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8 Key Standards to Achieving Brand Journalism
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Ready to Kick Your Content into High Gear?

The term ‘content marketing’ has been a top concern for businesses of all sizes for many years now. In fact, according to a 2018 study from Content Marketing Institute, approximately 91% of B2B marketers and 86% of B2C marketers think of content marketing as a key strategy.

The companies that apply content best achieve a level of brand journalism. While there are many definitions floating around about this term, I describe brand journalism as the process of creating content a goal of creating relevant stories with real value in order to build a higher level of trust and loyalty with your intended audience (where the sales pitch is softened to a very minute state).

At Domtar, our content has been operating with a brand journalism mentality for many years now across multiple platforms that include print, blogs, social media, podcasts and even face-to-face brand activation.

Many are surprised to learn that we’ve accomplished this with few people and limited resources. The truth is, you don’t need 30 writers and various full-blown media outlets in order to produce content at a brand journalism level. All that’s really needed is a plan that includes a few key standards.

Here are our 8 keys standards for operating with a brand journalism mentality:

  1. Believe in the value of the stories you create. For many marketers, the idea of telling stories that do not center around a sales pitch may not be well understood at your company. And, like any campaign, the results will not be clear overnight. As long as you have a thorough understanding of the wants, needs and desires of your audience and you’re operating on the correct platforms to reach that specific group of people, stay the course and you’re sure to see a difference in the way your customers engage with you.
  2. Help, don’t sell. Don’t even consider stories revolving around a sales pitch. To truly achieve a brand journalism mentality, every story you create should be with your audience in mind—content with real substance that acts as a resource to educate, build trust and inspire engagement from your audience (and loyalty for your brand).
  3. Consider SEO and data, but don’t let it be your only consideration. It’s wonderful to live in a world where the metric and measurement opportunities for brand managers, marketers and even small business owners seem almost endless. In some ways, knowing what’s trending and having access to foundational data can be a huge advantage—don’t let your stories revolve around data alone. Take time to review the data or latest trending topics and consider how it can best be used for to create stories that resonate with your audience. If your goal is to achieve brand journalism, your results shouldn’t be full of vanity metrics from ‘click bait’ focused campaigns.
  4. Be authentic. With so many platforms and user-generated content available about any company or individual, today’s reader can easily spot a phony. This is true regardless of the industry, but it’s especially the case with members of the Millennial and Gen Z generations.
    While considering the audience is an absolute must, so is staying true to your company values and heritage. Instead of trying to figure out a way to emulate what someone else does well in regards to content and storytelling, focus on finding the synergies between what your company stands for and what your audience cares about and finds interesting.  The results will be a brand journalistic voice that both elevates your reputation and inspires loyalty from your audience.
  5. Use timely sources and site them properly. Back up any stat or statement in a fashion that enhances your credibility. I personally look to the MLA standard for citing sources in print, but the basic goal should be for the reader to have the ability to easily go back and read information from the source if they choose to research your statements for validation.
    Also, make sure your sources are timely. I’m still shocked when I see presentations at print industry events with sources sited that are ten years old. Think about how much the world changes from year to year; how can a source that old validate any topic today?
    At Domtar, we have a rule that we never cite a source that’s more than three years old.
  6. Think about your story mix. Regardless of your audience, remember that people are not one dimensional. Make sure your story mix is multifaceted and includes a range of topics that allow you to lead, mentor, motivate and engage with your audience—include educational topics, inspirational stories, how-tos and maybe even a few pieces that shock them a bit. A great story mix will keep your audience informed, entertained and back for more.
  7. Record your victories. The importance of brand journalism isn’t well understood in all organizations, so make sure you keep a record of your victories and share them with your stakeholders on a regular basis. This works best if your accomplishments are shared in a fashion that stakeholders fins somewhat familiar, understand and ties back to other initiatives considered important in the company.  Metrics and measurements are nice, but make sure to include a human element that illustrates your efforts are resonating with your audience.  Quotes from industry influencers or important customers, instances where your work is cited as a source and examples of your brand journalism efforts gaining traction in the marketplace are all great examples.
  8. Maximize usage. Creating content at a brand journalism level isn’t easy—make sure you’re getting as much use out of your work as you possibly can in a fashion that meets your target audience where they look for specific information. Consider taking one story idea and divide different aspects on different platforms. For example, blogs are great for illustrating quick snippets, downloads are perfect for diving into an action plan, social media can spark awareness and printed pieces inspire a longer length of attention.

For more information about these 8 key standards and to learn what other brands are doing, make sure to subscribe to our Paper Matters Magazine.  

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