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


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