We’ve seen it all – the death of print, the shattering of the web and we’re quickly learning that the only thing consistent about social media is its inconsistency. After a decade of companies battling with the looming question of if social media is worth it, ensuring it isn’t only being used by teenagers, and then begrudgingly agreeing to organic and paid campaigns – the marketing industry adapted, and we did it well. With top-tier strategies, dedicated teams to specialize in social-based campaigns and not to forget the all-mighty influencer relations.

It was understandable to hyper-fixate during the rise of social media marketing because illuminating red heart emojis can feel validating and, from a strategic standpoint, a well-thought-out social campaign can nearly duplicate the outcomes of traditional public relations: create a storyline, share with your audience, build relationships, increase brand awareness and credibility.

Now, here we are, frantically trying to pivot every time the algorithm changes. Who has time for that? The constant interruptions and changing cycles should remind companies not to put all their eggs in one basket when communicating with their audience. Now is a perfect time for brands to revive their brand journalism and content marketing efforts to amplify key messages to their target audience without the hassle of media training or the worry of a reporter spinning their words.


Before diving in, some might be confused about brand journalism. And it is easy to be unclear as there are multiple and ever-changing definitions of it. Brand journalism used to be more narrowly defined as positioning a brand as a thought leader in its industry through journalism. It is similar to an organization taking on the role of a newspaper or media outlet. For example, a company that made solar panels would establish a blog or a newsletter (or both) and hire journalists to write stories about the entire industry. Trends, innovations, legislation and other important topics that affected the solar industry could all be covered. But the definition of brand journalism has shifted to include, according to a Prowly article, stories that are meant to strongly connect on a personal level and create a favorable impression of a brand and convey its personality.


Adding to the confusion is there is also content marketing. According to that same Prowly article, it is defined as “creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” To many, that might sound like a shade of grey away from brand journalism, and they wouldn’t be far off. Yes, the goal of content marketing is to make a sale. But done correctly, it is not a hard sell and a more subtle process. And, let’s be honest, companies aren’t engaging in brand journalism simply to be thought leaders or create favorable impressions. There is also a sales component tied into those efforts.


The difference between content marketing and brand journalism is constantly shrinking as the goals for both align. And for most companies, it doesn’t make sense to have blogs, newsletters and videos only focused on traditional brand journalism topics like thought leadership and brand positioning. You really should be blending components from both unless your company is a giant multinational corporation with a large, built-in following. A hybrid approach gives consumers one place to gather valuable information and knowledge about your brand, industry, trends and products. And blending both often leads to better engagement and SEO results. Let’s look at why brand journalism and content marketing matter.


Large-scale influencers once reigned supreme, with corporations lining up to throw money at them. But more recently, the attention has shifted to micro-influencers with smaller and more engaged followings. Why? Larger influencers began to hawk whatever products they were paid to and increasingly promoted ones they had little knowledge of. While doing so might have boosted their incomes, it damaged their authenticity. They were seen as nothing more than just another form of advertising and, in many cases, they were. Followers tuned out, and the influence of some influencers waned.

As the above shows, consumers don’t respond well to thinly veiled attempts at advertising. Often the more passionate they are, the stronger the negative reaction. Authenticity matters for consumers, and brand journalism and content marketing, when done correctly, deliver it. Consumers want to learn about a brand, its products and its people without being constantly bombarded with overt marketing messages. Blogs, videos, newsletters, podcasts and other forms of brand journalism and content marketing let you share knowledge and information about your industry, brand, products and trends in a more authentic way.


Another reason brand journalism and content marketing work is that people are already out there looking for information about products, their hobbies and interests. Both tap into that need for information and allows you to introduce your industry, brand and its products in a more subtle and advertising-free manner. Once that introduction is made, further efforts can educate consumers about your products and services to hopefully move them down the sales funnel.

The key is to provide information that is useful to the consumer and goes beyond marketing jargon and hype. For example, a motorcycle helmet company could write a blog post or shoot a video on the latest trends in race helmets. Discussing why ventilation, safety ratings, EQRS systems and vision are critical for racers is valuable and educational content for anyone looking for a race helmet. It lets consumers know what essential features they should look for before making a purchase. At the same time, the helmet company could introduce its race helmet and show how it incorporates all those important features.

