Advocate Heath Care is asking whether breastfed babies are smarter.
Semiconductor chip maker Intel has insights on the top five most impressive game explosions.
Power drink maker Red Bull wants you to know about three generations of a high-flying family and its “skytyping” business.
All three are examples of a trend that has accelerated in the past six years: brand journalism sites. Recently, I was asked for stellar examples. After hitting up several experts, I offer the list below.
Why practice brand journalism?
Ragan Communications chief executive Mark Ragan, a former national political reporter and an early advocate of brand journalism, offers his philosophy: Stop begging the media, and become the media yourself.
“Newsrooms have been decimated,” Ragan says. “If you want your company’s story told, you’d better write it or shoot it yourself.
“But brand journalism works only if your story is credible, is helpful to the reader and eschews all corporate-speak and jargon. If the story is self-serving or it is designed to sell, it’s not brand journalism. It’s marketing.”
(Ragan heads Ragan Consulting Group, which works with businesses to establish brand journalism sites.)
From videos to white papers
David Meerman Scott , another early advocate, defines brand journalism as the creation of web content—videos, blog posts, photos, charts, graphs, essays, e-books, white papers—that deliver value to the marketplace and position organizations as worthy of doing business with.
“Brand journalism is not a product pitch,” he says. “It is not an advertorial. It is not an egotistical spewing of gobbledygook-laden corporate drivel.”
He adds that those with the traditional skills of marketing, public relations, advertising and copywriting are not the right people to create brand journalism content. “Instead, you need the skills of a journalist,” he says.
Here are the sites we came up with:
B2B brand journalism
The good news, for a B2B company, is that you needn’t sit out this trend as flashy B2C companies like Red Bull hog the limelight. Consider the following.
Cisco Systems, the networking hardware company, covers everything from innovative technology hitting the theater stage to IT that skills offer opportunities for Jordanian women.
American Express’ OPEN Forum started out as a forum for small businesses, but it has grown into a leading brand journalism site. And just how is virtual reality going to shape the future of consumer experiences?
GE has experimented with polished Facebook Live-casts tied to the Rio Olympics and “drome week.” If you’ve ever wondered how pilots rescue people from an avalanche in the Italian Alps, here’s where to go.
Boeing has provided a wealth of stories and videos for aviation fans. A Veterans Day feature might sound internal: “Corps Education: Employees share how lessons learned during militaryservice have helped them at Boeing.” Because the aerospace company’s customers include the Pentagon and many veterans in the airlines industry, it made sense as an outward-facing story, as well.
B2C brand journalism
Although giant consumer brands such as Coca-Cola were pathfinders in this area, many hospitals have joined the stampede as they find the public is eager for news about health care and healthy living.
Coca-Cola Journey fills us in on testing augmented reality for bottling equipment maintenance. It’s also a good place to go if you want to see how a 125-year-old company digs into its archives for interesting story ideas. (Just who was Dr. Joseph Jacobs?)
Advocate’s health enews offers good-living advice from doctors, nutritionists and other experts. Advocate isn’t the only hospital in this arena. Cleveland Clinic is the granddaddy in the field, and Cape Cod Health and Health Beat at Spectrum Health provide similar information in their markets. Among other things, Cape Cod will tell you what to do if your child is a picky eater. (Ragan consulted on Advocate, Spectrum and Cape Cod Health’s sites.)
Alberta Energy Regulator’s reSource—like Denver Water’s Tap, Duke Energy’s Illumination and Omaha Public Power District’s The Wire—proves that utilities can get in on the game. (Ragan also provided consulting or training for these companies.)
JLL, a professional services and investment management company, shows how companies needn’t be constricted by a limited definition of what interests their clientele. The latest issue reports on the surge in skyscraper hotels and how India is making cites safe for women. The site earned coverage in The Wall Street Journal.
Universities are getting in on the act, too. Metropolitan State University Denver has a new brand journalism site that tells about teaming up with the IRS’ Criminal Investigative Unit (also a Ragan client). An international consortium of universities offers scientific research in a journalism format at Futurity, where you can find out what mice and rats can teach us about anorexia.
Upset that we left something out? No need to release underfed lab rats in our Chicago office or skywrite your disappointment over Lake Michigan. Just add your favorites to the comments.