Tag Archives: Journalism

Brand Journalism – a new hybrid of PR and business ?

by Ingrida Andrijauskaite

Brand Journalism – a new hybrid of PR and business ?

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It happened ten years ago, when one of the most famous companies in the world – McDonald’s decided to take a new look at advertising and the marketing of their products to consumers. In 2004 McDonald’s started to call it “brand journalism” strategy. This was the first time this trend appeared in the public space. McDonald’s wanted to show that a brand’s story can’t be an over-simplification of a complex idea.

McDonald’s showed that there is a need to look more deeply at the product and the methods of communication which can help to reach the different demographics – different people in varying situations with different needs.

This was exemplified by the new “I’m lovin’ it” campaign; McDonald’s rejected the traditional marketing and advertising approaches focusing on a single, recurrent message in preference of a “content stream approach,” which involves various messages via different channels to multiple audiences.

What is Brand Journalism and why is there a need for it in business?

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Firstly, it is interesting to look deeper at the meaning of brand journalism and try to ascertain why this method has become increasingly popular in the business area.

It can’t be said that this trend is very new in business, because it appeared ten years ago. However, it is just now that this term is beginning to be used in the communication strategies of business companies with a selective target audience.

There are many professionals who analyse brand journalism, but as of yet there is no strict theoretical definition of brand journalism. Brand Journalism is considered as the first wide–ranging practical guide to this hybrid form of traditional journalism, marketing and public relations. Therefore, it can also be referred to as corporate journalism or corporate media. This trend has come from the practical nature of business communications strategies.

The companies are increasingly using and creating journalistic content in their brand communications to the public. They are hiring camera crew and journalists to help prepare the video montage, the text of the news and the content of the brand communications, and to find the best ways of properly representing the company to their target audience.

However, the most popular definition of this trend which is mentioned by communications experts is a method of journalistic storytelling that focuses on communicating messages that consumers care about. It helps attract, inform and engage the target audience of every business companies.

The journalist and author of the book “Brand Journalism”, Andy Bull,  states that this new trend is a response to the fact that any organization can now use journalistic techniques to tell it‘s story directly to the public.[1]

Andy Bull

A journalist has defined the concept as “Journalism produced on behalf of a brand.” This definition sees it as techniques used by any organisations which have ongoing contact with the public. Andy Bull claims that the startegy of brand journalism is also used by companies working in the B2B sector. Brand journalism can be implemented to help businesses sell their products and services to orther organisations and to establish themselves as reliable and trustworthy institutions within their field.

The opinion of McDonald’s Chief Marketing Officer, Larry Light, discussed in “Six Rules for Brand Revitalization” is that mass marketing and mass media no longer work. He explained this: “We no longer live in a world where mass marketing to masses of consumers with a mass message delivered through mass media makes money. In fact, mass marketing as we know it is dead.”

Andy Bull states that it is just as true for mass journalism: “Journalism has always been seen as serving a mass audience. Newspapers, magazines, television and radio – they are all mass media. Or they were. Now journalists are facing just the challenge that Light defined for marketers.”

We all know that every journalist has to focus on comprehensively researching and gathering information without any corruption or influence from corporations, powerful individuals, politicians, or public organizations. Journalists must be reliable informer and presenters of the news to the public. According to this, brand journalism must also focus on the reliable content of a brand and attaining the trust of the public.

One of the reasons why a method of storytelling is very important for all businesses – is that it improves the trust society has in the brand being presented to her. And the main aim is to show that the company is socially responsible across all of their services, products and promises in accordance with the ethical standards of society.

What can be taken from all of this is that brand journalism tries to help businesses to create interesting and original stories about their brand and team. Some great examples of campaigns are HSBC Business without Borders, Survey Monkey, Mail Chimp who are in the lead with their efforts concerning brand journalism.

It is important for companies to remember to create and foster a reliable connection with society. If the company is open and genuine to the public, it helps to build fundamental trust and increasingly garners more interest in the brand.

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Does Brand Journalism split traditional journalism?

Brand Journalism is an ever-evolving discipline within public relations (PR) and business. It‘s not suprising that this trend creates a great deal of disagreement amongst professional journalists and media experts regarding its validity, values and potential harmful impact on traditional journalism.

The watchdog of traditional journalism state that the term of Brand journalism should be referred to as brand communications or content marketing, shedding the word “journalism”. This term is considered to aptly describe the manner of information transfer in the marketing and PR fields. This could be misleading to users and the public, as it does not have the same connotations of media transparency and corporation integrity.

So all the problems with ethics, values or social responsibilities of business will be applied to traditional journalism. This may decrease the trust society to journalism has in journalism and the ethics and worth of traditional journalism. If brand journalism is actively used in the public domain, it may be very difficult to ensure that it is distinguished from traditional journalism. This is the main reason why the majority of media professionals are looking very carefully at this new hybrid – brand journalism.

The new opportunities for business

Although it is harder to find the results obtained by brand journalism, marketing and PR professionals agree that this is one of the best methods to encourage companies to actively use ‘storytelling’ in their brand communications or in the public space.

Brand journalists concentrate on the overall positive impact of brand journalism, because it will provide the novelty, courage, variety and authenticity to companies’ communications. Also, the storytelling part is informative and engaging for audiences, and makes them want to know  how the story ends.

On a final note, Brand journalism can help businesses to improve by finding more effective ways to communicate with their existing and potential clients.

