Brand Journalism: the way forward?

How many press releases are issued each day, each year? No one does the maths, but it runs easily into thousands per day, hundreds of thousands per month, and millions per year. Why? Because everyone thinks they have a story to tell, and believes their story is not only worth telling, but that people want to read it. This is simply not true.

Many if not most of the press releases issued each and every day are missing their target – they end up in the bin. They don’t have a story to tell – more often they are misguided, sometimes conceited texts pushed out by companies and PR agencies for the wrong reasons.

They are often aimed at the wrong audiences - blast it out there through the wires and media lists and someone will pick it up. Forgetting that for journalists, this is a complete nuisance. Wading through dozens, hundreds of irrelevant emails, pitches and press releases is simply wasting their time.

So why bother? And if you do bother - how should you go about it?

On the internet you will find expert articles, opinions, blogs and commentaries on PR, brand journalism, storytelling and many more buzz words and jargon. But the essence of getting it right is simple: keep it simple.

Penning, posting and pitching a story

First, you need a story. Then you need to craft the story. Then you need to think about who would want to read your story. And then you get it out to them.

Brand journalism speaks about telling your company/product story in a journalistic manner. It’s not just a single story, it’s the long, slow, careful accumulation of brand understanding you cultivate with your audience by telling stories that are relevant, real and engaging.

Storytelling not propaganda

Audiences today no longer believe messages along the lines of “we are better, because we say so”. If we want people to take on board our brand message we need to be telling a credible and compelling story, which is more than a few anecdotes or client credentials. Instead, we need to focus on trends, problem solving scenarios and key examples that a specialised audience will want to read, reflect on and pass on to others.

To captivate an audience, you need to move away from hype and corporate-speak. Companies need to tell stories that are relevant, relatable and repeatable.

All too often we want to focus on product features or push for brand names to be included in every other sentence. But this is no longer a key requirement – in fact, one we must guard against as we move from marketing language to a more journalistic approach. After reading a good story, a trade audience will usually be savvy enough to connect the dots and see the bigger picture.

Good PR is using the skill required to find an acceptable compromise between the promotional language often overly used in marketing and the journalistic tone of voice expected from trade magazines and used on web sites to convey a good story.

Applying journalistic skills

Does this mean the end of the inhouse generated story? “No, not at all,” says Willem van de Velde, EMG partner and former journalist. “It simply means that we have to learn to apply journalistic skills. If that means leaving out some of the blatantly commercial language, then that is not a bad thing.”

Willem adds: “It is not always easy to convince seasoned corporates that this approach is not just necessary but essential. Having access to someone with a journalistic background can be a major benefit, especially when you need to convince an internal audience.”

“However, the end results will be worth all the effort – and the good news is that, once you have your story, there are different platforms for telling it: from trade magazines to blogs, using feature articles, web pages and social media.”

Good copy can be used anywhere and will leave a positive impression with its target audience every time.


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