By Jake Hawkins
Brands can learn a lot from journalism. My background, which includes freelance jobs at community newspapers and a six-month collegiate fellowship at USA TODAY, helps mold the inventive messages I create for brands big and small. So I’m happy that something intrinsic to my process has now become a bit of a fad.
Sure, brands will never be completely free from objectivity or bias, and they probably won’t be the watchdogs a democratic society needs to keep people honest. However, what they can do – what they should do – is identify their audience and give them great, engaging pieces that tell stories full of impact, even if there is no direct and apparent link to their own product or service.
This isn’t an entirely new concept. Red Bull takes the concept to the extreme (much to the consistency of their overall brand) with a full, high-quality magazine, The Red Bulletin. The magazine offers stories for the somewhat extreme, more active lifestyle that certainly resonates with an audience drinking liquid energy in a bid to gain metaphorical “wiiiiiings.”
The key to success in brand journalism is identifying the characteristics of your brand and company culture, understanding how that might connect on an emotional level to a specific group of people, and then simply letting creativity fly on the types of stories that may inspire, entertain or inform them. Does your brand connect with a large number of mothers? Serve up articles that profile particularly courageous moms, or provide some insightful pieces that may make a mother’s day run more smoothly. Establish that connection, and brand loyalty will surely follow.
Like traditional journalism, quality is key for brand journalism. Those waving a brand journalist banner, while repeating messages that are plain boring, repetitive or dishonest, will quickly cause readers to distrust the brand and move onto a brand with whom they can trust and connect.