Gini Dietrich

Brand Journalism: Embrace the Trend for Your Organization

By: Gini Dietrich | January 9, 2014 | 

Brand Journalism: Embrace the Trend for Your OrganizationBy Gini Dietrich

I’ve been thinking a lot about brand journalism lately. Of course, this blog-in some ways-is exactly that. But I’m thinking bigger.

Mr. D is a huge Bill Simmons (ESPN, Grantland) fan. For years, he’s been quoting this man to me like I should be impressed.

Eventually I began to listen. And, during the holiday break, I decided to check this guy out.

In the beginning, he wrote a few columns, built that into a magazine with a popular editorial (which has since shuttered), and then began to add things such as podcasts, television reporting/editorializing, and a book.

He launched Grantland in 2011 and, today, it is the place to go for information on all things sports-related, but also pop culture, snarky stories, and fun related items.

He’s taken his personal brand and built it into something bigger…even stepping into the shadows while encouraging some of his team to step into the spotlight.

I admire and respect the heck out of this. I love how he’s scaling the brand beyond himself.

Owned Media for a Brand

During Content Jam, Stacey Hood and I were talking about this very topic and he encourage me to check out what Big Communications is doing in Alabama.

Their client, Alabama Gulf Seafood, has a very robust brand journalism program. One that would make anyone envious.

What Big has done for their client is create a site that is packed with compelling content, presented in a way that’s easy to find what you need.

It includes: Where to find Alabama seafood, what’s in season, how to catch it, and how to prepare it.

Click on “how to prepare” and you are presented with recipes, a “how-to” guide, and things chefs recommend. There aren’t dates on this content so it’s easily presented as fresh and new consistently.

What’s interesting is there is only one new piece of content per week, but because of the way it is presented, it feels like it’s being updated constantly.

They’ve proven it is possible to create compelling and valuable content without having to do it every, single day.

Media Outlets Creating Brand Opportunities

Forbes four years ago launched AdVoice, which was rebranded as BrandVoice a little more than a year ago.

It is a publishing platform for brands to use to post editorial, news items, and more on sites such as Forbes.

In a story talking about that and the brand journalism effort Forbes is undertaking, Lewis DVorkin refers to the five most popular posts the day his story ran.

In the top five are stories from Salesforce and by NetApp.

Written by, not about.

The companies used BrandVoice to produce content for the online magazine that was so valuable and rich, readers continued to share and comment on it…putting both in the top five most read articles.

Brand Journalism for You

This is where things are headed. Brand journalism for your organizations or clients is about creating an experience for your customers, prospects, brand enthusiasts, and even critics.

But it’s not just content you’re producing.

It’s breathing life into old content.

It’s providing a way for users to generate content.

It’s allowing for sponsored content.

It’s republishing industry-related content.

It’s finding or creating long form content.

It’s a simple redesign of your site to enhance the user experience.

What are you going to do this year to stay ahead of this new trend?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • ejconews

    ginidietrich SpinSucks Nyt has introduced native #adv, because media too think more often about “#branded news”. What do you think?

  • ginidietrich

    ejconews I was just reading that article and how they’re revising their OpEd pages for that purpose SpinSucks

  • J C Morgan Kreidel

    A very good read, Gini!

  • Gini Dietrich


  • CommProSuzi

    You always get my wheels spinning in a good way!
    I’m working with a non-profit that JUST added a blog to its site. (It only took 3 years of cajoling…persuading.) Some of these tips are very relevant for them as they dive into the pool.

  • There are two things about brand journalism. One, it must be journalism. It must be well written, and serve some purpose. Just plopping a press release online isn’t enough.

    The other thing is that it can fill gaps in coverage. The example of Alabama Gulf Seafood is a good one – surely they fill a gap that used to be filled by the food pages of newspapers, or perhaps fills in a narrow area that may not be covered by traditional food outlets.

    It’s an exciting trend and I’m very delighted you are so interested in it!

