Brand Journalism (Report Writing 101)
Big company’s/corporations are making efforts of using social media to increase their brand recognition and attract individuals towards their brand. This however, isn’t working so well for brands with controversies such as McDonalds. According to Andy Bull from the website “In Defense of Brand Journalism,” McDonalds makes countless efforts on social media platforms but ends up receiving negative feedback due to their controversial issues surrounding their food and their change of course with the “#MeetTheFarmers” campaign. Social media in a way is turning out to be unbiased in terms of responses to information in general. This is because social media users and are free to voice out their opinions through comments, surveys and email. Bull says not everyone is getting it wrong though; specifically referencing the way Coca-Cola handled their social media campaign. This company, with the biggest following on Facebook, handed their fan page over to two users who were huge fans of the brand and supported them.
Introduction to Brand Journalism:
The main purpose of journalism, which Bull talks about is, “That journalism should focus on investigating and making the public aware of information, which reveals corruption and bad behavior by banks, corporations, public organizations, and powerful individuals.” Bull also talks about the controversial issues with brand and traditional journalism. Media company owners usually have a set agenda favoring their personal interests or the interests of their friends in the industry and politics. Thanks to new media we can identify that many of these brands and the way they select news, and report it, reflects the agenda of the brand. Journalists who work for these brands are diminished off of their ethical principles while they are under the dilemma of either making a living or getting fired because of retaliating. The journalists who are rooted to their ethical standards generally leave the company to find a new job. Brand journalism has been accused of the same controversy that traditional journalism goes through, which is favoring the interests of the boss or the higher authorities. In terms of consumer journalism, brand journalists are expected to be on point with their research and assumptions that they publicly claim. According to Bull, brand journalists will seek to influence your purchasing decisions. The public today is well equipped and knowledgeable about believing claims such as that. If the public finds any error in any of the claims that the brand made, they will not even slightly hesitate to voice out their opinion. Social media along with new media has brought a lot of transparency to brand journalism and in turn encourages their audience to voice out their honest opinions and feedback. Social media has become a much more reliable source of news and current affairs for the public because users not only get to view the information that they want but they also get to view the opinions and interests of their social circles.
The pros and cons of trying to do real journalism:
Ann Friedman pointed out the issues with brand journalism from a journalist’s perspective. She talks about the pros and cons of trying to do real journalism at a non-media company. When brand journalism was starting to become huge, Tumblr began Storyboard, which was an independent journalistic publication housed within Tumblr. Jessica Bennett, who was a traditional journalist at that point, accepted a job as executive editor of Storyboard. She got fired after around a year or so alongside her two colleagues. The reason she got fired was because her bosses apparently weren’t interested in the independent journalism that she was producing. In short, it wasn’t meeting their agenda and views. During one of her interviews with Ann Friedman, she mentioned how she was worried right from the beginning that a company such as Tumblr wouldn’t have the same approach towards journalism compared to places such as Newsweek. She also said that, “the idea of being part of something new, in a field that’s changing faster than we can keep up, outweighed any doubts. I didn’t want to end up doing a bunch of bullshit PR, and I think that’s the risk of doing ‘branded’ content at a lot of companies. But there are ways around that, and I think we found them.” Jessica clearly did not want to do any PR work. Tumblr wanted Jessica and her team to brand every piece of content that they were putting out there. These were the instructions from her higher authorities to produce an effective means of journalism with various other latest features but again, all of that had to have Tumblr on it. Ann Friedman gives an example of the Facebook stories that Facebook personalized and created for their users. That somehow didn’t workout so well for Facebook even after hiring a traditional- media journalist (Time’s Dan Fletcher) who left his position after around a year. The reason that Facebook and all these other brands/company’s are trying to use traditional journalists is because the public is getting smarter about recognizing traditional advertising and marketing. Another reason is because these companies’ want to cover their brand or community from being identified as a propaganda.
Talking about PR, Lewis PR explains the increasing salary gap between journalism and public relations. The data in the reference shares statistics from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, whose data is analyzed by the Pew Research Center. The apparent salary gap between PR specialists and news reporters has widened gradually. “Journalists on average earn just 65% of what those in PR earn.” (Williams, 2014) Bob Garfield is quoted in the article. He has previously reported on advertising, marketing and the US media, believes that “corporate conservatism will always win over journalistic integrity in a company’s newsroom.” According to Lewis PR, “You can’t build an authoritative channel in a month. Those with a serious commitment will recruit the best journalists for the quality of their writing, their focus on facts and on their ability to spot a story.” Brand journalism due to its unorthodox practices may seem unreliable and un-credible. Nevertheless, the society is keeping up with these brands through the means of the Internet and technology by sharing and promoting content on the go.
Brand journalism vs Corporate media:
The term “Corporate media” is being used to label brand journalism because of their practices. Judy Gombita gives an example about the different methods brands are using to produce journalism. As I have mentioned earlier in this report, brands have always been at the top of the change in media and technology. This is because their market research and target audience analysis is on point. Based on all of the research, brands have adopted traditional journalistic techniques as an effective means of promoting their brand name. This led them to the unorthodox method of hiring traditional journalists who already have a fair amount of experience in the journalism industry. Media companies who are promoting brand journalism usually use these traditional journalists to carry out corporate initiatives and techniques on social media platforms. They lure these people with sponsorships, salary raises or some other kind of deal where both parties are enjoying the benefit.
Forbes puts up an article on their website, which shows how content is being shared and viewed by the online audience. It talks about how brand journalism is emerging as a successful industry through social media as well as marketing. The general online audience is very quick in scanning information and jumping from source to source. Brands are always coming up with new and effective ways to reach their audience as well as interact with them through the means of social media, forums and discussion boards. The online audiences through different sources on social media sites are becoming aware of all the brand-advertising practices and are not hesitant in questioning it. Therefore, this is a sign for brands to brush up on their content in terms of credibility, relevance and timeliness. With the right approach, strategy and ethics, brand journalism is very reliable in terms of credible information received by an online audience.
- In defense of – Brand Journalism. (n.d.). Retrieved August 21, 2014, from http://www.brand-journalism.co.uk/introduction-to-the-subject/in-defence-of- brand-journalism/
- Friedman, A. (2013, May 2). Branded but ‘Independent’ media. Retrieved August 21, 2014, from http://www.cjr.org/realtalk/rise_of_branded_but_independen.php?page=all
- Williams, A. (2014, August 11). The growing pay gap between journalism and public relations. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
- LEWIS PR | The New Rules of Content: The role of Brand Journalism in PR. (n.d.). Retrieved August 22, 2014.
- Goodbye brand journalism and content marketing…hello DIY corporate media! (2013). PR Conversations.
- Inside Forbes: The Birth of Brand Journalism and Why It’s Good for the News Business. (2012, October 3). Retrieved August 22, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/lewisdvorkin/2012/10/03/inside-forbes-the-birth-of-brand-journalism-and-why-its-good-for-the-new-business/