A brand new type of publicity

Every so often the world of media adopts a new buzz phrase – this year it’s ‘brand journalism – where a brand delivers editorially credible news and features, targeted specifically at its customer base.

This differs from ‘content marketing’ in that it has a broader brief – to inform and entertain its market on various topics of interest, maybe name checking complementary brands. The aim is not for the company to just blatantly shift their own products.

For some, this requires a change of mindset. Forward-thinking PRs have always considered the market and potential market more as an ‘audience’ or ‘readership’. People know when they’re being sold to and – as a rule – they don’t like it. It’s better surely to build a relationship with that audience – as publisher/reader in this case, build their trust and establish credibility as a ‘go to’ brand.

Brand journalism tends to happen online – via websites and email newsletters – like this one. But it’s no coincidence that there’s been a recent resurgence in contract publishing (own store magazines); the original print form of brand journalism. This may well be another indicator of a more savvy, less salesy marketing approach.

I started my career in journalism working in contract publishing, editing a magazine for WH Smith promoting what was known as sell-thru video, covering such new releases as Pretty Woman and Jurassic Park. (OK, it was a while ago.) The Christmas edition had a .5 million print run. That’s about the same circulation as The Daily Telegraph today. We suspect it worked in sales terms, but WH Smith’s head office perceived it as a luxury and it folded.

Until recently, contract publishing has clearly been a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘necessity’ in marketing terms. It’s great for John Lewis and the like – with travel features nestling alongside the pick of soft furnishings in run of pages… Few companies can, however, afford the luxury of print and not all of them have the locations to offer the distribution.

Meanwhile, the net offers a cost-effective global audience/ readership – with almost zero print and distribution cost. If your branded e-zine is genuinely of use and of interest, your readership will distribute it for you. Magazines called this ‘pass on’ readership; the reason their quoted circulation figures were so far in excess of their print run. In online publishing this ‘pass on’ happens by forwarding and sharing via social media.

Recent research has shown that people like receiving their news in their inbox and now read such e-zines – if designed responsively – on their smart phone or tablet on the go; on their commute, for example. Far from being junk mail or spam, readers want to read relevant, interesting news from companies they trust and have built (or are building) a relationship with.

The latest buzz around the media world looks as if it’s got wings. Email Gaynor if you want to discuss the potential of brand journalism for your business.