Brand Journalism for Thought Leadership

Mar 07, 2016

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We’ll always have a soft spot for traditional public relations tactics—working our media contacts to get stories placed in prominent papers or score that perfect quote from a client’s expert spokesperson. But these days, every organization should at least consider how to incorporate brand journalism into its communications efforts.

Brand journalism has many definitions and many names. In essence, any organization consistently publishing and promoting content to engage its audience is practicing brand journalism. You are researching, reporting, collecting, writing, editing, and disseminating news for broad audiences, but the focus is on your industry and company.

In general, brand journalism isn’t aiming to sell your product or service directly. Its goal is to build stories and other informational content that highlights value from a different point of view. Brand journalism works especially well for organizations that employ experts in their respective fields, such as consulting agencies, law firms and healthcare organizations. 

Want to get started developing your own brand journalism strategy? Here are some questions to answer. 

Should you create a separate website?

Creating a branded media site with a different URL from your company website allows your brand journalism efforts to remain distinct from your organization, which can increase credibility.

Companies that have done this well include:

Adobe’s CMO.com is a website for for marketers that shares inspiration, understanding, and trending information. 

Disney’s babble.com provides parents with tips and information on everything from pregnancy to raising healthy, active children.

American Express’ openforum.com allows entrepreneurs to stay current with the latest business news and information, often from thought leaders and business types who are doing the work. 

If creating a new website isn’t in the cards right now, you can use brand journalism principles right on your company blog to improve your content marketing strategy. Think of your industry the same way reporters think of their “beats”. As long as you tell a truthful story to build awareness or offer insight, you are engaging in brand journalism. 

Who are your experts?

Brand journalism can position your organization as a thought leader in its industry by leveraging your experts to create content and act as spokespeople. Highlight your experts and their credentials by posting short bios at the bottom of each story. Make sure experts are on hand to be interviewed, if an article is picked up by the press.

How can you newsjack to bring in readers?

What are your areas of expertise? When a big story that falls under your purview makes headlines, be prepared to put your own spin on it.

For example, when The Washington Post reported an increase in autism patients nationwide, Cook Children’s Hospital in Texas jumped in with its own story, “Why are more U.S. kids being diagnosed with autism than ever before ?” The hospital posted a story on International Day of Persons with Disabilities quoting one of its neurologists.

How can you move beyond the written word?

You don’t have to stick to news-style articles. Another healthcare organization using brand journalism amazingly well is the Cleveland Clinic. Their branded media site, Health Essentials, uses a combination of articles, recipes and videos to share on-brand content from its experts. Think about fun ways to engage your audience through infographics, quizzes, and informational videos.

How will you track your success?

Analytics can help communicators prove the value of the content to skeptical staffers who might be hesitant to share their time. Use Google Analytics along with the analytics available on your social channels to track engagement. These kinds of metrics can also help you gain insight into what resonates most with your readers and the media.

Have a question about how to build a brand journalism strategy? Give us a call or drop us a line.



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Maribeth Neelis

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As a digital marketing strategist, Maribeth loves learning and writing about content marketing, social media, SEO, paid advertising, PR and mobile. She is obsessed with data-driven marketing and believes all online channels should be given a strategy, so engagement can be personalized and well targeted. In her free time, she likes watching science documentaries, hiking, skiing and traveling to far-flung places.


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