No matter how hard we fight it, labels define us. We reveal the truth
behind these two writing terms.
First things first. Journalists have had a rough go of it lately. This post isn’t an attempt to pile on them. If anything, we want this post to illustrate the respect we have for those who are members of the fourth estate—whether in print, on television or online. While some of us may have journalism backgrounds or educations, what we do today is not journalism. We are in the content game, content marketing if you must label it so. (We might have mentioned our distaste for the term before.) What is this brand journalism then that some people speak of then? Let us explain.
You say tomato, I say tomahto
Some folk would like for the world to view brand journalism and content marketing as interchangeable. They are not. Here’s why: The purpose of content marketing is to increase the return on investment for your business. In other words—your words’ (aka “content”) purpose is to sell more widgets (or whatever it is your company offers in terms of a product or service).
Brand journalism seems to imply that you are providing news that is pertinent or connected to your brand. But that’s as much of an oxymoron as “seriously funny.” Corrupting journalism in this way does a disservice to news men and women. And honestly, we think it isn’t fair to the writing we do either. Each has its place and purpose.
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto
Not to toot our own horn or anything, but we think we are pretty darn good writers. We want to create content or communications or whatever you wish to call it that is high quality, informative and trusted, and most of all we want to provide writing that accomplishes what our clients need it to do. Journalists also want to be trusted for creating informative, quality work.
So what’s the difference then? Let’s start with the American Press Institute (API). They define journalism as “the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities.” It’s different from other forms of communication because its purpose is to verify information—in other words, as API explains, it provides the “truth about the facts.”
Let’s call the whole thing off
We’d like to conclude by saying that when it comes to the idea of brand journalism, we respectfully ask that you back away from the terminology. Write great content about your brand that will bring in loads of money for your company. Share information that is factual and that sets your product apart from the rest. Show that you are the better communicator and command a larger portion of the market. And be proud of your work. But don’t equate what you do with journalism.