In life and in business, it’s often better to tell your own story than to have someone tell it for you. Consider the “spin” that each party put on the reasons their candidate was in the best position to ultimately win the U.S. presidential race. And the deluge of (mis)information that has been making the rounds on social media regarding the election.

Of course, just because someone says something is so doesn’t make it true. In fact, with so many competing voices, and the title of “expert” being used evermore loosely, it is often difficult to tell stories that are believable. Brand journalism is a tried and true method for companies to tell convincing brand stories that are interesting, relatable… and believable.

In the current media environment of blogs, YouTube channels, Twitter feeds, podcasts, and ‘expert’ reviews, a journalistic approach is often more effective than a traditional, sales-based marketing approach – setting a brand apart and lending credibility and authority.

Where It All Started

Brand journalism is not a new invention. In fact, the practice is more than a century old. Ivy Ledbetter Lee, credited as one of the founding fathers of modern public relations, was the first company spokesperson to utilize ‘press releases’ and communicate directly with the public to manage crises and promote the vision of companies.

Lee used these techniques to help the Pennsylvania Railroad Company successfully manage a 1906 railway accident that resulted in the death of 53 passengers. Rather than hide the accident, he invited reporters to the scene and improved the company’s public image by demonstrating what the company was doing to help prevent another incident in the future.

Today, most consumers are impressed when corporations practice that level of transparency. Journalism, in the traditional sense, operates from a well of trust formed between the public and the journalist, who is duty-bound to report the truth to the best of their ability. Brands can tap into that same well of trust.

Consumers (and Journalists) Want to Hear From Companies

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 96 percent of the most successful B2B content marketers believe audiences regard their organization as a credible resource. Consumers are hungry for the kind of firsthand information brands can provide… which means these brands are well-positioned to gain the trust of this important audience if they can provide timely, thoughtful, relevant, and well-sourced information.

With the shuttering of newspapers and contraction of newsrooms across the country, brands and their public relations consultants have moved into the role of primary storytellers. In fact, many understaffed newsrooms rely heavily on the stories provided by brands in the form of content marketing to serve as source material for their articles.

Journalists appreciate information that is written in Associated Press style and doesn’t need to be meticulously verified or heavily rewritten. Brands that can deliver that level of content consistently are able to get their messages amplified by the media – often for free.

Brands are also positioned to speak to the public in ways journalists no longer are able to due to the increasing polarization of news sources, social media silos, and ‘fake news’ monikers popularized by political figures. Today’s audiences view the media with an increasingly skeptical eye, so the role of informing the public has shifted, at least in part, to brands.

Notably, according to research from Consumer Specialists, more than 63 percent of homeowners planning a home improvement project in the next two years reported that they would rely on the Internet for research over other sources. As such, building product brands have a unique opportunity with their websites – and content marketing – to be a credible and robust source of information that consumers will rely upon when making decisions on the products they will use.

Leveraging Brand Journalism to Convert a Skeptical Audience

While many people have become increasingly suspicious of journalists, the techniques journalists use (e.g., immersive storytelling, deep listening, fact-checking, extensive research, first-person accounts) work as effectively as ever. Building product brands can leverage these techniques to tell stories that are:

  • Compelling – a first-hand account of how a particular product is made.
  • Moving – a testimonial from an employee about how much they love the company.
  • Relatable – a stellar product review from a satisfied customer.
  • Informative – an objective, well-researched report showing how your company’s product outperforms other similar products.

More and more, building product brands are seeing the benefits of brand journalism. They are producing content to inform, educate, inspire, and even entertain prospective customers, whether they are homeowners or B2B trade customers. Brands are also partnering with bloggers, influencers, and other independent content producers to more effectively connect with their customers.

Following are some examples of how companies are effectively applying tried-and-true journalism techniques to build their brands.

  • CertainTeed’s “Building Knowledge” blog gives contractors a chance to learn more about how to install CertainTeed products and how those products are made via a variety of in-depth articles, installation videos, and product features. It also contains practical information for contractors on how to keep their businesses operating during the pandemic, managing client relationships, and ways to improve sales – demonstrating that the company’s concern for its clients goes way beyond purchase orders.
  • Ace Hardware partnered with PGA TOUR golfer Jim Furyk, highlighting his good values, hard work ethic and positive public image, which meshed well with Ace Hardware’s values. The brand launched a campaign that included digital and social content featuring Furyk. This approach helped to bolster Ace’s image as a brand that is down-to-earth, hands-on and always helpful.
  • While not a building product brand, American Express’ Open Forum helps entrepreneurs stay current with the latest business news and information – offering content from thought leaders and business experts on managing money, getting new customers, building a reliable team, and more. With highly customizable content selection options, AmEX not only provides valuable information, but also lets customers know how much the company cares about their financial success.

When all is said and done, brands can gain more loyalty, goodwill, and trust by focusing on informing and connecting with their audiences, rather than going for the hard sell.

Looking for ways to leverage content marketing and journalistic techniques to elevate your brand? Send an email to Steve Kleber at skleber@kleberandassoicates.com.


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