Throughout my entry-level career in journalism I have apparently done “Brand Journalism” on some levels. However, I just barely learned the term itself this week. I am familiar with content marketing, but apparently there is a difference between the two.
So, what exactly is Brand Journalism, then? It was defined in class as “the act of doing journalistic and creative work for a brand or company, writing advertisements and product marketing in traditional or innovative journalistic styles.” It is a growing industry that offers the possibility of more steady work and reliable pay for journalists as opportunities in traditional journalism have begun to dwindle.
The article that my classmates analyzed focused on a handful of reasons why journalists should pursue brand journalism, but I found another article that provides examples of what good brand journalism actually looks like in practice.
According to Powerpost, Red Bull, Airbnb, and Patagonia are killing it at brand journalism.
Red Bull has used brand journalism to successfully tap into the world of action sports and motorsports with high-profile event sponsorships as well as their Red Bulletin magazine which is geared toward young adventure-seekers. Red Bull also produces original series’ on YouTube that follow real athletes. By going above and beyond to connect with a specific community, they have essentially made their brand synonymous with these thrilling activities.
Patagonia’s blog, The Cleanest Line, speaks directly to their active and outdoorsy target audience by providing content that stimulates dialogue around their products, outdoor sports, and environmental issues. Additionally, the Patagonia catalog goes much further than your average piece of marketing literature. It includes informative essays along with striking images from around the world. Airbnb has a similar strategy with its own branded magazine, Airbnbmag, which focuses on experiencing the world through the perspectives of locals and hosts. They also have a blog that promotes traveling tips and hosts a series called “When Strangers Meet,” which tells real stories about couples who met through Airbnb.
From what I’ve gathered from these articles, brand journalism is essentially a marriage between marketing and journalism that draws people in because the content feels personal and direct. It’s also a more engaging way to educate consumers on what you’re selling as opposed to boring product descriptions and ads littered with marketing jargon that most people don’t understand.
For a journalist who may pursue this career path, one challenge that could present itself is feeling trapped by these brands and the obligation to promote their goals, which could feel like a threat to the creative process. However, this is why it would be important to work with companies whose values align most closely with yours and whose products you can confidently and firmly stand behind. This may mean turning down work here and there, but if it really means a lot to you and you’re losing sleep at night, then you’ll have to prioritize your morals over money.