I was being interviewed by Perry Marshall, a leading U.S. search engine marketing guru last week, and when he asked me to explain what “brand journalism” means, I found myself saying things to the effect of:
“Well, back in the day – I meant way back, like the 1980s – we journalists were trained to believe we were above commercial interests and had a moral imperative to act as society’s ‘traditional ‘fourth estate.‘ Using our trained skills in journalism entirely to benefit a specific company or brand would have been deemed as heresy, as in burn-at-the-stake heresy.”
Hah! How far we’ve come – and by we, I mean, me at least. I graduated from a leading journalism degree program in 1987 with all intentions of being that “objective voice of reason” reporting on society. That evolved within a few years to realizing my writing, research, and interviewing talents were helping my employers meet their bottom line goals. Nothing wrong with that. Enter, the Internet…
My Road to Marketing Writer
When the bottom fell out of the print journalism market in the early 2000s, as the Internet kicked ass, I saw it coming. Hey, being a senior editor at a daily big-city newspaper and hearing, meeting after meeting, that circulation sales were down, advertising sales were down – it didn’t take a genius to see the (web) writing on the wall. I bailed, and went directly to write the website content for a multinational software company.
Regrets? Not on your life! That move got me in a position, mostly by luck (like much of life), to benefit from training in Search Engine Optimization, in person, from the SEO pioneer and thought leader, Rand Fishkin in 2007, and then onto social media and web content marketing strategies and through it all – great writing! Aka, journalism.
This past summer, I listened to a segment on CBC Radio, that included a relatively new buzzword – brand journalism – that describes my line of work. One of the subjects interviewed was Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute, someone I follow on Twitter and elsewhere on social media.
I’d heard the term before, but it felt right, so I have adopted it as the label on one of my services. And it fits. Am I ashamed, as a former “purist” journalist? Not at all.
What do you think? Are brand journalists like myself ‘sell outs’? Or rather, are we as smart as hotcake salespeople in maple syrup country? Leave your comment below or Tweet us @prosocialmedia.
Speaking of hotcakes and maple syrup… check out what brand journalism can do for a company in the food industry. I created this Flipboard magazine compiled of dozen of brand journalist pieces for a client that I placed in national leading publications.