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Brand Journalists – Does Your Company Need One?

It can be a tough world out there for journalists. TV and newspaper reporters have to deal with daily deadlines, stressful subject matter, and constant criticism.

The pay isn’t always great. Plus, when you combine the overall struggles of traditional media with cost-cutting measures as well as frequent mergers and acquisitions in the industry, there’s not much job security either.

That’s why a lot of journalists are switching career paths and using their skills to help businesses with marketing.

It’s a practice known as brand journalism. But does your company really need a brand journalist?

Defining Brand Journalism

It’s really about as simple as it sounds. Brand journalism is what you get when the worlds of marketing and journalism collide.

The Top Rank Marketing Blog describes brand journalists this way:

“Brand journalists are essentially marketers who approach the promotion of their brand with the eyes, insight and delivery of a reporter.”

Brand journalism certainly has its critics. Purists of journalism sound the alarm over the blurring of lines between advertising and reporting. However, it’s a much bigger concern for publishers who are branching out into native advertising with sponsored content.

Publications like the New York Times have a reputation to maintain and a responsibility to readers. It’s a different story when it comes to your business’s content marketing efforts.

In the digital age we say “every company is a media company.” That phrase is attributed to Tom Foremski, former tech journalist for the Financial Times. Foremski is thought to be the first reporter to leave a major publication to make a living as a full-time blogger. He says

“It doesn’t matter if a company makes diapers or steel girders, it must also be a media company and know how to use all the media technologies at its disposal.

While this has always been true to some extent, it is even more important today, because our media technologies have become so much more powerful.”

Any business with a website and a story to tell has the potential to reach a worldwide audience. You don’t need to own a radio tower to broadcast or a printing press to publish. The tools are available to all of us.

That being said … just because anyone can doesn’t necessarily mean anyone should. You still have to know what you’re doing.

Bill Miston
Bill Miston

That’s where brand journalists come in.

And, that’s why Element hires people like Bill Miston. He’s a former television news reporter who joined our content marketing team in 2016.

We talked to him about his background in journalism as well as how he uses his skills to help our clients tell stories, reach an audience, and achieve their marketing goals.

4 Benefits of Having a Brand Journalist

Former TV news reporter Bill Miston in the field
Former TV news reporter, Bill Miston, in the field (Courtesy: billmiston.com)

1. Reporters Understand Good Storytelling

A good story is something your audience (or potential customers) can relate to. It has an emotional, human element, and it should aim to leave people changed in some way. That could mean your readers, viewers, or listeners learned something, were persuaded to change their opinion, or it could simply mean it changed their mood.

As a journalist, Bill says one of the most important aspects of good storytelling is getting all your facts straight.

“Get it right. The first time. Every time,” he explains. “Facts are essential to storytelling, be they an anecdote from an eyewitness, pieces of data found deep within spreadsheets, or what a journalist witnesses and experiences. In order for a journalist to get the story right, the facts matter.”

Accuracy and honesty are important in brand journalism as well. When you publish content, you’re putting your company’s reputation on the line. A story that’s thoroughly fact-checked and cites authoritative sources helps protect that reputation.

2. Reporters are Trained to Learn Quickly and Explain Clearly

Where do all those facts come from? Research.

“Research is where every journalist starts the story writing process,” Bill says.

Doing your research on a product, an industry, or a particular company is part of every good copywriter’s process, too. That’s one skill that translates well when a journalist makes the transition from news media to marketing.

Research is step one. Having a solid grasp on the subject matter is another step. After that, the information needs to be explained clearly to the audience.

“Some stories are very straightforward and simple,” Bill says. “Others … not so much. Journalists are expected to be immediate experts on difficult-to-understand topics in a short period of time … a journalist’s job is to then process the content that’s coming in to his or her information funnel and craft it into content that everyone can understand.”

3. They Know How to Make Social Media Work

Social media has changed the way people get their news. Bill points out that, in many cases, everyday people break a news story on social media, which starts spreading like wildfire before news outlets even begin reporting on it.

Social media has also become a useful tool for many journalists. They use sites like Facebook to build their personal brand as a news personality. Modern-day journalists know how to use social media to stay on top of developments, stay in contact with sources, and then use social channels to promote and distribute their stories.

Bill thinks both individuals and businesses should be careful about what they post and how much they share on social media. Don’t forget, you are making public statements with every post.

“I won’t get into specific situations I came across in the past,” Bill says. “But you probably aren’t surprised how much information people are willing to share for the whole world to see.”

Bill also warns about the temptation to be “first” on social media. That can lead to trouble if you’re responsible for misinforming your audience.

For brands, piggybacking on big news stories could be a good idea. Marketing expert David Meerman Scott calls it “newsjacking.” However, that strategy can backfire. The public is pretty savvy to what marketers are up to. If your business tries to take advantage of a tragedy in order to promote itself, your insensitivity will be called out!

Recently, Cheerios came under fire for branded imagery surrounding the death of music legend, Prince. Many brands who try to Tweet about September 11th, even those who are being sincere, get backlash from followers.

4. Brand Journalists Can Help with PR and Media Relations

Members of the press come from the other side of the public relations coin. They’re the ones PR professionals are trying to reach. They’re often the gatekeepers between your story getting covered and your press release landing in the trash can.

Former reporters possess unique insights into how decisions are made in newsrooms. Having one on your side is almost like PR counter-intelligence.

Bill says, when you pitch a story to the media, make sure it’s something relevant that will provide value to the audience.

“If you’re looking for press coverage, don’t waste your time and mine pitching me an angle that isn’t going to resonate with my target audience,” he explains. “That’s the quickest way for me to block your email or have your press release relegated to the the bottom of the ever-growing pile.”

Get more advice from Bill Miston and the stats to back him up in our post on Maximizing Media Relations, which includes findings from Cision’s 2016 State of the Media Report.

Another interesting fact Bill points out is how “journalists and newsroom staff are constantly being asked to do more with less.”

Many TV stations and newspapers are running on bare bones staff. That makes it even harder to get coverage.

Tara Brzozowski
Tara Brzozowski

There’s a way around that. It’s called content marketing!

Element Public Relations Director, Tara Brzozowski, experienced this problem firsthand. Thankfully, she also discovered the solution.

Back when Tara was working for a major arts and entertainment venue, she suddenly found it harder and harder to get the features department writers at the local newspaper to cover anything that wasn’t a big-time show.

So, Tara took matters into her own hands. She and her marketing team started building their own audience and publishing their own content online!

Get Content Marketing Help!

Brand journalists like Bill Miston and public relations experts like Tara Brzozowski are just part of the talented team we’ve put together here at Element.

Our content marketing programs come with the support of digital marketing and SEO specialists, content strategists, graphic designers, video editors, and web developers.

Hiring all that help to create an internal content studio at your business is probably a pretty tall order. That’s where we come in!

Contact us today and ask about what content marketing can do for you.


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