Why brand journalism matters for marketers
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Why brand journalism matters for marketers

What makes a good brand journalist, and why it matters for marketers

Creativity and commercial awareness trump pure writing ability when it comes to the top attributes a brand journalist should possess, according to both the marketers and brand journalists NewsCred surveyed for its report Rise of the UK Brand Journalist.

The ‘brand journalist’ is becoming a core part of marketing, putting editorial or journalistic experience to good use by creating original content on behalf of brands, but also with an eye to commercial value for the organisation.

Creativity is deemed the core value for brand journalists by 32% of marketers, compared with 12% who think writing is the most important skill. It appears that strong writing is taken as a given, but it’s the other elements on top that separate the wheat from the chaff. And the journalists in this survey agreed, with 41% saying the most important skill for a brand editor should be creativity.

This isn’t surprising when you realise that a great brand journalist doesn’t just tell shareable stories, but has an important role to play in building credibility and trust in a company or product.

The journalists surveyed claim their top three plans for 2016 are to create more original content (a priority for 69%), branch out into new ways of promoting content for free (67%) and expand into new forms/mediums (63%). Some 61% also expect to boost the size of their content team.

Results show that 37% of the journalists surveyed expect to increase the amount of user-generated content over the next year and 16% plan to license more content from other publishers to further ease the creative pressure.

While the demand for delivering creativity is real, so is understanding how a commercial imperative influences the role and performance of the brand journalist. As one says: “One of the biggest challenges as a brand editor is striking the balance between the need to build brand and storytelling, as well as finding the more functional (conversion and lead generation) approach.”

The commercial and creative conundrum is particularly pertinent when it comes to taking on content team members. Of respondents, 63% of brand journalists say they are finding it difficult to hire new staff, while 33% say recruiting people with the right marketing and commercial skills is the most difficult task. Unearthing writers with the necessary editorial skills comes a close second at 29%, demonstrating that writing isn’t completely overlooked for commercial savviness.

Judging by marketers’ predictions for content marketing in 2020, the future looks bright – especially when it comes to stronger measurement, the further entrenchment of content in the marketing mix, the rise of the in-house content team and the anticipated growth in the number of journalists considering branded content as a viable career option.

While there’s no doubt that the number of opportunities will grow exponentially, the jury is still out when it comes to journalists’ mind-sets. Views are evenly split on whether brand journalism offers as much career satisfaction as traditional journalism, as well as whether the discipline can be taken as seriously as a traditional editorial career.

As one respondent says: “Most of the branded content I see is fairly perfunctory and not up to the standard of independent journalism in the same sector. But I’m sure there are people doing a good job – I’m just not seeing it. In fact, one of the issues with branded content is the lack of visibility of the good stuff.”

Certainly, for some journalists there are still ethical perceptions to overcome before they can be convinced to work for brands. Yet, as journalists see more of their colleagues being hired by brand owners and agencies, this view may soften – especially once they discover that the sports and fashion brands they love are increasingly producing their own magazines with editorial content that is as credible and relevant as anything being created for traditional media.

Over the next five years, the roles of content marketers and journalists will continue to converge. Conventional publishers will be creating more editorially objective content to please advertisers, and brands will be producing more provocative content to align with their own values, as well as in an effort to stand out from their competitors.

Shafqat Islam Chief Marketing Officer NewsCred
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