In the 1962 classic film Days Of Wine And Roses, Jack Lemmon’s character, Joe Clay, thought it unsavory at times to classify himself as a public relations man. He instead used what he deemed a more refined, objective title: “industrial journalist.”
More than 50 years later, the concept of a “journalistic” approach to PR is returning, this time as the evolution of content marketing.
Call it brand journalism.
It makes sense. Think about the word “content.” It’s sterile, generic and functional.
A journalistic approach to content, however, brings a number of beneficial characteristics to the materials a company creates and shares.
Intent. The purpose of journalism is to present readers with information that informs, educates, entertains, enlightens and helps them make sense of their world. That’s a much nobler purpose than something called “content.” Content is a space filler. Journalism is a brain filler.
Objectivity. Journalism is grounded in facts: who, what, where, when, why and how. Content doesn’t have the same inherent focus. The fact-based approach to journalism gives it a sense of objectivity and authority. Certainly, the concept of “brand journalism” indicates a measure of bias: the practice is intended to support the viewpoint of the brand. But considering that brands are fueled by trust, objectivity is essential in earning consumer confidence.
Storytelling. Good journalists are good storytellers. The best journalists are awesome ones. As a practice, journalists seek out the human aspect behind the news or the facts. They relish anecdotes and personal accounts that add color and emotion to their stories. Isn’t that what we want for our brands – the emotion, meaning and context behind the information? After all, most purchase decisions are based as much on emotion as on fact. Yes, content can include or consist of stories, but unlike journalism there’s not an inherent promise that it should.
Quality. Journalism is a craft. It is created by people with training – professionals who can capture the essence of a story and portray it powerfully in words, pictures, audio and video. On the contrary, the idea of “content” doesn’t necessarily embody the same expectation of quality. An average person with a cell phone can take a picture and upload “content”. A trained photojournalist will use all the tools at his or her disposal to create a compelling, memorable image that conveys a feeling or message. Brand journalism is about quality, whereas content is too often about quantity. (Remember our discussion a couple weeks ago about the effect of quality on attention spans?)
What steps will you take to move from content creator to brand journalist? And what results would you hope to see?
(Thank you to the January 2016 client newsletter for Cision, the database resource for PR pros, for the inspiration for this post. Read the full article here.)