Brand Journalism Success In 10 Not-So-Easy Steps

Think you want to try brand journalism? Here are ten steps to make it successful.

“Technology is (or was?) meant to help humanity simplify certain tasks. You know, make us lazier our lives easier. But given our current trajectory, we may end up like the piles of putty in Wall-E that represent the fleshy future of humanity as a sedentary race.

That is unless, we all get chipped. So let’s do it.”

So argues tech journalist Peter Ha, in a recent piece that appeared alongside an article from another well-known Peter, XPRIZE CEO Peter Diamandis. They were part of a wide-ranging group – including a physician and a running expert – discussing mobile technology’s impact on medicine.

The conversation was hosted by an unexpected source: Qualcomm, the wireless technology company perhaps best known to the general consumer (and sports fan in particular) for sponsoring the football stadium in San Diego.

Qualcomm is a giant in mobile, but we want to become better-known with consumers. So, in 2012, we began connecting with technorati of all types through a brand journalism program we named Qualcomm Spark.

Spark is a digital magazine that uses the principles of brand journalism, and its content - articles, videos, photos and infographics - covers topics that Qualcomm and its ecosystem care about, ranging from education to start-ups. Our contributors follow the principals of journalism, and are free to express their own opinions. (Even if that opinion is “smartphones suck at gaming.”)

We’re not the only ones using this powerful new tool, which has the ability to break through noise and reach people who are skilled at avoiding traditional advertising. Just look at Red Bull, American Express, or Johnson & Johnson. These companies – and many others – are creating original, interesting content that’s allowing them to engage with their audience in a new way.

Think you want to try brand journalism? Here are ten steps to make it successful:

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  1. Don’t create anything until you define your audience and goals. Who are you talking to? What do you want to say to them? What conversations do you want to foster? Why?

  2. Maintain an authentic unbiased approach. Practice journalistic integrity. Content that isn’t honest – that contains too much “spin” – won’t resonate with anyone. Run your program like a newsroom. Staff it with journalists, not PR reps. Be open to content and opinions that may not be completely aligned with your company’s viewpoint.

  3. Find the best contributors. Seek out thought leaders in your field, or any field. They’ll respond if your program has integrity.

  4. Invest in quality content. Great stories don’t come cheap. Following the news is a daily commitment. Be willing to spend the time and money it takes to make a great program. Hire great writers, copyeditors, photographers and videographers who are passionate about the ideas and content they are creating.

  5. Bring the right audience to your site. Great content is useless unless there is someone to consume it. But don’t rely on traditional advertising. Consider content syndication, or social media. Pull readers and viewers in – but also push content to wherever they are.

  6. Engage with your audience in real time. Brand journalism is about a conversation with your target audience. Start one. And keep it up, every day.

  7. Coordinate with – and separate from – other marketing projects. Brand journalism programs work hand-in-hand with other marketing initiatives. They can be powerful amplifiers. But they’re not the place for sales pitches. Put your press releases somewhere else.

  8. Use nimble marketing and analytics. Since brand journalism is fairly new, it’s crucial that you have a robust, flexible metrics program to track your hits and misses. Check the numbers daily. Adjust your plans accordingly.

  9. Evolve. The news changes constantly, and so should you. Continuously explore site and content enhancements.  Experiment with ideas and forms that move the program forward. Don’t change unnecessarily, but always look for ways to improve.

  10. Have fun! If you don’t want to read it or watch it, your audience won’t either.

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