BUILD YOUR AUDIENCE WITH YOUR OWN BRAND JOURNALISM
You have a terrific new product or an impressive new CEO. Or you just received a wonderful grant that gives your startup company the boost it needed.
You want to share the news far and wide, so you turn to the tried and true practice of writing up a compelling press release. It is full of all the details you can share, insightful quotes and essential background to give media outlets the information they need to spread your news far and wide to their audiences.
You hit “send” to your media list and wait for your email to work its magic and for your story to hit the streets in print in the paper, in television and radio broadcasts and digital media channels.
And you wait. And you wait.
Chances are, it is not your story that didn’t measure up. It is the simple truth that as newsrooms across the nation and in your market have been shrinking, the time they have to sift through all the press releases they receive has evaporated.
The numbers aren’t pretty. From 2008 to 2019, newsroom employment in the U.S. dropped by 23%, according to Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor statistics data. In 2008, there were about 114,000 newsroom employees – reporters, editors, photographers and videographers – in five industries that produce news: newspaper, radio, broadcast television, cable and other information services. By 2019, that number had declined to about 88,000, a loss of about 27,000 jobs.
It’s no surprise that harried news editors and their assistants who watch as layoffs decimate their staffs, just don’t have the time to review all the information they receive. Many don’t have the pages or broadcast time to fit in your good story in a timely manner – if at all.
JOURNALISM CAN BUILD YOUR BRAND
Not to worry. You not only have other channels to get your news out to the public, you have control over them. Your website, Facebook and Instagram posts, Twitter feed and LinkedIn network have great potential to boost your brand with your current audience and expand it.
By seizing the opportunities you have at your fingertips, you take control of your news. This isn’t a marketing campaign; this is brand journalism. It allows you to share valuable, newsy information about your company to your community when you want it published. You’re not sending your story to other outlets in hopes that they’ll make a space for it in their publication or on their website.
Let’s emphasize one point – we’re talking news here. You’re not in product-selling mode as you practice brand journalism. This is not a public-relations blitz. You’re sharing good information presented in a journalistically sound format. You are channeling your inner reporter to tell interesting stories that are well written and answer the questions that readers may have.
You tailor your story formats to your channels, often linking from engaging social media posts and emails back to your website for the full story. Of course, you’ll want to continue to share your news releases with the “free media.” They may find room for it or file it away for future use. Despite cutbacks, news organizations still have a sense of urgency and want to be first with news in the market. They don’t like to get beat.
NEWSY INFORMATION FOR YOUR AUDIENCE
Remember, while this is news-based journalism, not marketing, you are writing to reach a specific audience that is interested in you. That audience may include customers, suppliers, current and prospective employees, business community leaders, policymakers, partners and potential investors.
They will be drawn in by your well-written, fact-based story, one full of good information, quotes and background. It should be presented journalistically as news – not as a cluttered sales flyer or marketing piece.
A business or organization with a small staff could turn to a talented writer on the team willing to learn the newswriting format and take on those storytelling assignments. Or it may turn to an agency like Kinetic or freelancers to write the stories that showcase your expertise and connect with the target audience.
Many large organizations – medical centers, government agencies, private corporations – have created their own newsroom teams, complete with writers, editors and graphic designers. Some turn to agencies and freelancers to supplement their news service.
Schwab produces its own quarterly magazine with news and perspectives on all things financial. Amazon’s @amazonnews channel on Twitter pushes out stories on the latest developments at this global powerhouse and links back to its website, amazon.com/about.
ENERGIZE YOUR CHANNELS WITH MUST-READ NEWS
Your website can be your powerful news engine. On your home page or under your “NEWS” tab, you can post your news stories when they are ready, under the headline you want. There’s no waiting on a third party, who may not review the press release for days, decide not to run it, or eventually publish just a paragraph or two of the detailed story you’ve submitted.
Your website’s news section should not devolve into a collection of press releases. Produce “owned-media” stories related to your organization that highlight industry trends, community service or other issues.
Keep your social media active and interesting. Is your audience on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest or TikTok? Compose posts and emails that connect with your fans and point them back to your website. Put your stories on your company intranet and in-house newsletter. Build your readership!
Brand journalism done well requires good people and strong planning. Assemble your team. Develop a content and distribution strategy. Prepare a news budget, the schedule of stories you can put on an editorial calendar. And have a protocol for getting “breaking news” on your channels. Remember to focus on the old news-story formula – include the “who, what, where, when and why” in your report.
Remember, people want to read interesting, journalistic-style stories. Give them what they want. Track their engagement using your website analytics to see bounce rates, channel preference, time-on-page, and click-throughs to other content. Then track your progress and refine the process along the way.