“Unbiased” Brand Journalism
Recently there has been a large commotion in the world of content marketing. At the center of this commotion is the term brand journalism. Brand journalism is the idea that marketers approach the promotion of their brand with the eyes, insight and delivery of a reporter. Contently has had a loud voice in this debate and their official position is that brand journalism cannot exist because journalism is independent. I am inclined to agree with this statement.
This term is very controversial because journalism itself is an independent, and ideally unbiased reporting of facts. According to Contently, the term brand journalism is used to describe companies creating branded content and publish artfully spun stories about the good that their company’s product is doing. If your purpose is to increase revenue for a business, and extend your costumer base then you’re not a journalist. Companies calling their branded content and stories journalism deceives the readers into believing it is in line with traditional journalism that is unbiased and just the raw facts. This deception is unfair to the readers, especially when companies have gotten so good at creating branded content that some people have trouble distinguishing between news stories and branded content.
According to the Center of Journalism Ethics, telling the difference between advertisements and news stories is not easy, and that’s exactly the point. Even though the stories might be well written and accurately reported, the fundamental objective is still a marketing one. Brand journalism is always more about the brand than the journalism. In this current age of the Internet, there are no longer barriers that limit people and companies from creating and distributing content. If the focus is on the brand no matter what then it’s can’t really be unbiased journalism. The company or organization will do what is in its best interest in regards to sales figures, that’s how companies remain successful.
An example of this is the Coca-Cola Journey website. This is a website full of almost nothing but branded content. They have a bunch of stories related to the Coca-Cola brand but not directly telling you to go buy a diet Coke. They are just telling you fun facts about the brand and feel good stories, like how the Coca-Cola bottle got it’s iconic shape. While this website is not directly selling Coca-Cola it is convincing the reader that it is a great company with a rich history of making a refreshing drink. This will make the reader like that company more and feel that the international cooperation is a little more approachable and real. So next time that reader is in a grocery story picking a soda, they will feel a stronger connection with Coca-Cola and will likely pick that brand.
Since a company will never publish a hurtful story or content about themselves because it would be bad for sales or profits, brand journalism isn’t journalism, it can’t be. Journalism is an unbiased reporting of facts which a company or organization can never promise to be if they want to remain a successful business. Even if a company has a “news room” and does create news content not directly associated with their company, they aren’t journalists, and it isn’t journalism.