Welcome to “Brand Journalism.”  While I didn’t invent the term (wish I had), I think explaining it will go a long way in helping leaders in small- and mid-sized companies  rethink communication and embrace the greater use of social media.

Like many business communicators I have sometimes gotten excited about the potential for new communication tools like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and others but have not always successfully conveyed this vision to my clients. Framing the potential of social media tools in the broader context of Brand Journalism is going to help close the enthusiasm gap.

I started my career as a journalist at a U.S. Army publication, worked at several daily newspapers and also wrote for and edited the first alumni publication at the Graduate School of Business, University of Washington. For me Brand Journalism is going back to my roots of telling stories. Except now we aren’t looking to others to tell them, we’re telling them ourselves in the client newsroom.

The term Brand Journalism describes how organizations get their story out. It is being done by internal reporters identifying, writing and placing stories (content) on a range of platforms. And the stories will help them clearly set the organization apart from others.

Why would an organization take on the time and expense needed to practice Brand Journalism in a competitive environment?  There are three key reasons. First, consumers want to work with people like me, rather than being “sold or told.” They want to engage and work with those who share similar values. How will they know your company’s values unless you tell them?  That’s why it’s so important that every story about your company reflects the values of your brand. Think of some examples from traditional media. When the Puget Sound Business Journal writes an article on a company, it almost always includes quotes from customers and competitors. In a Brand Journalism program you would do the same. And just like you find in the PSBJ articles, some comments may not make you totally happy. You can share them in a story, which shows how you listened and solved a problem.

The second reason to ramp up your Brand Journalism program is that you have to. From local newspapers to major dailies to the decline of national papers, the amount of content produced has been in a downward spiral. (Take a look at the newly rebranded USA Today newspaper and tell me how you think they are doing.) Online news sites provide a completely different type of content, providing far fewer opportunities for companies to tell their story.

Third, a Brand Journalism program will give you a crucial edge in dealing with another reality of the new communication world – speed. Launching your Brand Journalism program, strategy and content generation plan requires that you know what’s going on at all the places you will utilize to help get your story out. That knowledge can be a big help when the social media focus suddenly turns on you and you face an online crisis. You will be able to move quickly because you can assess challenges and react immediately. Whether it’s a negative customer review on a site like Yelp, a national challenge to your product or service, or a lawsuit, you will be ready to respond quickly, which is essential in online media. The middle of a crisis is not the time to start debating your brand attributes. Spotting opportunities requires constant monitoring, and a good Brand Journalism program also requires companies to constantly watch for opportunities and challenges.

I hope this has peaked your interest in Brand Journalism. I’d be delighted to discuss it with you in greater detail and I welcome your viewpoint. To comment, simply send me an e-mail at boyd@vhpr.com. I would like to post your comments and ideas as well.