The Controversy and Conflict Surrounding Brand Journalism

Ethics In Journalism

The society of Professional Journalists’ website states that ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity. However, the controversy and conflict surrounding brand journalism that it exists between journalists and marketers is one that will be discussed for quite awhile as those ethics sometimes seem blurred. It is very important to note that consumers have noticed and is taking a close look.

Aware Consumers

In his article, “What is brand Journalism”, Thomas Scott stated that over the years, Western culture has been bombarded with marketing and advertising to the point where consumers have become wise to the game and are reluctant to accept much of anything at face value. What Is Brand Journalism?. He further went on to say that whenever we want or need a service, we look to sources we trust and ask others for their opinions, and those expert opinions aught to be those from anyone besides a company that is trying to sell us something.

2014 Content Marketing Predictions

Jason DeMers made some predictions as to where content marketing was heading in 2014. He predicted that

  1. Businesses will finally be able to define Content Marketing – ‘Content marketing’ won’t just be a catch-all phrase used interchangeably with ‘marketing collateral’, but will have distinct importance within organizations.
  1. The Top New Marketing Job Title Recruited and Hired will be “Director of Content” – Greater departmental and company-wide support will mean more of the budget being designated for content creation and dissemination, and companies being willing to invest in dedicated content marketing managers.
  1. Mobile Content Marketing Strategies will Separate Winners from the Rest of the Pack – With the prediction that mobile will overtake desktop usage within the next 2 years, not incorporating mobile into a solid content strategy is no longer an option.
  1. Calculating Content Marketing ROI Will Spawn New SAAS Software and Companies – SAAS software and companies will emerge with various attempts at helping businesses calculate the ROI of their content marketing efforts, and many CEOs delving into content marketing for the first time will demand visibility into the profitability of their efforts.
  1. Businesses Will Look for Ways to Automate Their Content Marketing, and These Efforts Will Fail – However, these attempts will result in lower quality content, which will cause entire strategies to backfire. Many businesses will swing too far in the direction of automation in 2014 before finding a more balanced middle ground.
  1. Google+ and Slideshare Will Become Essential for B2B Content Marketers – According to the Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers are using social media to promote content more frequently than they did in 2012. And with the predicted growth of Google+ in the coming year, I expect we’ll see it become an even more important tool for content dissemination and social sharing.
  1. Location-Based Content Marketing Will Provide Huge ROI for Brick-and-Mortar Businesses – With the rise of mobile device usage, GPS-enabled smartphones will increasingly utilize location and personal-preference information to provide flash deals based on a user’s current location.

Jason also believes that businesses will need to increase their investment in content marketing. The Top 7 Content Marketing Trends Dominating 2014. 

Some journalists were not aware how important brand journalism had became, Jessica Bennett was one such journalist who stated, “I didn’t even realize how big the brand journalism thing had gotten until I got canned” She went on to say that consumers are getting smarter about traditional advertising and marketing, and mentioned that some companies were using unorthodox approach of employing journalist directly. Branded But Independent Media.

Digging For the Truth

“There is a lot of crap journalism out there, so sometimes it bothers me when people get all high and mighty about branded content. I really think it’s the story, not where it comes from.” But it’s increasingly difficult to figure out where a story comes from. As sponsored journalistic content and branded advertorial and brand-affiliated independent publications proliferate, the lines are getting blurrier and blurrier”, said Jessica Bennett. Columbia Journalism Review

Gaining Reader’s/Viewer’s Trust

It is far easier than ever before to tell our story adorned with images and videos. Whatever those stories are, rest assured that somewhere out there someone will become interested in them and they may even garner viral status. So why is there such controversy and tension in bran journalism? “ News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising” The tension between news, advertising and corporate information is nothing new. (Harmworth, A. & Northcliffe. (1865-1922) British publisher of the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, The Observer, The Times and Sunday Times. In order for brand journalism to be credible and gain the reader’s/viewer’s trust, it must be held to the highest value – one that is based on facts, fast and topical, generate new content on a regular and timely basis, must deliver value to its audience, and there must be total transparency about the origin of the content.

It is a fact that some sectors of the media is in decline, it is also a fact that in order to compete in the world of new media and technology, a company has to invest in infrastructure that will ensure significant return in the marketplace. Brand journalism is playing a significant roll in our society today. Citizen journalism along with social media conversations is playing a huge roll in the media and there’s just no turning back to the way things used to be. Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications sees brand journalism as a creator of jobs for journalists that serve as a stimulus for the growth of the industry.

There’s now a tremendous opportunity for companies to become publishing entity. The reach of new media makes it so much easier to get their messages out to the masses. However in doing so, companies have to ensure that they stay within the ethical guidelines and not stray away from it. Ethical journalism must strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough Additionally, they have to be careful not to bombard consumers with too much information that may result in a lack of interest, as consumers are much wiser to the game today than ever before. Companies have to earn the trust and credibility of the consumers as they can easily see through the smoke screen that sometimes exists in content marketing.

Thinking It Through 

Expert opinions are needed and not those from companies that have a vested interest in the product that they are pitching. As businesses seek out new ways to enhance through brand journalism, they must be careful not to use automation that may cause the entire process to backfire thus putting them in a bad light. As consumers’ knowledge of brand journalism increases, it is the companies’ responsibility to adopt and offer exactly when the consumer wants as it can make or break them. Although there is a decline in traditional media, those that remain can use brand journalism to their advantage and rebound.

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