How to do brand journalism

To do brand journalism well requires all of the skills of the modern journalist.

So a brand journalist must be comfortable on social media, with creating text-based content for both the web and print, and using audio, video and stills photography when appropriate to their subject matter and audience.

If you have followed my Multimedia Journalism course of tuition, or are working as a multimedia journalist, you have mastered the bulk of what it takes to be a successful brand journalist.

On top of that you need to grasp the essential purpose of brand journalism – the why we do it as well as the what we do.

To address the what and the why, I’m going to pick out some key phrases from a definition of what I call brand journalism  but which the Content Marketing Institute calls content marketing.

So here’s the what:

  • Creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience
  • Delivering information that makes your buyer better informed.

And here’s the why:

  • If we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.

So how do we do it?

The best way to demonstrate is to give you some examples of brand journalism in action.

While researching the Brand Journalism textbook I built up almost 100 case studies of how a wide range of organisations are using brand journalism. You’ll find them all in the book, but here are just a few examples to demonstrate just some of what is being done.

Most brands use a range of platforms. As well as a wide range of social patforms, they use printed media, blogs, e-books, white papers, games and allied marketing and advertising.

I’m focusing here on how three brands use one particular social platform.

How Whole Foods Market uses Twitter


Whole Foods Market is a chain of health foods stores in North America and the UK

It uses Twitter to distribute brand journalism and to interact. Specifically:

  • It creates content of interest to its customers
  • It engages with other things they are interested in
  • It campaigns
  • It sorts out problems

It has a main account  where it is ready to answer questions: “Fresh organic tweets from Whole Foods Market HQ in Austin, TX. Ready to answer your questions Mon-Fri 9am-5pm CST!”

It engages in conversation with individuals who have had a bad experience with the brand:

It offers useful information not connected with its brand – this one recommending a meal at a restaurant that fits with the tastes of its community:

It offers recipes on its websites, where it lets you add the ingredients to a shopping list, and tweets about those recipes:

It responds to queries:

According to Sprout Social: “Based on some tweets in the Whole Foods timeline, it’s obvious that the company monitors keywords related to its business and jumps into relevant conversations when opportunities arise.”

It also has automated feeds for recipes (@WholeRecipes), and Twitter accounts for some specialists: @WFMCheese – “our global cheese specialist, Cathy Strange”,@WFMWineGuys – “our wine & beer experts, Doug & Geof.”

It has tweet accounts for each of its 300-odd stores

Here’s the one for Laguna Beach, California which tweets about local offers, events at the store and also links to issues of importance – this one goes to a post on the company’s  blog opposing the easing of regulations on the growth of genetically modified alfafa:

How Dove uses Facebook

Dove, the toiletries brand that features ordinary users in its advertising, follows the same policy on its Facebook cover photo:

It links image and Timeline saying: “Real women have been our inspiration from the very beginning. Today your photos, stories and memorable moments make up our new timeline.”

There are general welcomes such as: “Dove added 115 photos to the album Dove Real Women: Our Community.”:

Click on a picture and you get that person’s story, which might be about a significant moment in their lives, such as: “My mother-in-law saying I was like a daughter to her.”:

How Amnesty International uses Pinterest

Pinterest is very much a lifestyle platform, but Amnesty is not exactly a lifestyle brand, so how does it make a presence on Pinterest suit its brand purpose?

It does so by appealing to the wider interests of its community, uses powerful imagery on its boards, and positions itself thus: “We’re the world’s largest grassroots human rights organization. We post on fair trade, book and movie recommendations, inspiring quotes and other good stuff that help make the world a better place.”

In choosing the topics of its boards, Amnesty is looking – as well as at itself – at the other things those who choose to connect with it on Pinterest are interested in. Its boards are about the Amnesty worldview, and their general aspiration to “make the world a better place”.

So it has boards about its core concerns – such as Act, about getting involved in the current issues Amnesty champions: “We’ve been fighting the bad guys since 1961. You can join us!”

It also has Activists in action:

Human rights reading: which is about reading around the subject, but which focuses on mainstream novels.

Some boards mix issues with commerce, such as this one on Fair Trade.

They say: “We love #fairtrade and ethically made products! We’ll share favorites from our store ( as well as repins or other finds.”

Because Pinterest is a visual medium it has its posters, but also more general lighter stuff such as inspiring quotes and one called Fun: