Renaming Brand Journalism: Is “Semi-Journalism” Really Journalism?

by / Newsroom Ink on 04/09/2011
A panel of advertising experts speaks during a session on Brand Journalism at SXSW.

A panel of advertising experts speaks during a session on Brand Journalism at SXSW.

by Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

During the last two years, “brand” or “corporate” journalism has gained popularity in the fields of marketing, advertising and public relations. Social media guru’s such as David Meerman Scott and my former business partner at The News Group Net, David Henderson, have written countless articles and made numerous presentations on the topic – but do they really understand the issues behind the name itself?

Upon wrapping-up a SXSW panel discussion on brand journalism to an overflow crowd, NPR’s On The Media co-host Bob Garfield gave an off-the-cuff comment, that in the course of a second, may have inadvertently relabeled “Brand Journalism” as “Semi-Journalism.”

NPR’s On The Media co-host Bob Garfield renamed “Brand Journalism” – “Semi-Journalism.”   Photo: Ron Prudy

Garfield, who moderated the panel, commented that a more appropriate name for the session might have been entitled – “Brand Not Really Journalism: The Rise of Semi-Journalism.”

“Seems like the “semi-journalism” or “brand journalism” referred to is identical to the “content marketing” trend other publishing sites have been addressing for quite some time,” commented Howard Rauch, president of New Jersey based Editorial Solutions, on a recent Newsroom Ink post about the session. “So while content marketing or semi-journalism is a noble cause, it is hardly a new idea.”

The article stirred a wide variety of comments worldwide on PRSA and IABC linked-in sites. Public relation and communication professionals do not question the strategy behind “brand journalism,” but instead take issue with the terms “journalism” and “journalists” being tied to corporate communications, advertising and public relations.

“Sounds to me like you either practice journalism or you don’t. There’s no in between,” says Dave Manzer, of Dave Manzer Creative Relations in Austin, TX. “Maybe marketing has expanded its definition to incorporate more journalistic-seeming content but at heart it fails the smell test.”

The concept of “Brand” or “Semi” journalism is sound.

BrandJournalismTheRiseOfNonFictionIt is time tested communication strategy that establishes a brand or company as the open and transparent source of credible information. It gives a voice to a brand in the digital age of new media, and positions the company as a leader not a follower. In short it engages your global audience and creates a conversation with the various stakeholders in a company and brand.

“Using knowledge gained from many a late night spent in smoky newsrooms; I am also torn by the terminology,” says Ed Lallo, founder of Newsroom Ink. “I now work mainly with corporate clients, and I feel that it is important to adhere to my journalistic roots and apply the same standards today that I learned working for newspapers and magazines.”

Call it “Content Marketing,” “Brand Journalism,” “Corporate Journalism” or “Semi-Journalism” – by applying the standards, practices and principles of journalism; brand and corporate clients can be well-served by establishing a two-way conversation with their various audiences that is – honest, credible, open and transparent…and isn’t that what “good” journalism is?


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