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Brand journalism is a term coined by a former McDonald’s chief marketing officer and refers to companies and organizations (brands) hiring journalists to tell their stories – similarly to what is done by traditional news media.
In this concept, brand journalists use the skills they learned and honed as print, digital or broadcast reporters and editors and use them in more of a corporate environment. To a degree they are an in-house beat reporter – except that stories can be killed by the organization they are “covering.” (Keep in mind that having worked as a traditional journalist might not be a requirement to be hired as a brand journalist, but this preference is often likely.)
Perhaps, the biggest difference to traditional journalism is that brand journalists usually are not tasked with investigative pieces. Who would they investigate? They surely won’t get an expose of their own company published through that company’s channels. They report the stories of their organization in a compelling, informational and accurate way.
Journalists have skills in storytelling and fact checking. These are skills that brand journalists can and do use while reporting organizational news.
Brand journalists – similarly to traditional journalists – conduct interviews with subject matter experts and people involved in a story and then write or produce the story in the most compelling and audience-friendly way. In essence this is no different to what traditional journalists are doing through their channels.
While brand journalists are not marketers, in some organizations they still can run into approval processes that are similar to how marketing materials have been approved in recent decades. Their stories might still be changed by higher ups and marketing-language might be added.
At some organizations this will probably continue in the near future as decision makers are used to approving messaging (and not stories) but ultimately the use of journalists to tell authentic stories of brands can help share a brand’s story more effectively and in a more compelling way.