Recently, I got a LinkedIn request from someone billing themselves as a, “brand journalist.” As someone who has a previous life as a journalist and is CURRENTLY a marketing copywriter, I was perplexed by this term.
Did something change? I understand the media can be biased, but I didn’t think it had reached the point where the basic definition of “journalism” had changed.
One Google search later, I found myself on a website that explains what this term means - it’s someone who applies journalistic principles to a specific brand to tell their story.
There are pros and cons to this verbiage from a marketing standpoint.
The Storytelling Principles Are the Same
In journalism school, they teach you that any story begins with a hook - a compelling lead (lede) sentence to hook the reader, listener, or viewer, depending on our media of choice. Telling a brand story should always begin in a similar manner - the most compelling information, delivered correctly, can set the tone for a strong brand story.
The plot should unfold from there, especially if you have a strong writer on your side.
At the same time, it is important to note an inherent quality of a good journalist is to be “unbiased.”
In the much-criticized movie version of "Queen of the Damned," a classic Ann Rice novel, the phrase, "observe the dark realm, but be not of it" is used when a Talamascan librarian asks her superior to pursue the vampire Lestat. Meaning, as an observer, you are required to not only report the facts, but also work to cover both sides of any given issue.
So, if we apply this logic to the term, “brand journalist,” it’s really a bit of an oxymoron. Anyone writing about a specific brand is automatically going to write about the positives as a tactic.
Who is legitimately going to badmouth themselves when trying to convert consumers?
Answer: no one.
That’d be silly or a very novel approach to brand awareness.
In short, calling a spade a spade - a “brand journalist” is not a journalist at all because they automatically take a position in favor of their respective brand. They are, in fact, writers and storytellers.