security. I think your recent post about Utilitarianism Marketing actually had a better argument than this, however.

    Great stuff as always.

    Reply
  • Posted by Nic Wirtz
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, the job you are describing wouldn't be journalism, at least not in the traditional, ethical description of a journalist so beloved by j-schools looking to indoctrinate their newest intake.

    Journalists have many cross over skills to marketing, to PR, to community management and especially to social media.
    However, the generation of "transferable skills" now finds itself in the unenviable role of being the generation of re-skilling.

    With four times as many PR pros as there are journalists and with America's newsrooms losing 10% of its workforce between 2009-10 it is clear what the market thinks of journalists currently. Add in social media and the ability to self-publish, now everyone can release the frustrated journalist in them.

    So undoubtedly there is a workforce there waiting for an opportunity such as brand journalism.

    But unless there's been a seismic shift in business attitude that I'm unaware of, it won't happen. Why not? Well how many brands are so confident in themselves they're willing to let an independent journalist wade through their working practices and results and let them write potentially critical, at the very least, objective news items on that company?

    Let's take it a step back, who is going to allow a small group of individuals that amount of freedom to do so? Heck, social media cannot, community managers cannot. Both are lumped in with marketing because it seems the most obvious place. Who would said journalist answer to? Which department would they work under and which department would oversee the journalism department?

    In conclusion, unless the articles that are written are objective and without marketing's spin, potentially critical and at the very least likely not to promote said brand as the best in everything, the work they do will not be journalism.

    Is there a market for this? Yes and a workforce ready to do the work.

    Who will oversee the individual journalist and journalism department? If you say marketing it is not journalism.

    How many brands are confident in allowing the freedom and individuality of journalists to come through into their brand and allow potentially damaging copy to be produced in their name? Chances are none.

    The job description you give sounds very much like a community manager with additional writing responsibilities, or pretty much every current j-school graduate.

    Until social media/community management are departments unto themselves, this is a non-starter.

    Reply
    • Posted by VBear
      VBear

      This is closing in on what I was saying - though far more eloquently.

      I would argue that even if there were social media departments, it would still be an incredibly tough sell to have a true journalistic bent in a corporate setting. Many of the reasons Nic states above support this.
      Also - there is no market, there is no demand within the corporate realm for this. There is an idea, a seed, but it would be an incredibly bold organization that makes this move.
      I also wonder at the audience acceptance - even with qualifying statements about the authors, there would still be a corporate stigma attached to them and potentially mistrust in the information (they're still being paid by the Corporate entity).
      As a former journo, turned PR, turned marketing, I really love this idea and would be interested to see someone try this, but I can't help thinking that the journalistic freedom needed would not be given.

      Reply
  • Posted by Jon
    Mitch Joel

    I think this is an interesting point. It's not just a change in approach; it's a change in perception. The word "marketing" still has a negative connotation in certain parts of a company. A necessary evil, if you like.

    Through creative content (or journalism if you want to call it that) you can inspire and engage both those inside your company and outside. However, I firmly believe that creativity is a slower process than journalism because it's not just reporting. It's juggling a variety of media with an element of entertainment rather than just commentary.

    Instead of "Think like a publisher" how about "Think like a creative."

    Reply
  • Posted by Kyle Monson
    Mitch Joel

    Great post...and yeah, clients and agencies are starting to get clued in. I was an editor at PC Magazine for 5 years before JWT hired me away to do brand journalism for big global brands. Now we've got a fully staffed news team of editors/journalists who help our clients figure out how to harness publishing best practices. It's early days, but the industry is moving in the right direction.

    Reply
    • Posted by Paul S
      Mitch Joel

      If there's negative connotations for sales and marketing, it's because those doing it were focused on themselves (and short-term gain), not the customer/prospect. True marketing (and sales) professionals know that to help someone making a buying decision is to paint a picture that reaches them at emotional levels beyond "buy/don't buy". It's a matter of building emotional and logical momentum towards that decision--not deceptively--but in a manner that explains and help them see value.

      It doesn't really matter if journalists write on behalf (or in place of) marketing depts. The bottom line is, if I'm company president, I'm judged on the bottom line (sales). If a journalistic approach works (and without some sales/marketing bent I don't think it can), great. If good marketing and good sales lead to company growth, that's fine too.

      People who think marketing and sales are dirty words, don't know anything about marketing and sales. I'll leave you with a quote from the legendary marketing man, David Ogilvy: "Advertising is only evil when it advertises evil things."

      Reply
  • Posted by David Jones
    Mitch Joel

    JWT has done some work in this area with Microsoft. Here's a video that sums up the approach (it includes having a journalist on staff.) http://www.jwt.com/content/234403/jwt-jwt-brand-journalism/index/asset/1286

    They also had an interesting panel at SXSW along with Shiv Singh at Pepsi. You can listen to it here: http://schedule.sxsw.com/events/event_IAP6316

    Reply
  • Posted by Kyle Monson
    Mitch Joel

    I'm the journalist on staff at JWT, David...thanks for plug! And glad you liked my panel.

