To Brand or Not to Brand? 3 Types of Brand Journalism Websites
When it comes to content marketing and corporate blogging, brand journalism is in a class of its own. This practice of a business covering its industry like a news outlet — and hiring journalists to write the stories — goes beyond case studies and best practices blog posts. Instead, you’re becoming a media outlet.
Before you can really get started with brand journalism, you first need to determine just how branded your news site will be. While disclosure of your business’s affiliation with a brand journalism website is a must, the level of branding can often affect the tone of the whole site. How far should you go?
To help answer that question, here are the three types of brand journalism websites and great examples of each:
1. Fully Branded
A fully branded news website features the name of the brand prominently and has a stronger brand presence in the content itself. These sites are often content-focused upgrades of an online newsroom but contain people-friendly stories written for social sharing (blogs, social networks, etc.). Big brands with established reputations and brand-awareness within an industry can get their stories out by integrating this content into their strategies. However, these sites don’t often provide the direct lead generation that other brand journalism sites can.
Cisco’s The Network
Cisco’s The Network launched in June 2011. Featuring mostly branded content, Cisco combines traditional press releases with branded articles and videos created for the web. It’s a hybrid brand journalism/corporate media relations website, but the focus on user experience makes it friendly to online readers.
GE Reports launched in 2008 as your standard online newsroom but has gradually incorporated more corporate storytelling into the site. Most of the stories today could very well be press releases, but instead GE is writing the content for online readers.
Choose a fully-branded site if... you are not interested in generating leads but are interested in generating buzz.
A semi-branded website performs like a sponsored news website, with advertisements promoting the sponsor company’s services. The company’s logo is displayed but not nearly as prominently as the website’s name ... or the advertisements for the company’s services. This style of website is like a throwback to the single-sponsor days of broadcast news, when news programs like The Texaco Huntley-Brinkley Report were on the air.
Adobe launched CMO.com in 2009 and is used primarily to support the company’s digital marketing suite, including products like Omiture, Insights and Site Catalyst. Most of the advertising space is used for lead generating content downloads from the Adobe content team.
Business without Borders
HSBC launched Business without Borders in September 2011, providing insights into global business strategy. With social sign-in, lead generating advertisements and event registration, this website provides ideas ... and conversion opportunities.
Choose a semi-branded site if... your primary goal is to directly generate leads online.
Non-branded brand journalism websites are developed to build a community around the brand. These websites have a solid grasp on the brand’s buyers and create content that supports the community’s identity. While it’s tougher to generate leads directly from these website, it’s common to slip in stories about the brand specifically or linking to web pages on the branded website. These sites are also likely to be mostly autonomous, allowing for third-party advertising, more original non-branded content and even an independent editorial department.
Intel Free Press
Intel Free Press launched in October 2010 as a way to provide more insight into technology advances worldwide. There isn't an Intel logo on the site and the company name is barely visible, with “Tech News” displayed more prominently. Unless you really thought about it, you might not even know this is a corporate site. The site also has a staff of experienced tech journalists providing the vast majority of the content, which is mostly non-branded news stories.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema LLC launched this non-branded microsite in October 2010 to promote a “badass” movie geek lifestyle. The Austin-based theater chain and film distributor hired one of the web’s most respected movie bloggers to provide most of the content for the site, while the Alamo Drafthouse staff also provides occasional stories. The site carries a disclaimer saying that the views on the site do not reflect those of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, underscoring its editorial independence. But the writers don’t shy away from promoting Drafthouse events and the film’s released by the Drafthouse Films distribution label.
Choose a non-branded site if... you want to build a community around your brand’s primary buyers, with occasional opportunity for lead generation.
When deciding what route to take, it is imperative that you understand which option will provide the best service to both your business and your audience. Do you have a favorite brand journalism website? Let us know about it in the comments below.
photo credit: MegMoggington
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