Women in Journalism & Women in PR debate – How to Work With Brands

The panel at WiJ/WiPR Working with Brands debate: Eleanor Mills, Jackie Hunter, Louise Court, Helena Raven, Jo-ann Robertston

The panel at WiJ/WiPR Working with Brands debate: Eleanor Mills, Jackie Hunter, Louise Court, Helena Raven, Jo-ann Robertston (photo courtesy of WiJ’s Flickr

The evolution of brands into content producers in their own right is a controversial topic. Whether it’s flying in the face of nature or “new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it” (to badly misquote Stella Gibbons and Douglas Adams in a single sentence) probably depends more on your professional background than your age. Last week, Women in Journalism & Women in PR staged a debate with a panel of experts from all “sides” to explore both the opportunities and risks for brands and journalists.

All the panel seemed to agree that readers are above all interested in the quality of the content, and less concerned whether the source is “pure” editorial or a brand. However, transparency is important too – sponsored content should be labelled as such. Branded content can be as good as the editorial that surrounds it, and can even protect that editorial – for example Eleanor Mills (Chair of WiJ and Editorial Director of the Sunday Times) pointed out that the power of a Sunday Times review isn’t available to buy and having clearly branded content can help to reinforce the independence of neighbouring editorial for readers.

Jackie Hunter, Managing Editor, WSJ Custom Studios, noted that the best results are obtained with brands who know what they want to achieve and who they want to reach with their message. Trusting the journalists they work with to understand their audience can lead to a story that readers will appreciate, enjoy, and crucially for the brand, one that will be widely shared. Helena Raven, Head of Digital, NSPCC, later said this can mean “getting the brand out of the way” – forget about logos and mentions and concentrating on the story that matters to people – for example, the young lives changed by the NSPCC, rather than the organisation itself. In short content must work for the reader or it won’t work for the brand.

Problems can arise when a brand doesn’t set out with a clear vision and starts asking for changes and tweaks late in the process – larger companies where there are more people involved with something at stake are particularly vulnerable to this. A lack of clarity can lead to frustration for journalists who are used to working at speed and prioritising deadlines, while the brand wants to keep perfecting the content. At the same time the journalists must provide value by “pushing back”. Jo-ann Robertson, deputy CEO at Ketchum, noted that one of the roles of a PR professional as well as the journalist is to keep challenging the brand to focus on telling a memorable story where the brand’s presence is subtle.

Finally, as we work so closely with journalists I was particularly struck by the opportunities branded content can offer for freelance journalists. Both Eleanor Mills and Jackie Hunter noted that many outlets prefer not to use staff or regular, bylined journalists for branded content, in order to keep a clear division. However Louise Court from Hearst noted that experienced writers, who are known by readers to have expertise in an area, can provide integrity and it’s possible for them to work on branded content without lowering their journalistic standards. As always the important thing is the journalist’s understanding of their audience and subject and this authenticity is key to the quality of the final content. This makes good journalists worth paying for (something we like to hear at DWPub) and rates for branded content can be as much as 30-40% higher than traditional editorial commissions. That higher fee is well-earned though – it means you’re working for the brand client as well as the editors, and you may get more questions and find more rewrites are required than usual.

The hour-long debate was so packed I’ve not been able to do it, or the speakers, justice. I can only conclude that as traditional media is forced to find more ways of funding high volumes of content for demanding readers, journalists, brands and PRs are going to be working together even more closely than before, and we all – as readers as well as content producers – need to keep pushing for higher standards.


Holding on to what sets PR apart

It’s great to see the second PRstack book published last week, an impressive collaborative effort by a wide spectrum of talent in the UK PR industry. The book highlights tools … Continue Reading →

Take note of deadlines to score journo request coverage

We’ve taken a look at a few stats from the ResponseSource Enquiry Service and discovered around five per cent of responses from PRs are rejected because the journalist’s deadline was … Continue Reading →

Newsroom tips part 4: Create compelling content

At the heart of an effective social media newsroom is great content. This post explores some of the key elements which are a must to get right. Good storytelling A … Continue Reading →

The top 10 first names in PR

It’s mid-August. We thought it appropriate to count the most popular first names of people working in public relations in 2015. A representative sample of the UK PR community has revealed the … Continue Reading →

Advertising rates and improved circulation data

Data Enhancements We’ve made a number of data improvements to the FeaturesExec Media Database • Advertising rates for media outlets now included • Introduction of radio reach data • Improved … Continue Reading →

Three become one, become two. Further thoughts on the UK media database sector

There were three. Then there was one. Now there are two. Cision’s private-equity-fueled acquisition spree last year resulted in a radical redrawing of the UK media database map, with Cision, … Continue Reading →

Newsroom tips part 3: Add your press contact profiles

In our series of newsroom tips we explore how to get the best out of each element of your social media newsroom. So far we’ve covered adding your social media feeds … Continue Reading →

Newsroom tips part 2: Match your branding

Part 1 of our series of newsroom tips looked at the value of adding your social media feeds to your newsroom. Another great way to integrate your newsroom into your … Continue Reading →

Seven tips for sending a successful media request

The ResponseSource media enquiry service distributes hundreds of media requests every week, and we’ve picked up a few tips from both journalists and PRs about what makes a successful media … Continue Reading →

0845 370 7777 More about the DWPub Media Suite.