News just in – brand journalism is a fallacy

Whilst doing some reading I came across an article from Bob Garfield about ‘Brand Journalism’.

I wondered what the hell this was all about as I’d not heard the term.  My first thought was much like Bob; one’s meant to be objective and independent, the other is not (I’ll leave you to decide which is which).

The notion of brand journalism has been around for about 7 yrs when McDonald’s then CMO uttered those words as a means to describe using several stories to promote the brand rather than using one message for all – essentially the end of ‘universal messaging concept’.

After reading up on it, my view is two-fold:

  1. I think ‘brand journalism’ is nothing more than a buzzword – a way for marketing people to seem like they are all-knowing demi-gods.  It is brand communications – nothing more, nothing less – using different means of reaching people (blogs, tweets, FB, advertising).  The term is like ‘digital / online’ was about 10 years ago; a way to wow clients into spending money
  2. I think brands need to consider two things: consistency and transparency.  Consistency in terms of the messaging – the underlying message should always be the same – dilute the message and you dilute your presence.  As far as transparency is concerned, it is about taking the rough with the smooth and not hiding either.  Are brands able to do that? Chrysler clearly isn’t, but Dell learnt to be. Journalism and editorial content is meant to be objective and present a balanced view – if all you have is about how great you are, you are either lying or hiding something.

I think there is a place for this type of communications, however agencies should be confident enough to call it what it really is and not mask it as more than it really is.

Also, we are great at selling this stuff – but how many agencies have you seen be transparent about the bad stuff.    We (agencies) need to start eating our own cooking (or whatever the phrase is).

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