    We've done some really cool stuff with Microsoft over the past couple years. Too often, the conversation around brand journalism involves asking whether it's possible. We've proven that it is possible, even with huge global brands like Ford and Microsoft. (Go watch the Bold Moves episodes on YouTube--they'll blow your mind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFjwHLSHXQI)

    Reply
  • Posted by Joe
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch - Love the article.

    I run marketing at a B2B software company and we hired a full time "Corporate Journalist" about a month ago. With 20 years experience in the journalism field she brings a completely different (non-marketing) perspective, amazing productivity/ output (used to a story/ day deadlines), ability to secure interviews and develop relationships with industry leaders and get us published on leading industry blogs and newsletters. After only a month we've seen some awesome results - average time on our blog is up 40% and average pages per visit are up 35%. I can't wait to see where we are a year from now.

    BTW - love the podcast. Pretty please - ditch Jaffe to make room for more Media Hacks....

    Joe

    Reply
  • Posted by Anna Tarkov
    Mitch Joel

    As someone who is now (but has not always been in the past) a journalist, I felt two things upon reading this. One was yay! If this idea was embraced by companies, what a great way for journalists to get jobs and still be able to practice journalism. But then I thought, wait a minute... how could any journalist maintain their credibility when their paycheck is being signed by Brand A or B? We have a difficult enough time as it is with widespread corporate ownership of media which creates untold conflicts of interests for reporters. Wouldn't this be the ultimate conflict of interest, especially if the reporter's job would primarily be to cover the industry in which they themselves are employed? I don't care how independent-minded the journalist is; when they have a mortgage to pay and food to put on the table, they will not be willing to say anything remotely negative about the company they work for. Where else could their priorities possibly be? Marketing and communications people don't have to suffer under the same crises of conscience. They are very clearly meant to carry the company's message and it is clear to everyone that that's their job. What would be the job of these journalists?

    Reply
    • Posted by Evan Hill
      Mitch Joel

      As a trained journalist this was my state of mind as well. I'd love the job opportunity, and be willing to take it, but it is hard enough for journalists to make negative reports on their news organization and its advertisers even though that is an explicitly understood part of the job. Implicitly this sentiment is a rarity, and I have to think it would be non-existent in "brand journalism."

      It sounds fantastic, and it could lead to wonderful content for companies, but not in the strict journalistic sense that is outlined here. I think there is a medium that is between PR and journalism that can work, but it will have to be defined as such, or it won't be taken seriously as anything.

      Reply
      • Posted by Anna Tarkov
        Mitch Joel

        Precisely. Like you say, this can indeed benefit companies who hire journalists and it can of course benefit the journalists who are ready to switch careers. Many journalists have already gone into non-journo work because they can't find a journalism job or can't find one that pays enough, has benefits, etc. But they go into this other work with a clear understanding that it means they will be leaving certain things and ideals behind. There's nothing inherently wrong with that and it's a personal choice everyone makes, but let's not kid anyone and say that someone can go from a newsroom to a corporate office and have the same experience.

        Reply
  • Posted by David Allison
    Mitch Joel

    We've been preaching the gospel of what we call Marketing Journalism in our little specialized niche -- the promotion of real estate developments -- for years now.

    We believe that the real estate development industry has an obligation to provide consumers with rich layers of information, especially so given the price tags involved. So, yes, it's about social media, but it's about all the traditional tools too -- it's about reframing how we think about the communications function.

    We have two journalists on staff, as well as the more expected marketing writers. And while we are still working out some of the kinks (who isn't?) the idea of using communication tools to inform instead of persuade has been driving our practice since 2008.

    I've written a book about it, free for the asking to anyone in the real estate development world. It's called Branding Buildings Better, and it's available at www.brandingbuildingsbetter.com

    regards,

    David Allison

    Reply
  • Posted by Jessica Massay
    Mitch Joel

    Yes, yes, yes...the world is ready for brand journalists....but I really don't think most brands are ready yet. Objective, not-slanted, not-self-serving....hmmn, does that sound like most brand communication you run into these days? Not so.
    I think the smartest brands will take the leap and others will follow.
    Thanks for this interesting viewpoint.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    I had the first news-room staffed with real journalists (15) in the late 1980's and early 1990's in the Personal Computer Division at IBM. We published on News Groups, Forums, online services (AOL, CompuServe, etc.) and what became Weblogs. Stories were about products, services, customers, influencers, and stakeholders. It worked then and works even better now.

    Reply
  • Posted by Richard Rutter
    Mitch Joel

    Quite simply, yes. Content is possibly THE most important part of a brand communication strategy within the digital contexts, as well as older communication medium. The brands opinion about things also helps to build brand personality, anthropomorphising the brand.

    Reply
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