Check out the interview about Brand Journalism and its value for business:

[1] http://www.brand-journalism.co.uk/introduction-to-the-subject/what-brand-journalism-is/

 

Journalism without borders: ethical dilemmas?

by Ingrida Andrijauskaite

ethics

Journalism without borders: ethical dilemmas?

The doctor comes to the hospital ward and says to the patient:

  • Patient, I have some news for you – good and bad. Which do you want to hear first?
  • No, just tell me the bad news, I don’t want to hear the good news at all – the patient said
  • Why? – the doctor asked
  • You see, I am a journalist!

This anecdote assumes that this is the reality of journalism now. Journalists want to show and inform us about the bad news, because it‘s said that good news is not as interesting for people as bad news is. The media lends great attention to the topics related to death, violence, acts of terrorism, war, natural disasters. Ethics is sometimes absent from decisions concerning how to show these  news stories to the general public.

Often, the media intends to shock or cause controversy with the features it shows. Let’s look at an example – the very popular TV serial “Family Guy”. Every scene includes black humour with shocking, satirical content. An important part of this is devoted to the TV news, with the anchors Tom Tucker and Diane Simmons only presenting negative or unbelievable news.

Family guy

The authors of “Family Guy” have made an effort to show that the media is not just showing too much populist, cheap information, but also that it focuses attention to news which is controversial. This TV show implies that journalists don’t care about ethics.

In reality, the majority of journalists confront ethical dilemmas in their jobs; theoretically it is easy to comply with the rules of ethics, but it’s more complex in practice. Amongst communities of professional journalists, there is an ongoing debate about the need for ethical practice, but it is still difficult to find actionable solutions to ethical issues.

One of the dilemmas facing journalists is freedom of speech. Quite often, there is arguably a fine line between morality and immorality when it comes to telling the truth.

Lithuanian media professor Audrone Nugaraite has said, that “Journalism is telling the truth and building the community. These values are fundamental for the new media channels. The future of journalism is inseparable from ethics, because otherwise there wouldn‘t be democracy. Ethical value is growing, and the practice needs to be shaped with examples in law.”

Effective criteria for the Media news

Today, one of the most important things to do is look around and see what the Media looks like without borders.

The main objective for creating the news remains the same – it’s purpose is not just to be informative, but also to have emotional impact on people.

If we are more interested in how the media generates the news, we can find a lot of different criteria to be considered. For example the scientists Brooks, Kenedy, et al. distinguish the main values of  knowledge criteria for the news:

  • impact (how and how much the “event” touches a person and his/her feelings. Theoretically, the higher the level of the impact created by an event, the more significant it is);
  • proximity (people are interested in events which geographically closer to them);
  • timeliness (the event must be completely new, so that the news is useful to the public. It also must be prepared in time);
  • uniqueness (in the news, there must be something novel, unique and unusual);
  • human interest (empathy for the successes and celebrations, or failures and hardships, of other people);
  • tension (people should be interested in how the story progresses; what will happen in the end);

Another ethical issue mentioned by the media professional is social media. Social networks are progressively having a greater impact on journalists, as now these channels are used extensively for finding materials.

social media

     The impact of Social media on Journalism

We can see that journalists actively use social media channels, like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc., as these platforms help them to learn more quickly about events from different countries.

On the one hand, it is very good that traditional media such as TV, newspapers and radio actively use the virtual information space, as it allows for quick transmission of news and an easy way to source stories. But what about the authenticity of this information? Often the views shown to us via TV or social media channels are very unethical.

Social media allows for journalists to find great stories more quickly, but here begins one of the problems – the majority of journalists don’t stop to research events more thoroughly and they don’t conduct a proper analysis.

Journalists “catch” short news from Twitter or other social media platforms and then rush to report this. Reporters try to find some people who can provide them general information, so they do an interview and write a small amount of text, with most of the feature devoted to a video, which clearly has to be memorable.

Often journalists forget about rules or disciplines of ethics, because they’re focused on the search for  the “best” news.

The example of “Charlie Hebdo”  

All of Europe are still reeling from the terrorist attacks in France. A lot of media channels have spoken about them in the French satirical weekly magazine “Charlie Hebdo”. But the main information was provided in the form of primary sources, with video footage. For example, engineer Jordi Mir posted a short video on Facebook, which recorded the cold-blooded murder of a Parisian policeman by a terrorist in the street.

The news agency “The Associated Press” published this footage as proof of the horrific event. This short video has become the most shocking depiction of the French three-day drama that began the mass slaughter and ended in the deaths of four hostages and three terrorists. This video has caused worldwide outrage. British tabloids called it “shocking” and “a cause of disgust”.

This story is an example of social media ethics today, with people trying to “catch” everything which is unusual, unbelievable or shocking and then sharing this with others users of social networks, either as evidence or just for the sake of novelty. Later they may regret sharing this content.

As engineer Jordi Mir explained, it was his ten years of experience using social media which gave him the habit of sharing everything he saw. And he is not the only person who is like this – a lot of people use social networks to share everything that is happening to them. They are a virtual second life for many people.

Unfortunately, journalists actively follows social networks too and sometimes it doesn’t care whether newsworthy videos or images were acquired ethically. If they concern important events and attract attention, they will be showed openly in order to provide viewers with the facts.

Perhaps, we can’t solely blame the media for every slip in ethics, because she shows the reality of the world in which we all live these days.