You’ve worked hours writing your corporate e-newsletter creating snappy blurbs to catch your audience’s attention. Once it hits your readers’ inboxes, you breathe a sigh of relief. As you wait to see who opens the newsletter, you may wonder if you’re truly connecting with your customers. While email marketing may be a piece of your strategy, there’s a better way to approach digital communications to foster a relationship between your organization and its stakeholders. It’s called brand journalism, and you’ve likely heard of it if you follow the latest trends. But it’s more than a trend, it’s a way to turn customers into loyalists.
In 2004, McDonald’s former chief marketing officer, Larry Light, shifted their corporate communications strategy to brand journalism, defining it as a way to chronicle “what happens to a brand in the world.” Light noted an important turning point in digital communications, moving away from putting the focus on the company’s products and accolades to placing the audience at the center—not just the company. In the “selfie” era, your audience might not care about your latest award or newest product; they desire captivating stories to satisfy their own interests.
So, how do you get started? Below I’ve outlined a few steps to utilize brand journalism in your corporate communications.
#1: Creep your peeps.
To create consumable content, you need to have a good understanding of who your “peeps” are and what they find interesting. What type of stories will your audience find compelling? What information are they seeking? You can explore your audience’s interests through surveys and focus groups to see what type of content attracts your readers. You might even create a buyer persona that compiles demographic information, attitudes and behaviors. And, if you don’t have a buyer persona, Pivot PR can certainly help you create one (insert shameless plug) to establish a foundation for your program.
#2: Summon your inner Walter Cronkite.
Once you know what type of content your audience appreciates, put yourself in the shoes of a journalist. Think of how renowned journalists, like Cronkite, told (or tell) gripping stories. Think through the riveting stories that might live behind your company’s walls. Research and report on human interest stories while avoiding content that puts the focus on the organization.
#3: Share. Share. Share.
Once you know your readers and a content plan, think through the channels you will use to reach your audience. Some organizations like Duke Energy and Coca-Cola maintain their own news websites that operate like a media outlet. If you don’t have the ability to create a news site, think through the different digital tools you currently use such as e-newsletters, blogs and social media. Take an integrated approach to sharing your stories through these outlets.
#4: Test and learn.
As you start to share these stories, be sure to measure how well they perform. The number of page views the story receives and the number of times it’s shared on social media will help you understand what’s performing the best and resonating with your readers. Engage with those who comment on your stories, and be sure to take note of the sentiment of the comments to help adjust your writing style or subject in the future.