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The Opportunity Brand Journalism Provides PR Agencies

Wilson Cleveland

PR agencies' roles have changed over the years as the digital environment has edged out print publications and caused significant disruption in the relationship between PR and brands. What hasn't changed is that storytelling is as important as ever for companies, and brand journalism gives PR agencies the chance to move out of the middleman position and into an inbound marketing business model. Content creation and content marketing are rapidly growing in importance to brands, as they provide value to every industry.

What is Brand Journalism?

Brand journalism allows non-media companies to get their stories and thought leadership out to their audience. This is a content marketing category that focuses heavily on storytelling in order to build trust, create relevancy and establish the company's industry authority. Seventy percent of potential customers prefer learning about companies through their content instead of their marketing messages, says PR Daily, providing even more motivation for companies to consider handling editorial with PR agencies.

Journalistic best practices and principles apply in brand journalism and actually lend additional credence to the brand publishing the content. When the audience knows that pieces are fact checked, multiple viewpoints are represented and dissenting opinions are given a platform alongside more positive topics, the brand gains authenticity and authority that it can't generate from marketing assets. Transparency and trust go a long way toward establishing a relationship with clients and customers.

Why Public Relations Agencies Should Own the Content Cycle

PR agencies already have useful journalism connections from traditional PR activities, giving them the expertise necessary to support an internal company newsroom. Some PR agencies use these connections to bring qualified journalists on board to support the brand storytelling and content production volume necessary in content marketing.

PR agencies can guide brands into creating a narrative that resonates with their target audience, instead of simply hoping their readers will like what they hear. Corporate communications are a critical part of establishing relationships in today's business world and adding value to a brand. It's hard to compete when it comes to price, as there always seems to be a brand that can offer similar products and services for less. However, positive brand experiences create retention and loyalty.

Brand journalism and content marketing for inbound marketing efforts fit naturally alongside other services offered by PR agencies. They often have the supporting infrastructure, the contacts and the ability to provide a brand with a ready-made newsroom capable of fueling its content efforts.

Every Industry Benefits from Brand Journalism and Content Marketing

The Content Marketing Institute reports that 80 percent of decision makers look at content instead of advertising materials to learn more about a company. They read articles and white papers to judge whether a brand knows where they're coming from, what their needs are and how they can help. Financial and business-to-business sectors particularly benefit from content marketing in a few ways.

For example, marketing may get a lead interested in what a brand has to offer, but there's a critical research step in the marketing funnel before the potential client gets in contact with the sales department. At that point, CEB reports 57 percent of the purchase decision has already been made. Strong supporting content that adds value to a particular brand over its competitors, while also creating a narrative that gives the client a feeling of relevance, goes a long way toward pushing them along in the sales funnel.

Financial communications and other B2B communications need compelling messages to attract the attention of busy decision makers. A brand's message may be one of dozens or hundreds its audience sees in a day, so it needs to be useful and fit into the reader's day-to-day experience. Valuable content creates an ongoing relationship with the audience, particularly through social media channels that can evolve into a sales conversion and brand advocacy. Useful content helps improve conversion and revenue.

Another benefit of content marketing, particularly with a brand journalism strategy backed by an experienced PR agency, is improving brand awareness and brand reputation. High-quality content is frequently shared, improving a brand's reach and its industry standing. Existing customers also have a reason to pay attention to continued messaging from a company when it puts out highly relevant information.

Content marketing also provides brands with better search engine positioning for their inbound marketing efforts. Organic search rankings factor in content quality and authority, so utilizing brand journalism with fact checking and other journalistic benefits also helps improve SEO.

Trends Impacting Brand Journalism and Content Marketing

Content marketing continues to increase in importance for B2B marketers, with 86 percent telling The Content Marketing Institute that they use these strategies as part of their inbound marketing efforts. The increased content quantity to fuel these marketing efforts leads 32 percent of companies to complain about finding qualified personnel to keep up, which gives PR agencies the perfect opening to new business.

Visual content is another growing trend, with infographics leading the way in short, but effective, themed storytelling. Video consumption also continues to increase, alongside mobile viewership, so PR agencies who can incorporate visual and video storytelling can stay a step ahead of less flexible competitors.

Brand journalism and content marketing provide a growing market for PR agencies who are trying to find their footing in a rapidly changing media world. Instead of sitting between brands and journalists, agencies should transition to guiding brands as a newsroom.  End of Story

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