It is important to remember that this is not the time for a hard sell. The goal is to educate consumers about a topic. You can introduce your products and brand if they are relevant and be proud of your products and innovations. But people will be turned off if your content provides little helpful information or come off as advertisements. It is a long effort, and getting it right takes skill, but the rewards are brand loyalists and increased sales.


Brand journalism and content marketing are valuable because they let you build a powerful connection with your customers. You are building trust by helping educate and guide them. And the more honest you are with useful information, the more trust is built. That connection and trust are vital, as people won’t consume more of your content if they feel you are just trying to make a quick sale. But if they feel you steered them straight and helped them out, they will likely reward you with a purchase eventually.

Both also help build meaningful relationships by humanizing your brand, giving it a personality and allowing for interaction. Using employees in your videos positions them as experts and shows that real humans at your company are passionate about the brand, its products and its customers. The comment section in blog posts and videos allows readers to interact with your company, ask additional questions or share knowledge. Podcasts and newsletters can go beyond being solely informational by giving insight into the people that work at your brand. And all of the many forms of brand journalism and content marketing can establish your brand’s personality.

It might seem like a lot to go through to make a sale or a connection. But brand journalism and content marketing go beyond a single sale by building brand loyalty. Building a relationship with your customers means they are more likely to return. And they are more likely to purchase from you even if a competitor is cheaper. This can give smaller and mid-size brands a competitive advantage over large retailers or low-cost imitators that solely compete on price.


Most brands view social media as the only way to build their followings. But like boosting a post on social media to expand its reach, brand journalism and content marketing can act as amplifiers for your other audiences. With the right content and SEO efforts, a brand’s blogs and videos are often the first points of contact for consumers with your brand. Both play critical roles as they are discovered by consumers searching for information. If they view that content as helpful, authentic and informative, customers will usually search for more and be willing to follow a brand’s social media channels and other forms of content like newsletters and podcasts. It may seem backward, as many brands use social media to drive traffic to their content. But the reverse can happen and often does with the right brand journalism and content marketing efforts.

Alibaba’s content platform Alizila and its weekly newsletter are great examples of brand journalism driving social media growth. The largest online and mobile e-commerce company in the world, Alibaba was relatively unknown outside of China. To change that, Alibaba launched its English-language news site Alizila which produces research from in-house analysts and explores the latest trends in China’s consumer market. According to an article on Ragan, which named Alizila as the winner of its 2021 PR Daily Award in Brand Journalism, Alizila’s weekly newsletter and its content helped Alibaba grow its social audience by 61% year over year in 2020. Its LinkedIn following grew to over 1 million, Twitter to over 200,000, Facebook to over 500,000 and YouTube to more than 125,000.


Many companies have made serious commitments to brand journalism and content marketing and are reaping the rewards. Marriott Hotels now publishes several digital travel-focused magazines. Its magazines cover travel tips, hotel design insights and more. Other companies are creating journalism on topics they feel are socially and culturally important. Starbucks has ventured into multimedia storytelling with a former Washington Post reporter at the helm of its brand journalism outlet. REI does an excellent job guiding customers on their purchasing journey with the guides and knowledge pieces of its Expert Advice series. Motorcycle gear and accessory retailer Revzilla fires on all cylinders with its Common Thread blog, YouTube video channels, podcast and newsletter that cover gear reviews, new motorcycle reviews, product guides and industry trends.

All of these are larger companies with matching budgets. But you don’t have to be a big brand spending serious money to make an impact. The video above from mountain bike accessory retailer Fanatik Bike is a perfect example. It is informative and educational content explaining how the right set of wheels makes a serious difference on a mountain bike. It is also on brand as it shows how passionate Fanatik employees build wheels by hand, differentiating the smaller retailer from the robotically assembled wheels of larger operations. The video might not be slickly produced and big budget, but it is valuable content and has over 135,000 views. Fanatik’s efforts show how consistency paired with the right topics can have outsized results.


Creating the right content can be difficult. It takes deep knowledge of a topic combined with skilled writing, photography or videography. All of those talents can be difficult for one company to possess, and wading through a sea of freelancers can be a roll of the dice and time-consuming. At Kahn Media, we have a skilled team of writers, photographers and videographers ready to create compelling content. And all of us are enthusiasts across a multitude of interests and hobbies, giving us insight into what your customers are looking for. Contact us to craft a content marketing or brand journalism campaign that delivers results.