As the print media continues to shrink and decline, brand journalism is the buzzword on our industry's lips as content marketing evolves into engaging newsroom-style messaging.

The term "brand journalism" has existed for close to a decade, with Larry Light using the term in 2004. At the time, he was chief marketing officer at McDonald's and claimed that mass marketing no longer worked, introducing brand journalism as a method of recording "what happens to a brand in the world".

So what is brand journalism exactly? Brand journalism transcends traditional marketing staples such as competitions, product launches, eDMs and brochures. According to Forbes, it involves marketers using the tools of digital publishing and social media to speak directly to consumers. As axes continue to swing in traditional newsrooms, this area of media and communications industry is slowly growing and will shake up decades of journalism as we know it.

In today's vast digital landscape, the future belongs to businesses that self-publish and become the media, creating content by covering their organization and industry like a news reporter.

Here's how you can begin implementing a brand journalism communications strategy in your business:

1. Hire a journalist! Seasoned journalists know where it's at - they are knowledgeable and experienced, with a background of using engaging hooks and emotive language to entice consumers into reading on. Media professionals are continuing to cross over to corporates and consultancies as media organisations buckle and fold - it would be silly to overlook their storytelling experience and interpersonal skills.

2. Tell meaningful stories. Brand journalism is not about the hard sell - it's about narrating the business's story using the credibility and influence of news to tell a corporate tale. Taking on the established principles of traditional journalism and good storytelling helps your business stand out from the pack and achieve competitive differentiation from its competitors.

3. Balance is key. Don't just paint a cheerful story of your business and its success - share its challenges and you're continuing to deal with them. If there is an industry-wide issue which is giving you a headache, talk to consumers about it. Open the back door and let them see the inner workings of your business.

4. Respond swiftly. If a big news event or current affairs story related to your industry breaks, don't wait - act straightaway. Timeliness is key, which is where your brand journalist comes in. They'll have years of experience dashing to breaking news events and filing stories against the clock on a daily basis.

5. Initiate two-way conversations. After putting your brand story out, engage with your consumers and potential clients on social media - there's a full range of platforms for businesses to invite engagement by being in the palms of their consumers' hands. Social media is no longer an option; it's a must.

─ Eliza Sum
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Mellissah Smith

Mellissah Smith is a marketing expert with more than 20 years experience. Having founded and built two successful marketing companies internationally, she is well recognized as a industry thought leader and innovator. Mellissah started her career working with technology and professional services firms, primarily in marketing, public relations and investor relations, positioning a number of successful companies to list on the various Stock Exchanges around the world. She is a writer, technology developer and entrepreneur who shares her thoughts and experiences through blogs and written articles published in various media outlets. Brag sheet: #2 marketer to follow on Twitter (2003), Top 150 Marketers to Follow (2015), Top 10 innovative marketers (2014), 60K+ followers on Twitter with 97% authentic.

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