There was an article over the weekend in the Globe and Mail about a journalist who figured he might not have a job for much longer at his newspaper so he decided to try his hand at freelance. One of the more intriguing offers he got was from a software company. No, the journalist wouldn’t be paid to write press releases or corporate reports as one might suppose, but instead to report and write news stories about upcoming products or news about the company. The journalist decided he would try it out, after all at his old newspaper he was essentially the technology writer so he would be writing basically the same articles just for a different employer. In marketing, this is what is known as Brand Journalism.
Brand Journalism is relatively new in the vast array of tools in a marketer’s arsenal but essentially it is telling a story about your product in a journalist style to make your product more compelling–adding sex appeal, if you will. Now it is so easy to be your own publisher and that gives you some measure of control of what is written on the internet.
Brand Journalism first started as inserts in newspapers with headlines saying ‘informational supplement’ but has expanding so rapidly because of the way the internet works and how more and more people are going online to get their information. It’s a race, essentially, between newspapers and manufacturers to see who can get more clicks on Google.
In a world saturated by advertising, Brand Journalism is an interesting way for companies to get their core message to their consumer. The problem is unlike journalism which mainly serves their readers, Brand Journalism has a different master. You can argue journalists serve Big Brothers just as much as Brand Journalists do— all you’re doing is calling a spade a spade – and many people think this is the case, but Brand Journalism is a step in the wrong direction.
I shudder to think this is the future of all newspaper reporters; they will all be working for Proctor and Gamble writing about how great toilet paper is. How can we trust companies to write fair and accurate articles about themselves? Simply we can’t. It’s far too narcissistic
That is why good reporting is now more important today than ever before. We must be careful of the source of our information, especially as companies use Brand Journalism more and more. The internet has allowed ordinary people to do amazing things, start revolutions, start huge world-peace movements but it also allows companies to manipulate your spending habits in new ways as well. We must all be weary of how subtlety our minds are manipulated by governments and corporations and how the tools that set us free can just as easily bind us.
If you think it is time we stop putting up with this type of journalism use the hashtag #takeyourjournalismback and lets see if we can demand better news coverage. And please leave me a comment of what you think about Brand Journalism.