  • I think the “brand journalism’ moniker is throwing me off. Organizations like the ones mentioned above who have the manpower and/or cash behind them to devote to creating multi-layered, content rich web sites are naturally going to hit it outta the park. And telling stories, rather than ‘blogging as thinly veiled sales pitch’ is already fairly common practice these days – well, it’s getting there anyhow! LOL We keep fighting the good fight!

    IMHO, if you stack your site with valuable, *wanted* content, include loads of extras like weird stories of the day, or industry related newsfeeds for example, and link to your Instagram and Twitter accounts, you’re naturally going to reach more eyeballs and have more members. But is that new? I mean, heck, we’ve been doing that for years – we include video, we write about the industry BUT we also write fairly often tangentially about issues only slightly related to what we all do for a living. We share quite heady, non-industry content on Sundays with The Three Things. And is it “news”? I suppose, having worked in traditional media for so long, I feel like the only thing that’s really “true journalism” about most of the brand journalism out there are the richly researched breaking news stories. And those stories require the right people, a lot of time and a lot of money to produce. Grantland alone has *26* staff writers and editors on their team. That’s not including the many contributing writers, and others who create content (podcasts, etc.) for them. 

    So, how does the small fry guy begin to compete? When you don’t have that kind of manpower or cash to dedicate to your content? One thing’s for sure. This post has really got me thinking. And that’s always a good thing. 🙂

  • belllindsay That’s why I like the Alabama Seafood example. I don’t know what they spend, but they have only one new piece of content a week. Only one. The difference is in how they’ve organized the content so it’s a place to get information on the topic. And, to Clay’s point, they’ve created content where there likely is a hole in local news.

    Yes, Grantland has 26 staff writers, but it didn’t start out that way three years ago. It was only Bill Simmons. Just like us. It didn’t start out with two FT people on Spin Sucks (plus me). It was me. And only me. As we grow, we’ll be able to add additional writers and contributors who are paid.

    The small guys start out just like everyone else…one step at a time. I have a vision for how we evolve Spin Sucks and we’ll be able to add writers and editors as we test sponsored content, advertising, and sponsorships.

  • CommProSuzi That’s an excellent first step…as long as their content is interesting and valuable. They’ll be able to build from there.

  • ClayMorgan What?!?! We can’t just write a release and have that part of our strategy. Sigh…you’re so difficult.

  • susancellura

    I was so excited to see this post! I just want to go and do! do! do! 
    I’m doing some contract writing for a large company right now and about fell out of my chair when a couple of people used the term “content marketing”. (This has not been a common experience for me in the past couple of years.) So, I will be curious to see what their marketing group has planned for 2014 and whether or not they are paying attention to what the future holds, i.e., brand journalism.

  • stevesonn

    Great post ginidietrich! As a marketer, I’m a big fan of brand journalism and see the value in it for organizations that commit to it. The problem that could very much inhibit the growth of brand journalism is proving ROI. There are many sceptics of brand journalism of its ability to drive sales. Convincing business leaders of its value will be critical. I don’t have all the answers yet, but we will need to work at connecting the dots from brand journalism to the bottom line.

  • ClayMorgan *crumples up press release, tosses in trashcan*

  • One of the interesting things about Simmons is that is a “Boston Homer” and he doesn’t hide it. I don’t mention this because anyone who roots for the Celtics/Patriots has serious issues but because he didn’t kill his credibility by sharing it.

    In fact it is part of how he built his brand.

  • ginidietrich I totally agree with what you’re saying here – the “start small” aspect – 100%. I just wonder how many “little guys” get scared off by seeing so many great examples from the big guys. Too your point though, and ClayMorgan’s – filling a niche that is no longer filled in trad media is a super cool idea – and one that Alabama Seafood does very well. I loved their site, and will go back to it for recipes!

  • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes Wait. Journalism is supposed to be unbiased!!! LOL

  • belllindsay Details, details…

  • Chobani did this as part of their growth. They created the and as belllindsayis right to do it well often takes resources.

