We are living through a crisis of trust. Voices that were once seen as credible, from world leaders to leading media organisations, are meeting increasing scepticism. So who exactly do people think they can rely on at a time like this?
Companies and their leaders, according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer. More people trust companies than either politicians or the mainstream media. And they expect CEOs to show leadership on issues ranging from equal pay to the environment.
Against this backdrop of growing mistrust among the wider population, there presents itself an opportunity for businesses to jump in and fill the gap, creating their own direct relationships with customers. Engaging and authentic content can help create and build these conversations.
Brand journalism – or branded content produced using the techniques of journalism – does just that. And in a world filled with ever-increasing amounts of stories, images and ‘stuff’, good quality branded content can cut through the noise.
The power of narrative
Humans make sense of the world through stories. Once you’ve got someone’s attention, telling a rich, compelling tale is a surefire way to hold it. From there, brand journalism can help show your audience you understand the issues that matter to them.
Demonstrating what your company’s best at in this way not only has a practical value for your readers – it’s a crucial component in building your reputation as an expert in your field. If, for example, your content has helped someone understand a difficult topic, or enabled them to make a well-received insight-driven contribution in a meeting with their boss, they will come back again and again. You will be trusted, recommended, and your content will be widely shared.
And as data protection laws make it harder than ever to build useful prospect lists, quality content naturally pulls people towards your business. It’s a world away from the resistance that can be generated by push marketing.
A unique voice
That’s all very well, you might be thinking, but where do I start? Square one is to find the stories. Get out and about in your organisation. Talk to people. Track down those who deliver for your customers. And don’t shy away from the truth – it’s vital your stories are authentic. In fact, some of the best examples of brand journalism tackle tough issues head-on.
Take the podcast series produced by Shell. Presented by in-house experts, it addresses tricky issues surrounding the energy industry and the company, such as carbon footprints and climate change. It’s a level of honesty that’s priceless in winning the respect and trust of your audience.
When looking for topics to cover, make sure that above all else they matter to your readers.
Whether it’s social issues or supply-chain management, focus on what keeps them awake at night. If you do that, your company will be their first port of call for advice on and analysis of the issues that most trouble them. That’s the power of great B2B content.
Keep it real
Your people are the lifeblood of your organisation, so it makes sense to use them to bring your stories to life. And it doesn’t always need to be the CEO or senior leaders – quoting the people who make things happen will be at the heart of the authenticity you’re looking for.
When you’ve found your stories, and how you’re going to tell them, it’s time to talk strategy. How are you going to deliver your content? Consistency is key here – publishing once and sitting back isn’t going to cut it. You don’t have to produce 50 pieces a week, but establishing a regular rhythm is essential to maintaining a sense of anticipation and keeping people’s interest. Your audience needs to know it’s going to keep hearing from you.
However you approach it, brand journalism can speak to your audiences in a way that no other form of marketing can match for engagement.