Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Editorial Communications Is Not 'Brand Journalism' -It's 'Media as a Service'

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 25, 2015

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Loren Maxwell revisits the strange world of "Brand Journalism" and content marketing in his recent post: Traditional Journalists, Brand Journalists Divided In Controversy Over Brand Journalism

2010 marks the beginning of the Content Marketing Institute, which recognized that throughout hundreds of years, one thing was consistent, “Brands have been telling stories for centuries”.

True, brands tell stories and journalists tell stories — but storytelling is not journalism.

What has emerged is a world, where journalism is split between traditional journalism (predominately news, reporting, and gathering of facts and information), and brand journalism (corporations telling stories to engage with their markets). The lines of journalism are becoming blurred. 

Maxwell makes a grave error in his post: Journalism is most certainly not split "between traditional journalism" and "brand journalism." There are not two lines of journalism.

I have never met a brand journalist because there is no such thing as a brand journalist. ("Hi, I'm a journalist with Hugo Boss," ridiculous).

The new boss is not like the old boss...

The term "brand journalism" is used by corporate PR and PR agencies to confer a higher status to the content marketing they produce. 

Content marketing is a term to describe a form of corporate media (an umbrella term for all types of publishing by a corporation), that is editorial in its look and feel. 

Many companies hire journalists with the intent that they write high quality journalistic, editorial content.

But the problem is that such ventures are not editorially led, the new boss is nothing like the old boss at the newspaper. The new boss is a marketing exec or a corporate/agency PR exec. And that's why the resulting content invariably looks like marketing or PR. That's an Epic Fail because a company already has marketing and corporate PR content. 

To produce editorial content requires a different approach. Companies need to think about how they can establish an editorial organization that is independent of marketing, PR and any other corporate department. It must also be editorially led, which means that it is headed by experienced former journalists. 

Editorial Communications is MaaS...

- Editorial communications is journalistic but doesn't hide that it is corporate media, as "native advertising" tries to do. 

- Editorial communications is a way to surface the authenticity within an organization, its stories, its people, and its values. 

- A media organization provides a service, e.g., The Wall Street Journal provides a financial news service — Media as a Service (MaaS). Editorial communications should create content that is of service —  and not constantly self-serving.

 [It's OK to produce some self-serving content but the ratio should be at least 5 to 1, if not higher.]

- It should not look like marketing or PR communications because every company already has that type of content. 

- And it certainly is not "brand journalism," it is "editorial communications" — a more accurate term and far less controversial. 

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