Brand journalism is undoubtedly gaining both popularity and credibility. With the process of brands becoming publishers well under way, the talented writers brands recruit are key to producing the relevant and insightful copy that audiences demand.
It is not just a trend. A week rarely goes by without another announcement of a company adding revered journalists to their brand content team. In March, for example, Metro newspaper hired three more people for its in-house creative division, Story. They include Rachel Tarley, who left MailOnline to become one of Story’s commercial editors.
What organisations that invest in brand journalism are discovering is that if storytelling is done well, underlying brand messages will cut through the crowd--if the tone is right, of course. But it’s easier said than done.
In NewsCred’s ‘Rise of the UK Brand Journalist’ report, our survey of 50 brand journalists and 50 marketers reveals the spectrum of pressures faced by both in their quest for creating quality content. These include pressure to secure funding for new staff that understand the brand, tell great stories, and demonstrate a return on investment as well as the demand for being continually creative while producing engaging, relevant, and informative stories.
Creativity Is King
Creativity is in fact deemed the number one asset for a brand editor, according to our research, surpassing writing skill as the most important value--demonstrating that this is now being taken as a given. This isn’t surprising at all when you consider that a brand journalist is responsible not just for creating content, but for being commercially accountable--and this formidable combination is proving to be a challenge when it comes to recruitment.
The root cause of the issue is that available pool of journalists with solid commercial know-how is not as large as the demand. One solution to this is for brands to make one strategic journalist hire, someone senior enough to have gained some commercial awareness in their role. This newly-hired brand journalist can then work closely with existing marketers to teach them the requisite skills and best practices needed to build up a strong editorial team internally.
After all, a balance of understanding between the commercial element and journalistic element of a content team is crucial, and is perhaps why our research reveals that 82% of marketers actually have a team in-house, and find this set-up more effective.
This approach, coupled with the fact that 64% of the marketers we polled are planning to increase their content marketing efforts this year, proves that we have yet to see the best of what brand journalism can produce--especially as just 38% feel their current content efforts are ‘very’ effective.
A Mainstream Career Choice
Journalists too are continuing to discover what opportunities lie within the branded content arena. 51% of the brand journalists we surveyed believe their career choice offers as much satisfaction as traditional journalism, and 73% feel confident it will be considered a more mainstream professional choice in five years’ time.
In the years to come, the brand journalist will play an integral role not just for the marketing department but for businesses as a whole, especially as the brands as publishers evolution is already here--just take a look at GE, Telefonica, ASOS, Red Bull, Adobe, IBM, and others who are leading the way. The challenge now is how brand journalists make their mark with editorial and commercial prowess that will see the bar lifted for both professions of marketing and journalism.