Blogs  / August 13, 2015

4 Pitfalls of Brand Journalism to Avoid

by Rebekah Iliff

Perhaps for obvious reasons, we (meaning the Onclusive crew) tend to obsess about all things “owned content.” Not only have we spent thousands of hours building a product that can give it definitive value and metrics, but we’ve also dedicated endless amounts of energy developing, executing and #shamelesslyplugging our own blog, brand channel, whatever-you-wanna-call-it-where-no-one-tells-us-what-to-do.


Tim Clark SAP headshotLast year, as I continued to explore this important topic, I had the distinct pleasure of chatting it up with Tim Clark (no, not the pro golfer), SAP’s editor-in-chief and head of brand journalism. That conversation turned into fodder for a Mashable column and an Inc. story, and I’ve been harassing Tim ever since in an attempt to stay on top of “what’s what” in the brand journalism world.

This week, Tim published a blog post on LinkedIn and emailed it to me with the subject line: “New post you might like.”

Well, like it I did. In fact, I liked it SO much I asked Sir Clark if I could syndicate it here. I bring you…4 Pitfalls of Brand Journalism to Avoid, by Tim Clark.

Ta da:

As more brands warm to the notion of becoming their own publishers, here are a few pitfalls to avoid before launching an employee brand journalism strategy.

#1 – Just because someone else wrote it…

How many times have you endured: “In today’s challenging, global economy…” – or something just as banal? Maybe you’ve used it yourself? I know I have. Guess what? Just as water will always be wet, the global economy will always be challenging. And social media will hyper-connect us like never before. And mobile devices will proliferate. And millennials will disrupt the workforce (ok, you get the picture). Unless you’re looking to boost your bounce rate, avoid the same trite phrases that a bazillion other writers have used before you.

#2 – Re-think thought leadership

Before letting colleagues, business associates and LinkedIn followers know all about the fantastic new “thought leadership” platform you launched or that amazing piece of thought leadership content (that might be ghost-written), take a step back and ask yourself if what you are creating and/or sharing is something truly visionary that supports your brand, or simply a regurgitation of the status quo. In short: Let your readers determine if your content qualifies as thought leadership before you do.

#3 – Don’t hide from your brand

Quality brand journalism is all about balance. On one hand, you want to ensure your company’s modus operandi is well represented. On the other, you want to appear credible. While it’s never a good idea to bombard your audience with company marketing jargon, it might be worse to conceal or disassociate yourself from your brand in an effort to appear “fresh” or “anti-establishment.” Don’t confuse your audience. Be proud of who you work for and make sure that pride comes out in your writing and broader content strategy – especially when covering company press events, product announcements, conferences and other safe havens where it’s perfectly fine to talk more directly about your brand.

#4 – Step off the third party scale

I’ve weighed in on the quality vs. quantity debate and still maintain that quality wins. Not because I’m a content snob (ok, maybe just a little) but because I’ve witnessed too many people fall prey to the false hope content farms and other third parties promise with delusions of “scaling” to meet content needs. Should scaling and quantity come before quality, authenticity and engagement? Why offload a critical part of your company’s content strategy to someone you don’t know very well? No one is better suited to tell the company’s story more accurately or passionately (with real results) than its own employees.

Have additional pitfalls to share? Let us know. @TClark01 and @Onclusive.