Pink-slipped journalists, here’s a hot lead: Start your new job search by re-thinking your role and considering a jump brand-side. While the print industry is on the downswing (the American Society of News Editors recently announced that the newspaper industry lost 1,300 full-time editorial professionals in 2013), the importance of “brand journalism” is on the rise.
So, fellow reporters – brands need you more than ever.
A year or so ago, I had lunch with a certain high-profile editor (hint: she likes apples), who had already flagged the importance of brand journalism in this fast-moving, shape-shifting editorial world. In her opinion, the smartest brands were those taking the editorial reins themselves: think Asos, Net-a-Porter and Red Bull.
Consider this – Asos Magazine is currently one of the most widely read fashion print publications in the UK, and Net-A-Porter has launched Porter, on sale in 220 cities worldwide, following the successful launch of its digital magazine, The Edit. Red Bull’s Bulletin engages its community through profiles and features that promote its culture of “beyond the ordinary” – but also via lifestyle and cultural content, such as a profile on Linkin Park.
One of my favorite examples of branded content is a recent native ad for the Netflix Series “Orange is the New Black” created by TheNew York Times’ in-house Brand Studio unit, which has been applauded by media pundits and likened to the award-winning “Snowfall” series.
The multimedia campaign promoting “Orange is the New Black” appears heavily reported and researched, sleekly produced and proves that branded content can attract interest via a larger narrative. Complete with neat infographics, video and lots of reporting, the ad engages readers on the topic -- and interest in the show’s new season -- without actually asking them to tune in.
In our digitally driven media world, the longtime buzzwords for brands looking to communicate directly with consumers have been “conversation” and “engagement” as opposed to message-pushing. Many brands do this well on their social channels but, taking it a step further, let’s think about content creation through a reporter’s lens and with the research and always-on resources of a newsroom.
Within the evolved editorial ecosystem, brand stories and messages crafted with specific audiences – at precise moments-in-time – are most effective. However, adding another layer of complexity, copy also must be created in the voice and language of specific social and editorial platforms.
If that sounds slightly complicated, well, it is – hence the need for a reporter’s sense of urgency, instinct for storytelling and trademark talents: curiosity, creativity and credibility. And did I mention there’s a chance the pay is better?