  • ginidietrichbelllindsay unless Kelly listens to Jim Rome he is not a sports fan.

  • And I wanted to add because I connected with the head of social for BP (yes they are in the process of committing to social media) Alabama needs the help because I just think of poison gulf fish. I try to not think of it when I buy seafood. Plus as was proven we have no idea if the Alabama Seafood is really the species claimed on the package. 

    So it is VERY important to their livelihood to do something like this.Especially since they voted back in the anti-environment pro-pollution reps and senators I feel no reason to support their seafood industry.

  • susancellura I’ll be curious to hear!

  • stevesonn I agree and…the ROI question can be answered by things such as sponsored content, sponsorships, and even advertising on your owned content. While we haven’t ventured into things such as BrandVoice at Forbes, I’d be willing to bet they have some great analytics, plus organizations are likely seeing an increase in their calls-to-action (if they’re doing it right). If you can figure out the ROI of blogging, this just enhances it.

  • belllindsay Couldn’t you say that about anything? What if the little guy gets intimidated by Twitter or email marketing or, heck, starting a business because someone else does it really well?

  • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes An article I read about him said exactly that – he’s not afraid to talk about his non-sports personal life and his allegiance to his sports franchises. That’s why people love him.

  • Howie Goldfarb belllindsay This is very, very cool!

  • Howie Goldfarb OK …. but what does that have to do with PR, marketing, or brand journalism?

  • Ahead? Is this something I should be paying attention to? 

    Yes, some actually ‘get it’ and do a very good job with it.

  • ALSeafood

    zacksyl SpinSucks Awesome! Thanks for sharing! We’re quite honored to be featured.

  • ALSeafood

    ginidietrich Grantland33 Thank you so much for featuring us! We’re glad you enjoy the site. Let us know next time you’re in the Gulf!

  • belllindsay ginidietrich ClayMorgan I see what you’re saying, Lindsay. 

    Think about the biggest successes in social media, content marketing, and RTM. The brands that get mentioned are the ones with the biggest pockets, so it does skew perspectives a bit. Oreo’s SuperBowl ad during the blackout? What looked so easy was the result of lots and lots of planning leading up to the big dance. 

    Social, in particular, has always been positioned as a way for the small guys with limited experience or budget to compete against the giants in their industry. What’s that Guy Kawaski quote (and this is a poor paraphrase)?  – “If you have more budget than brains, buy attention. If you have more brains than budget, use content.”

  • belllindsay ClayMorgan NEWS release. 😉

  • ginidietrich

    ALSeafood I really love the site! One of my favorites.

  • ClayMorgan I love how you phrase it as filling the gaps in coverage. Many, many companies have many, many stories to be told, but they don’t. You need a person (or team) in place to tell those stories.

    That said, @Gini Dietrich, I’m still confused as to how Grantland is brand journalism. Are we talking about Bill Simmons’ brand? ESPN’s brand?

  • I’ve been reading about this a lot lately. Thanks for offering some examples! 
    I think brand journalism basically functions similarly to blogs. They’re not necessarily news, but the information on them is uniquely useful to a niche audience. More complementary than essential, so to say.
    It’s really just something that overlaps the essential information and provides a “feature-esque” take on something already widely known by a specific audience. It is, in fact, exactly what Gini said — a way to “breathe life into old content” by providing a new angle on the same subject. 
    SpinSucks is an awesome example of this actually. Most of us work in PR-related fields, yet the information shared on it not only provides the same information to us in a new way but also provides a unique sense of much-needed camaraderie.

  • dml

    Well done, Gini. Like Mr. D, I am a Bill Simmons fan. Don’t always agree with what he says, but he’s very good at building his brand through journalism almost effortlessly. It also doesn’t hurt that he has Jalen Rose providing real-life sports anecdotes from his totally candid perspective.

