Larry Light, chief marketing officer at McDonald’s, said in 2004 that mass marketing no longer worked and that “no single ad tells the whole story.” McDonald’s, he said, had adopted a new marketing technique: “brand journalism”.

Light defined brand journalism, brand narrative or brand chronicle, as a way to record “what happens to a brand in the world,” and create ad communications that, over time, can tell a whole story of a brand.

One definition that encompasses how different this new world of communication is comes from the CreativeAgencySecrets.com blog, which says that, to understand brand journalism, we must picture: “a world in which brands tell the truth, advertisers act like publishers and all communication is real-time”.

Brand Journalism can also be defined as using the credibility and influence of news to tell a corporate story in order to achieve competitive differentiation.

  • It is rooted in the principles of traditional journalism and good storytelling.
  • It creates stories that are factual, balanced, well-investigated, timely and compelling.
  • It must embrace transparency, an understanding of news values, and relevance to the concerns of an audience.
  • It uses the full range of multimedia – including HD video, audio and photography – to tell stories.
  • It invites a two-way conversation around those stories on the full range of social media platforms.
  • It marries this journalism with the core elements of strategic PR and marketing communications – visionary planning, research, incisive messages and a defined purpose.

The result is an integrated, brand journalism-driven communications strategy.

It takes traditional public relations and transforms them, eschewing the one-sided, poorly-conceived, -targeted and -delivered press release.

It goes beyond traditional marketing staples such as product launches, competitions and promotions to tell compelling stories about an industry, issue or cause.

To do so it draws on an industry’s or an organisation’s visionaries, its customers, suppliers and communities. It tells stories not just about an organisation’s successes, but also about its challenges and struggles.