In the world of brand content, the battle lines appear to have been drawn.
On one side, content marketing evangelicals are talking in apocalyptic terms about the end of journalism or the death of media relations. On the other, journalists dismiss brand content as a fad, and see its practitioners as little more than paid corporate shills.
The danger with these positions is that while sitting on the extremes may make for good story headlines, it doesn’t always give the full picture.
Brand content, native content, content marketing, brand journalism — call it what you will — is not an alternative to media engagement; the opposite in fact, as when done correctly it is highly complementary.
There are two upfront advantages to a brand publishing strategy.
First, it allows brands to become their own media. In the best cases, this is when companies create engaging and relevant multimedia content, centered around the brand but not necessarily about the brand. Content is optimised, published and syndicated to new and existing audiences through the brand’s social media and, where necessary, paid media.
Second, and just as importantly, it allows brands to strengthen their existing media relations. Recent studies suggest that brand-owned content is becoming a popular source for journalists, many of whom are time poor and under pressure to deliver more content across several platforms. Brand-produced content can help with this. Even at the most basic level, a well-thought out, content-led brand website can be an invaluable source for journalists looking to source, research and clarify their stories.
These two elements do not (and should not) exist in isolation. Instead, brand content needs to be seen as an integrated offering — one that allows a brand to self-publish and control the content and communications flow, while at the same time enhancing its connections to existing third-party publishers.
Brands will always need media amplification — whether through owned properties, traditional media platforms or both. An effective brand content strategy is one that recognises this and uses it to grow a client’s business, as opposed to polarising debate.
Michael O’Neill is digital managing editor, Asia Pacific, at Weber Shandwick