Every company has stories to tell. Whether about why it was founded, what led it to some breakthrough innovation, or how it was able to overcome some immense challenge, stories help companies connect with their customers and prospects in profound ways.
Sadly, most companies are very poor at storytelling. They lack the DNA to tell stories that resonate with audiences in a way that engages, informs and entertains them, and they mistake things like ad copy and mission statements for true, narrative-driven, journalistic-style storytelling.
To tell your company’s story effectively – to convey why it exists, what it does, how it does it, and who it does it for – you’ll need to embrace the practice of brand journalism.
Brand journalism takes many of the same tools as traditional journalism — clarity, incisiveness, and analytical rigor, just to name a few — and applies them to branded content. It’s what happens when brands decide to use their owned media outlets to educate and inspire their readers, rather than just promoting their products and services. It’s a type of content marketing that prioritizes the reader by providing helpful, relevant content, whether they buy from your company or not.
Many companies today are using brand journalism to build relationships with their prospects and customers in ways that traditional marketing and communications fail to. But in case your company is still using its blog to simply brag about its latest products and company updates, here are a few ways to get started with brand journalism.
1. Express your values
The notion of completely bias-free journalism is a myth. All journalists and publishers carry with them a predetermined set of ideas and inherent biases that affect what they write — starting with what they choose to write about in the first place.
What your company chooses to write about shows what it cares about. Embrace that. Use brand journalism to signal to readers what issues matter most to your company as a whole.
If your company holds diversity and inclusion as core values, use brand journalism to help you tell stories from diverse viewpoints and perspectives.
If your company supports sustainability and environmental protection, your brand journalists should find and tell stories that show what you’re doing to protect Mother Earth.
If risk-taking and innovation are central to your identity, use brand journalism to showcase your biggest risks and boldest inventions.
This is your chance to stand up for what you believe in and to express your core values by writing about the topics and issues that you care about most. Don’t waste it.
2. Turn the spotlight on under-reported stories in your space
Traditional media does a generally good job of covering the major news events in any given industry, but it would be practically impossible for them to cover every story that matters. In fact, they often miss reporting on stories that have a significant impact or fail to give those stories the weight they deserve.
That’s why it’s so important for brands to use their voice to help shed light on stories that the traditional media has ignored or overlooked, or to look at those stories in ways that the media either can’t or won’t.
Look under all the rocks. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that the traditional media hasn’t asked. Talk to the people they didn’t talk to.
Businesses are usually in a better position to dive into the issues within their industry than the media because they are on the “inside” and have access to the movers and shakers making things happen. Use your insider status to your advantage!
3. Explain your unique point of view
Chances are, your company has spilled a lot of metaphorical ink in defining its unique selling proposition (USP). Having a USP is crucial to the sales process because it indicates what sets you apart and why customers should buy your product over the competition’s.
I’d argue that having a unique point of view is just as important as having a unique selling proposition. The difference between these two is a matter of focus: on your customers and the larger market versus on yourself. A USP explains what you do differently; a unique POV explains how you see the world differently.
What are most companies in your space getting wrong? What problems are they overlooking? What assumptions have they miscalculated? What solutions are they ignoring?
In traditional media, good journalism helps us look at existing issues in a new light by challenging our assumptions and presenting a new perspective. Brand journalism should do the same. By publishing content that conveys a unique viewpoint on the world (or at least your corner of it), you’ll help customers and prospects better understand where you’re coming from — and why they should work with you.
4. Share your expertise
You want your customers and prospects to view your company as an authoritative, and the best way to do that is by publishing content that is expert, credible and trustworthy.
What is your company — or its executives — expert at? What wisdom does it have to share as an institution that no other institution has?
Share this knowledge with as much candor and openness as possible. Using a journalistic mindset, find the experts in your company and interview them. Write stories from their perspective, or profile them for your blog.
Publish how-to articles offering advice on common practices within your industry. Break down complex concepts to make them more accessible to beginners. Put two or more complex concepts together to form a new hypothesis.
Customers are way more willing to work with you if they feel you have special expertise that no other company does.
Getting started with brand journalism
To start doing brand journalism, you don't have to wait until you’ve hired a team of journalists and editors (although it helps!). All you have to do is start looking for the stories that your company has to tell that will lend real value to your readers – that will inform and educate them, entertain and inspire them, open their eyes and minds.
So, here’s your assignment: go talk to your executives, your engineers, your sales people, your customer service representatives, your finance team, your customers, your partners — heck, your competitors. Go find stories that your readers will want to hear, keeping the four practices outlined above in the back of your mind. Then start writing, and sharing. Keep the marketing-speak out of it.
And always remember to write with your reader in mind.