    What makes Bill so credible — and I think this has a lot to do with your post on branch journalism, Gini — is his bottomless knowledge of sports, especially professional basketball. Knowledge counts whatever industry you’re in; you can’t fake it. But what puts him in a different league is his ability to mix in pop culture references that so many people can relate to. His formula is gold. Read his stories on the 2012 Summer Olympics.

    And, again, his delivery is so effortless because it’s presented as a bunch very knowledgeable guys/fans talking about their favorite teams. It’s so relatable to so many people — and they want to be a part of that. Don’t you want that for your brand?

    The lesson here is if you can consistently emulate that formula in a helpful, practical way in whatever industry you’re in, you’ll rock over time — and so will your brand. Everybody has to start somewhere and your audience, like Bill Simmons’ and Gini’s, will want to join in.

  • Howie Goldfarb FRAMING THIS! LOL

  • ginidietrich Yes, you absolutely CAN say the same about anything. But some things require less manpower and money than others.

  • BopDesignSD

    This is a fantastic post! We’ve been talking internally about this new buzzword too and it’s refreshing to see it explained succinctly with some great examples. 

    We work in B2B, but you hit the nail on the head about “creating an experience.” Even an accounting firm can create relatable content that connects customers to the firm, like a toolkit or customer service over social media.

  • belllindsay ClayMorgan @ginidietrich Sorry Clay, you are wrong. I just got off the phone with the NYT when they called me after I submitted a release announcing our blog about brand journalism “Firm Writes Blog on Brand Journalism”, yes the title was a bit provocative, but I wanted to get their attention. 

    We will be on the front page tomorrow.

  • Brand journalism is something I definitely get really excited when my brain starts clicking through all the opportunities . I love the seamlessness with which you can tie it into other parts of a campaign. And I love how it can reposition a brand in some very interesting ways.

  • ClayMorgan As others have said, ‘filling the gaps’ in coverage is really a secret sauce. You have to ask where that white space is AND if there is a need for it to be filled? I think that’s sometimes where brands go very wrong, they find a white space, but not one that has value.

  • SpinSucks

    Free_Burge You should be proud! Really great work! ^lp

  • Free_Burge

    SpinSucks Very proud, all day every day. Always nice to hear some outside praise too!

  • Free_Burge

    SpinSucks Thanks again for the feature. I’d frame it if we could frame websites.

  • belllindsay

    Free_Burge Surely someone out there is framing websites….?? 😉 SpinSucks

  • belllindsay ginidietrich ClayMorganMaybe the “little guys” dreams weren´t that big and they didn´t believe enough in them and themselves. How many times have we read, heard or known of people that achieved their dreams despite those around them?! I imagine for Gini wasn´t easy when she started Spin Sucks all by herself, but she kept going, no matter what. The easy part is to get scared off and quit, this way you have an excuse: “I couldn´t because of the big guys”.

    As they say: “Not everyone wants BMWs!” :), you´ll find your niche if you are willing and diligent enough.

  • LauraPetrolino That is awesome news. Congrats guys!

  • Free_Burge

    belllindsay SpinSucks The future is a crazy place.

  • I would really like to get to the point of users generating content in the form of case studies/success stories – with screenshots relevant to their own daily use of our products. We also need to interview more of the success stories, and then add both the videos and transcripts to our site. Then start building Pinterest boards for the successes by industry, etc.

    But it takes time to do it (when we are wired to keep everyone “billable”)…and it takes permission by the clients.

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  • belllindsay

    Free_Burge Indeed. SpinSucks

  • rhonda hurwitz

    ginidietrichstevesonn you are both saying some things that I am not hearing elsewhere: 
    Creating useful content for your brand audiences is key, but we have to start thinking outside the box when it comes to how to execute this strategy. 
    Gini mentioned republishing (costs nothing and serves your audience very well)  — and  monetizing your owned content with ads (syndication, anyone?!)  … another underutilized strategy. 
    Thanks for the start of a very promising series!

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