“Hello? … Hello? … Is this thing on?”
Businesses that invest in brand journalism understand why “becoming the media” is a stronger position than being “in the media.”
The shift from media consumption to media creation sounds easy enough in theory, but in practice most businesses have unrealistic expectations. To many, “to blog” means “to expect an immediate crackle of comments, re-tweets, and accolades.” More than a few businesses have become disillusioned and disappointed with their main vehicle — their blog — when they judge success on just one metric: the number of comments. Comments are great, but they are the wrong metric. (Here are six reasons a blog without comments is still working for you.)
Jayson DeMers recently wrote about this common dilemma at Forbes. He reminds business owners that successful bloggers need to focus on their niche, be willing to state strong opinions, and write for real people with a view on their needs. This is excellent advice.
Here are a few more pointers businesses using brand journalism should deploy to build a robust ownership platform:
1) Is Your Brand Journalist Free to Follow Stories?
Brand journalism relies on the reporting and story skills of journalists. Journalists, by trade and generally by temperament, are not marketers. Yes, their output may support a brand’s marketing efforts, but, to keep your journalists happy they should be free to investigate industry stories, even if that means shining a spotlight on what competitors are doing if it matters to the audience.
Pro tip: Audiences are more likely to respond positively — and put cash on the table — with a brand they feel they can trust. How do you build trust? You invite investigation.
2) Is Your Brand Journalist … Sexy?
Okay, just joking about the sexy bit, but there is undeniable appeal if you have an expert covering your topic who also has a network of fans. The personal franchise model is a growing trend in journalism. Bill Keller of the New York Times is the latest to start a new project (a nonprofit called the Marshall Project). We’ve discussed how celebrity journalists are increasingly branching out to develop their own media platforms, and sometimes even empires. Is your journalist an expert who is intriguing to the right audience — your audience?
Pro tip: Encourage a diversity of voices on your blog. If you can’t hire a superstar blogger, hire a superstar-in-the-making. Assign specific beats to brand journalists to maximize your news coverage angles.
3) Are You Offering Quality Material?
What constitutes quality is arguably all over the map, especially when it comes to blogging. (Let’s remember the oft-repeated dismissal of blogging as “graffiti with punctuation.” That was written into the movie Contagion in 2011 because, hey, new things like unknown viruses and bloggers are scary, people!) Regardless, business owners investing in brand journalism should know their business’ boundaries when it comes to so-called “quality material.” That’s because whatever you produce should be crafted for your target audience, not a general audience. Quality material changes based on audience. Give them the best.
Pro tip: Quality material is increasingly important because of search algorithms, too.
In short: Look deeper into the content you’re delivering and the freedom given to contributors to build a successful blog. Comments are a metric but they don’t tell the whole story.
Image by scyther5/123RF
Katie McCaskey is SixEstate's content director. She tests real-world application of content marketing techniques using the cafe she co-owns as a laboratory. She was Tech Editor of Chief Content Officer, 2010-2011, and contributes to the Content Marketing Institute. Connect with her on Google+ or @KatieMcCaskey.