Making the News

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It’s a relatively new concept, so if you’re asking “hey, just what is brand journalism,” you’re not alone.

Brand journalism essentially embeds a journalist (in my view, a former journalist) within a company to help the company tell better stories and create content that adds value to the reader, viewer or listener.

The idea is to create content that meaningfully engages the audience in ways that don’t leave them feeling like someone is trying to sell them something. It is a different kind of content from that which is in a press release, but it is a type of PR content that PR and marketing practitioners manage or create.

A company will hire hire a journalist who is not affiliated with any one news outlet to create the content, relying on their skills to tell more engaging stories and create multi-media content. PR departments get journalism quality stories that look and feel like real journalism.

But they aren’t journalism. And they aren’t because the journalist is on the company’s payroll, which, removes any possibility of any real sense of objectivity.

That’s not to say they aren’t bringing a great many of their journalistic skills to bear. That isn’t to say they aren’t great journalists, maybe even brilliant journalists, but in this role, they are not journalists. They have transitioned to to a new career in PR and marketing.

They are performing a paid service to help certain messages about a brand to resonate within target audiences.That’s not a journalism.

Many will disagree with me, especially those within the PR community who are promoting issues and products that get push back. Hiring a journalist to create their content gives it the aura of a third party endorsement. But it’s in appearance only, and it’s spin, since the creator of the content is on the company’s payroll.

What’s the difference?

Call up a journalist to ask for a correction because he didn’t write the story according to the press release, and there’s a mighty fine chance your story will get killed.

Branded content, I can buy. But not journalism.

Some proponents argue that Brand Journalism is “honest brand storytelling that invites audiences to participate.” Others say it is “honest, informative and engaging.”

The latter describes what PR should have always been. And the first is what it should increasingly be aspiring to in the era in which we live.

Please feel free to check out other Online PR, Public Relations, Journalism, Social Media and Marketing terms.




I absolutely had to run Marla Schulman‘s interview this weekend because she is right in the middle of the Oscar action, taking pictures on the Red Carpet, and of course, this weekend is The Academy Awards. Marla is a TV host who knows her way around a video camera. She has some great video tips for beginners in this video.

But oh the irony…

This video has a couple of the technical challenges that we preach against right in the video to be sure and avoid like not great sound and kinda crummy picture quality. None of those are Marla’s fault, however. Like she points out, sometimes it just happens!


Making the news gets much easier if you remember to include video into the mix.

Why? Every news outlets needs content for their web, and news outlets love video:

  • All news organizations want to drive people to their websites as well and so many like additional or new content so that people have a reason to both watch and visit the website.
  • Websites with videos perform better than websites without video. People tend to stay longer on websites that have video and that’s important for any site trying to prove its worth to advertisers.
  • Video adds another layer to storytelling, and news people are, at their core, storytellers.

But making the news gets easier if you have thought through the video components for other reasons as well. TV and print rely on visuals. If you are not providing great video with your story (and even if you do, they will likely want to shoot some of their own anyway), you need to think it through from the perspective of how a camera will capture it.

That means:

  • Action – people doing interesting things filled with movement.
  • Locations – somewhere interesting, dynamic and logical to the story.
  • interviews – Interesting people who can offer insightful opinions on camera.

You can do something called a video news release. Essentially, you create a tv news piece as you would like it to be in a perfect world. In the US, some news stations will air them in part or in whole if they are very well done or they really need the content. In Canada, video news releases tend to be used more for background information and as a source for b-roll.

There are essentially two ways to get the word out on something:

  • From the top down – which means that you pitch a media outlet and, if you’ve done a good job, your key messages will come out in the story they tell.
  • From the bottom up – which means that your grass roots efforts reach a critical mass and media come to you.

Video is essential to both approaches for a variety of reasons:

  • People remember what they have seen more than they have simply read or only listened to. It’s one of the reasons that even if a television station has a smaller audience than a newspaper does, the television hit is often considered to be more valuable because a television appearance usually resonates more than a print story.
  • Video provokes a deeper response when it’s well done or thought provoking. We want to share that which has moved us and video is very shareable.
  • Once a movement hits a critical mass (a large number of signatures on a petition, for example or lot’s of people blogging or micro tweeting about it), the news will pick up on it. And video can be a very powerful force in creating a movement.
  • Video is something that more and more people are doing on their own as a way of expressing their own opinions and allegiances. People want to be involved with brands they love and organizations they care about. Given a chance, some of them will even create great content for you that may even help you in your making the news efforts. An unpaid supporter created these campaign videos for to help them in their grass roots efforts to fight a bill they felt was unjust.

Speaking of YouTube, it is the second largest search engine in the world and is also owned by Google. Ensuring that your videos are also keyworded properly both in the title and in the tags right in YouTube is very important.

When you upload your video to YouTube, you will need to choose a category (it might fit into “people,” “how to” or anyone of a number of other possible categories) and then you should add keywords. People search YouTube (did I mention it’s the second largest search engine in the world?) the same way they search Google. So if you’ve chosen keywords that people are looking for, you will come up in their returns.

You can watch this video with videotips for beginners featuring Marla Schulman for additional tips, but here are some additional shooting tips that will help you use video in your making the news with video efforts:

  1. Ironically, sound quality is more important than picture quality in video. People will put up with poor pictures but not poor audio.
  2. You probably have a better side. Look at the difference when I am shot from my left side versus when I am shot from my right side. These two videos were one day apart.
  3. Use natural light wherever possible.
  4. Keep a camera with you at all times. Pocket cameras like the Kodak Zi10, similar to what Marla Schulman is holding in this video with video tips for beginners. I rarely go anywhere without my Flip camera, and am so sad they have discontinued the model. And of course, you can always use your iPhone if you have one.
  5. If you’re interviewing someone, remember it’s about them. Make them look good, even if it means shooting you on your bad side so they can be on their good side (see point 2).
  6. Look for interesting angles when you’re shooting. Unless you’re doing a Skype video interview, it’s rare to put someone in the middle of the frame – usually if they’re alone, they’re off to one side or the other.
  7. To look at the camera or not?
  • The old rule used to be never. But that’s changed. If you’ve noticed in my interviews, I always look at the camera at various points of an interview, because I think of these interviews as a three way conversation between the interview subject, myself or whomever is doing the interviews, and you the person watching at home.
  • Increasingly even in television interviews, you will see those being interviewed look at the anchor and the camera. The same goes for hosts. While interviewing people, Dr. Oz looks at the camera as if to indicate this is a three way conversation.

Making the news gets harder with every passing moment. There is a lot of competition and an increasingly squeezed newsroom has very little time to entertain pitches that haven’t been thought out from all angles.

Invest the time thinking through video, both what you can gather and what news will need to be able to gather to make it particularly newsworthy. And if you have not yet started playing with video on your own, remember this: the best time to plan a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is now.

Get planting.



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