How to Think Like a Brand Journalist

Don’t let your blog bully you. Telling your organization’s story is easy, if you define your objective and map how to get there. Shed your frustration. Start with some basic questions that will get you out of the starting gate every time.

Who is your audience? The first question every writer must ask themselves is “Who am I writing this for?” It might be visitors to your website: potential customers, returning clients, marketers, other businesses, journalists. It might be a combination of these but you should have a primary audience in mind for every piece you publish. Write content for each of your audiences. They’ll thank you for it.

What are the core products or services you provide and how are they improving your client’s lives? What do you know about your customers’ experience with your organization? Ask yourself, What do I do best? What do I do better than my competition?

  • Do you sell the world’s best back scratcher? One that has helped your long-suffering clients avoid awkward moments at work rubbing up against the nearest coatrack?
  • Or maybe it’s your guaranteed 15-minute customer service response to questions that come in day and night by phone, email, and Facebook comments about which back scratcher is right for them.

No organization is good at everything. Again, choose what sets you apart. That’s fertile ground for cultivating brand journalism stories.


Once you know your audience and the topic, answer the journalism 101 questions: who, where, what, why, when, and how.

  1. Who is the story about? The best stories are about people, not organizations.
  2. Where did the story take place?
  3. What is the story about?
  4. Why are you telling this story (What’s your goal: clicks, shares, purchases?) Why should your readers read this story? What do they get out of it?
  5. When did this story take place?
  6. How did the subject of your story accomplish something (hopefully using your product or service)?

Incorporate basic story elements, an introduction, the storyline development, the conflict, and a resolution. In addition to people, the best stories are about conflict or solving a problem. Remember, you want your readers to cheer for the subject of your story so tap into emotion.

Readability & truth-telling

Two traits that set brand journalists apart are their commitment to readability and truth-telling They ruthlessly cut out jargon, qualifiers, and industry acronyms. If you’re grandmother can’t understand what you’ve written, then recycle that page and toss it in the round file.

Brand journalists are also committed to truth telling. (That’s not “truthiness,” for you Colbert fans). What’s that mean? When someone in your organization tells you they’ve created a new app that scratches backs virtually, be skeptical. Ask hard questions. Find third-party support. Download the app and test it.

Yes, it’s marketing. But customers and the public will launch a digital blitzkrieg of complaints and bad reviews against your organization, if they feel jilted or lied to. All of the trust you’ve built around your organization’s work, products, or services will disappear. In fact, that’s a story — one a journalist might like to write: “Back scratcher maker ‘Itch’ defends itself after allegations that app scratcher scarred customers.”

Your product is an extension of your customers

Once you’re churning out branded stories, pause to think creatively. Imagine in product or service in all its roles. Back scratchers sunning themselves on vacation beach with their families around the world—Jealous much? Decoratively knitted back scratcher grips like tiny socks—The epitome of style. Pitching in to reach the spoon lodged under the refrigerator—Daring rescue!

What about you? Send me a tweet or email a link about how brand journalism helped you?

by Ed Carpenter — He’s a bad mutha … shut yer mouth.


About Ed Carpenter

Content Creative | Brand Journalist | Photos | Maps | Videos

Posted on April 3, 2014, in Business, Higher education, Marketing, Nonprofits. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on How to Think Like a Brand Journalist.

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