Monday, May 16, 2011

Brand journalism 101

When my colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University, where I used to work, would fret over newsrooms slashing coverage of science and technology, I would tell them that the university needed to become its own source of news about these subjects. Why rely on a middleman when you can give your stories directly to the public? The catch was that the content couldn't be merely promotional, but truly informative.

Now, there's a name for this: brand journalism, and this article captures the opportunities it presents for organizations:

Organizations need to shift their media thinking from collateral (designed to support the immediate sale of product) to journalism (telling a story people are actually interested in). Consider Intel's Free Press. Most of the stories there are not about Intel. They're about topics a technology or business publication would cover and, in the course of their reporting, would interview someone from Intel or discover that Intel played a part in the story.

This accomplishes two things: It keeps your customers' eyeballs focused on you, and away from your competitors, and it enhances your credibility. If you appear to be an honest broker when it comes to discussing the trends in your industry, then customers will be more willing to believe that the good things you say about your own brand are true.

For colleges and universities, this means that our publications -- particularly those aimed at alumni and donors -- should not merely focus on what's happening at the institution, but on topics of interest to the audience in their professional and personal lives. So for example, your business school magazine could feature an article with an overview of changes in the tax code aimed at accounting grads. The article could be written by the head of the accounting department, or else quote her length. Either way, you've reinforced in the reader's mind the reputation of faculty as experts in their field, and by extension the degree that reader earned from your university. And they'll be that much more likely to hear everything else you want to tell them.

1 comment:

Chris Parente said...

Yes, this understanding is spreading. You can also call it curated content. This is what I do for my clients. As you note, it requires a mind shift from promotion to education, with hopefully a dollop of entertainment as well.

A great example is, sponsored by Kapersky Labs but staffed by former tech journos hired by Kapersky.