Apr 30, 2010

The Rise of Brand Journalism

Brand journalism offers a tremendous opportunity for companies to connect with their customers and build their brands.  Brand journalism is a subset of content marketing.  It’s the process of producing valuable, relevant content for your marketplace, whether they are buying from you or not.

Create a First Call Advantage

I wrote earlier this week about the 3% Rule.  At any given time only 3% of your market is buying, the rest are not.  But here’s the rub.  Most marketing communications focus on the 3%.  This is content that strives to put the company name forward, demonstrate the value proposition, discuss the products’ features and benefits, and ultimately drive prospects into the sales funnel.  This is important content, but it has very little impact on the 97% non-buying audience.

Brand journalism provides a platform to go beyond the 3%, and engage your entire market with valuable, interesting content.  The goal of these programs is to build relationships, develop mindshare and be your customers’ first call when they’re ready to buy.  Essentially, I am talking about creating content for the purposes of lead nurturing.  You know your marketing messages won’t reach everyone consistently, so change strategies.  Use content, with a journalistic mindset, to extend your reach.

Become a Brand Journalist

The tools are readily available: articles, podcasts, videos, blog posts, whitepapers, ebooks, you name it.  Take the time to consider your company’s expertise, its point of view, and how you can share valuable content with your entire marketplace.  The key is to eliminate any and all sales messages from the content, and strictly focus on sharing really good quality information.

That being said, the big challenge is who will produce the content.  Some organizations have leaders who are gifted at producing and sharing valuable content.  Terry O’Reilly is an excellent example of this.  Terry draws an immense audience to his program, the Age of Persuasion.  People tune in to hear his insights into the world of advertising on a weekly basis, and at the same time get to know him and his capabilities.  Inevitably a portion of this audience will convert into paying customers for his firm.

Not every organization has the internal skills to produce content like Terry O’Reilly, but that shouldn’t stop them.  Producing valuable content is essential for brand building online.  If you don’t have the internal expertise, than go get it.  Hire a journalist.  Journalists have a unique gift to tell and share compelling stories.  They convey knowledge and expertise in ways that connect with their audiences.  Their job isn’t to sell; it’s to educate and entertain.  These are the people you need to create the content that will engage your non-buying audience.

Build an Editorial Calendar

Brand journalism is about producing valuable content on a consistent basis.  Surf the blogs and podcasts for a few minutes and you will find countless companies that had great intentions, but couldn’t sustain the work.  Building and maintaining an audience requires stamina.

Make the commitment.   I suggest working from an annual communications plan that includes an editorial calendar.  Planning is essential.  Producing content is hard work, so make it easier on your company by setting expectations, defining what will be produced and when, and then assign the work to the right people.  When you approach brand journalism with purpose you will build an audience, engage your market, and create a first call advantage.

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