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Did you know 88 percent of B2Bs and 76 percent of B2Cs use some form of content marketing? Most agencies realize the importance of publishing content to promote clients. The challenge is to figure out what approach works for a particular brand. This is made more difficult by the fact that we don’t all speak the same marketing language. Terms such as “content marketing” and “brand journalism” are used interchangeably, so exactly what we’re doing gets a little fuzzy around the edges.

Let’s try to clarify things. While related in the respect that both are designed to reach audiences and increase brand visibility, there are some subtle differences between brand journalism and content marketing.

What is brand journalism?

Brand journalism takes a traditional journalistic approach to communicating information, but with a twist. Designed to connect with readers, brand journalism uses stories to connect with audiences and focuses on distributing memorable content that readers will easily recall or associate with the brand. Stories are something most people can relate to. They add context and personality to an organization.

While brand journalism is about the business, the content is ultimately geared to focus on the audience through the stories told. It is about creating an image — giving a more human personality to what might otherwise be a faceless corporation. Using this editorial style, brand journalism builds a specific image with the intention for it to be associated with the business. In essence, advertisers become publishers. But brand journalism has key characteristics that differentiate it from typical marketing content.

Good brand journalism does the following:

  • It maintains journalistic integrity with good balance.
  • It pays close attention to facts.
  • It is published with transparency.
  • It uses a variety of media.

Mass marketing does not carry the same weight it used to. Brand journalism effectively fills this void. As the Business2Community website notes, “They [brand journalism stories] linger in memories and influence behavior.” What they don’t do is try to directly sell the audience on a company’s product.

Ultimately, brand journalism is a form of content marketing. To use the old comparison tool: All brand journalism is content marketing, but all content marketing is not brand journalism.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is defined more generally by the Content Marketing Institute as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Marketing is no longer a one-way street where companies advertise their products and services and hope to gain conversions. With the Internet a huge part of daily living, buyers expect a two-way street. They don’t want to be sold to and prefer information to ad messages.

As a result, companies are putting less focus on direct promotion and are instead trying to establish themselves as experts and as trusted sources. They can effectively accomplish this through producing and sharing good content in a variety of forms. These content formats include, but are not limited to:

  • Informational articles.
  • Blog posts.
  • An interactive and engaging social media presence.
  • Distribution of free eBooks.
  • Relevant and easily digestible infographics.
  • Informative white papers.
  • Imagery through videos and photos.

Marketers today strive to stretch beyond self-promotion. The content they produce may include “how tos,” helpful hints, current trends or statistics or other non-promotional information. The goal is to be original, interesting, helpful and engaging, and to combine this with a strong presentation.

While the purpose of content marketing is to generate leads and eventual sales, it is a far cry from direct advertising. Instead, it takes a lengthier route to reach audiences. Content marketing is a strategy, not a tactic. It doesn’t happen overnight, and the value of the investment grows over time.

Both brand journalism and content marketing are designed to keep people engaged and increase brand visibility. It’s not a matter of choosing one or the other. Brand journalism can help to establish a brand’s personality while other content marketing approaches can serve more direct and specific goals: to generate leads, increase website visits, collect user information or grow social media connections.

If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook:  100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs.  Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies.  100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.

Michael Marchese is the founder and CEO of Tempesta Media. He is responsible for corporate strategy, executive team leadership and overall business operations across all the company’s segments.

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