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Corporate Journalism is Business as Unusual

Corporate/Brand Journalism seems to be the cloudy topic of the hour, so I wanted to take some time to try and pull the curtain off.

When my friends and family ask me what I do, my response usually goes something like, “I write really awesome stuff for a tech company in San Francisco.” Their eyes immediately glaze over with fantasies of giant glass buildings, shiny laptops, Google, afternoons at Starbucks, etc. and I’m free to either slink away or change the subject.

People in the industry aren’t as easy to please. They want a concise answer. A neat little package. Something like the descriptions currently making their way around the ‘net: a new form of marketing; a content revolution; a place where journalists go to sell out.

SXSW Definitions

The fun continued at this year’s SXSW Interactive conference, which featured an entire panel dedicated to defining the position:

  • Erica Swallow, Director of Community, Contently: Research, storytelling and reporting on behalf of a non-media entity, in that company’s line of business with the goal being thought leadership.
  • Karen Wickre, Editorial Director, Twitter: I call it Corporate Communications…That to me is where this function should live in a company, and whether or not a journalist holds that position, it’s in the company’s best interest to have their public communications be as forthcoming and friendly as possible.
  • Jesse Noyes, Corporate Journalist, Eloqua: Brand Journalism is bringing in a journalist to write about a topic or industry in a way that a reporter would do in a newspaper…It’s bringing voices from inside the company and outside the company together to tell a story. It should be about what the people in that industry want to read about. The news they want to hear about.

Chelsi’s Definition: Engaging Content Creator

I don’t like to spend a lot of time with definitions. I’m more interested in the need that’s being answered, and as MarketingProfs recently pointed out in the graphic below, that need is pretty substantial:

Unsurprisingly, Social Media is to blame/thank (however you want to look at it). A virtual truckload of social outlets and constant consumer connectivity means a lot of things for businesses, one of them being the importance of a single, reliable space for conversation.

To put it plainly, a corporate journalist should create meaningful and informative content that will engage audiences. This means no product promotion. Just good ol’ talking. It’s not an evil marketing ploy, it’s not selling out, it’s not a revolution. It’s just the result of the evolution of communication.


Baratunde Thurston was the first keynote at SXSW this year, and something he said really stuck with me: “Change is the constant, and business as usual is unusual.”

This notion that the world of business is being turned upside down by constant, public connection is something I believe wholeheartedly, and am increasingly passionate about helping others understand, adjust and adapt to. At the risk of sounding grandiose, that means tossing the ol’ adage “it’s not personal, it’s just business” out the window.

When we talk about participating in a world that’s increasingly social, it is, by way of that behavior, increasingly personal. Businesses have a huge obligation to respond to that shift, and they can do that in part through content that doesn’t push product.

Transforming with Transparency

It kind of sounds like I’m giving away all of Mindjet’s secrets, but that’s where the whole importance of transparency thing comes in. If business is personal, then there’s got to be trust and openness for that type of relationship to grow. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better way to get the job done than by being upfront and, well, human.

In truth, I do have a shiny laptop on which I use Google, and there are some pretty big glass panels involved in the architecture of my office building, but I don’t spend my afternoons at Starbucks. Those are my feet in the header image above, and that’s my desk. I prefer writing from the office because I really like the people I work with, and I believe that the company we represent understands the shifts that are happening, respects them, and is great at responding to them.

As the designated creator of engaging content, it’s my job to help communicate that. So I hope the words I write here in this space are adding value to your life, and to the way you think about the subjects that are discussed. And! If there’s a conversation you’d love to open up, then I’d love to hear it. Contact info is in the bio, or you can always toss your suggestions in the comment section below.

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