Brand journalism and content marketing are here to stay.


Last week, I co-hosted a conference where Steve Smith gave us the lowdown on brand journalism and content marketing. These are two important concepts if you are trying to sell anything to anyone in 2013 and beyond.

Trying to sell a job to a passive candidate? A car to a skeptical buyer? Boring software to cynical HR professionals? You should look at the deck.


Brand journalism is sponsored content that is written like an article but is really an advertisement. When the article or “content” is published in a mainstream publication, editorial standards apply. The piece has to be true. And the publishing platform will generally tell you (the reader) that the copy is a de facto advertisement.

This is what brand journalism looks like on Politico.

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Some say that there’s no such thing as brand journalism.

“Journalism is a quest for truth. There is no truth in marketing.”

I tend to agree with that; however, journalists who have been fired by the fourth estate believe that you can publish “truth” in a sponsored ad. And it’s not like today’s journalists should be proud of themselves, anyway. In a quest for truth, details get lost.

(Where the hell are those Iraqi WMD? Who says Chris Christie is a moderate Republican? Why are we paying attention to a royal baby but not reporting on snipers who kill pregnant women in Syria?)

So if you are a marketer, there are opportunities for brand journalism in major publications and on niche websites. It’s definitely something you should explore. And if your 2014 marketing strategy lacks a robust definition of brand journalism, you probably need some help.


Content marketing is the broader name we give to the act of publishing brand journalism, white papers, display ads, etc. It’s how marketing and creative professionals do what they do to reach an audience and convert those eyeballs into qualified leads for a sales team.

Content marketing can be social. More often, it’s an infusion of old school marketing techniques into traditional and new media outlets. As I learned from Steve when I worked at The Starr Conspiracy, an old whitepaper can be chopped up into several blog posts. Those blog posts can make 20 tweets and Facebook status updates. The whitepaper copy can also be used in display advertising and magazine advertising. You can also have thought leaders in your industry read your old whitepapers and respond with new ideas in blog posts, podcasts, robust display advertising, etc. And all of this can be measured to track leads and conversion rates.


I’ve given you a very basic definition of both content marketing and brand journalism. I hope it gets you thinking about how to sell your products and services in 2014. It’s not about traffic and eyeballs. It’s about what you do with your traffic and eyeballs.

And if you’re a normal person who doesn’t sell anything, maybe you should change your attitude and think about how to sell yourself in a healthy and positive way. You are important. What you say has meaning. If you have a blog or a Twitter account, what are you creating and sharing to position yourself for your next job? If you are on Facebook or LinkedIn, how are you adding value to someone else’s day?

Brand journalism and content marketing are stodgy and boring concepts, but we are all on a quest for truth. We are all our own personal journalists, too. I think we should work harder to improve the way we communicate with one another.

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