Last week we had the pleasure of attending the Atlanta Chapter of the American Marketing Association’s monthly signature luncheon that featured three subject matter experts discussing Brand Journalism. The panel featured representatives from three Atlanta-based companies: Chic-fil-A, Coca-Cola, and UPS. We walked away with a lot of valuable information, and wanted to share a few tips with you!
What is Brand Journalism?
Brand journalism is just what it sounds like – taking a journalistic approach to marketing your brand. Larry Light, McDonald’s CMO from 2002 – 2005, defined brand journalism as a way to record “what happens to a brand in the world.” By taking an organized approach to talking about your brand and how both your brand engages with the world, and how the world engages with your brand, you can create relative, interesting, and insightful content. “Good” brand journalism can include blog posts, press releases, videos, gifs and other forms of media to best engage your followers.
What does Brand Journalism Look Like?
James Rowe, Content and Creative Development Manager at UPS, illustrated an example of tying together the initiatives of a vaccine company and a drone company, and the integral part UPS played in their efforts. Note that this is not a sales pitch. This is UPS relating their brand to the rest of the world. See this example of brand journalism here.
Another great example was given by Ashley Callahan, Content Strategy and PR Manager at Chick-fil-A Corporate. She discussed the saga that ensued after Chick-fil-A changed its signature Barbeque Sauce. Chick-fil-A responded brilliantly to the public outcry with its “Mean Tweets” campaign. By keeping a pulse on public opinion, they were able to utilize content created by the “average Joe” in their own journalistic endeavors – capturing the essence of how the world interacts with the Chick-fil-A brand.
Tips on Improving Your Brand Journalism Efforts
Experiment, Experiment, Experiment!
Digital changes. Constantly. It is important to throw ideas out there, see if they stick, and then adjust as needed. Not everything is going to pay off, and not everything that pays off will pay off instantly. Ms. Callahan discussed the initial staleness of the Chick-fil-A “Menu Hacks” program and how after several original content pieces were posted the campaign started getting traction. Even multibillion dollar brands do not have a formula “figured out”.
Amplify Your Content
Once a content piece has been created and posted, it’s time to promote it. Amplifying your content can be just as important as creating it. Evaluate your options for amplification. This can include engaging social influencers, boosted ads on Facebook, optimizing for social media and many other methods (some of which may be specific to your brand’s industry). Be sure to consider partnering with other companies – often times sharing stories can be mutually beneficial.
Define Your Boundaries
With most brands’ journalistic content the sky’s the limit. UPS was able to tie together drones and vaccines in its journalism. While it may seem like a stretch, tying vaccines and drones together into their parcel delivery story, UPS found a way to create a press release that expertly promoted their brand.
It’s important to establish boundaries and stay within them. What won’t my brand touch? Beyond the obvious, well known bar rule (no religion, no politics), the most important guideline you can establish is to only discuss “the world” when it can be related to your brand.
To summarize: your brand exists in a world full of people that do not want your content forced down their throats. What people are interested in is how your brand relates to their world. Provide compelling content that ties your brand and the world together and people will engage with you!