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Brand Journalism: Why Employees are the Best Storytellers

October 21, 2016 by Angela Schuller 33

If you’re a marketer, you’re keenly aware of the value of brand journalism and how it fits into your broader customer engagement strategy.

“Brand journalism focuses on building stories and other informational content that highlights value from a different point of view,” according to Daniel Newman. “Companies that embrace brand journalism use interviews and article-based websites that provide journalistic information to support a product’s offerings.”

But brand journalism is not just about having an online presence. It’s ensuring your content is compelling and doesn’t read like an advertisement.

Brand journalism is ensuring your content is compelling and doesn’t read like an advertisement

I learned this bit of insight after spending a few minutes with SAP’s head of Brand Journalism, member of the Journal of Brand Strategy and the “Blogfather”, Tim Clark. A former editor-in-chief who has worked at a number of traditional print, trade, and online magazines throughout his career, Tim came to SAP in 2008, right about the time that “going green” was all the rage, which helped propel the widespread adoption of blogging and digital content. Clark now oversees the Business Trends space on the SAP Community and SAPVoice on Forbes.com, and has mentored hundreds of employees on how to become better storytellers.

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Tim Clark, the “Blogfather”

“We have over 80,000 employees who come from all different walks of life, so there’s tons of great stories to tell that tie back to our business,” Clark said. “You don’t need to pay for an expensive PR agency, freelancer or content farm to generate compelling stories.”

Employees shouldn’t discount the value of the point of view they have to offer folks outside the company. Because employees are closest to the products, solutions or trends that are popular at the moment, stories they write traditionally provide an authentic point of view.

Employees are closest to the products or trends that are popular, so stories they write provide an authentic POV

And you don’t have to be an exec with 20 years of experience to have a story that’s worth reading. “If you’re an intern, write about your experiences, and the projects you’re working on,” Clark said.

Just stay away from sales jargon and industry buzzwords. It takes away from the authenticity of the story you’re writing.

“The instant readers get a whiff of disingenuous marketing, or feel they are being sold something, it repels them,” Clark explained. “The true tenet of brand journalism is employees telling really great, smart, entertaining stories. Resist the urge to be chest-beater.”

That’s not to say that a little pride for your company is a bad thing. If you’re a sales exec who is coming off a week of great customer meetings, write about your experiences and share key takeaways. Or maybe you attended an event like SAPPHIRE NOW and were inspired to write about a panel discussion or session.

“It’s a great way to build brand momentum and trust,” Clark explained. “Readers will figure out on their own that you work for a great company that sells great products if you write with passion.”

Building momentum through quality storytelling also arrives in the form of the award-winning brand journalism syndication process. Here’s how it works: Employees first publish their stories on the SAP Business Trends Community where Clark and other editors scan for the “best of” content (i.e. quality stories that aren’t too technical or full of marketing speak) and work with employees if slight modifications are needed. From there, depending on the tone of the story, it might appear on the SAP News Center and/or SAPVoice on Forbes. SAP Brand Journalism editors also consider content from other SAP channels like The Digitalist, The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce, and the employee portal — and use social media to share these stories more broadly.

Speaking of reaching broad audiences, The World Economic Forum republishes a lot of content from the SAP Business Trends community, which is a tremendous validation of SAP’s employee brand journalism strategy, according to Clark. Sprinklr also recognized SAP’s brand journalism model as one of 5 Examples of Brilliant Native Advertising Content.

Not entirely convinced you have something valuable to say? Inspiration can hit you from anywhere.

One of the most popular blogs on SAPVoice this summer was born from a kids’ gaming phenomenon that blew up this summer. Pokémon Go Gives Nintendo And Augmented Reality A Major Boost has generated more than 51,000 views, with nearly 17,000 of those from social sharing. People read and shared the story because Clark was able to connect a cultural trend with an industry one. He’s not an expert in artificial intelligence, but he is a father who’s clearly tapped into what capturing the next Dragonite means.

Clark’s advice to aspiring employee journalists? “Tell the story you want to tell, not the story you think you should tell.”

@TClark01 to employee journalists: Tell the story you want to tell

SAPVoice has had more than 1.65 million page views in 2016 with more than 373 million brand impressions.

Ready to get writing? Check out Tell the Story You Want to Tell and How to Structure a Blog Post.

Read more on why SAP is a recognized leader in brand journalism: Why Your Business Needs and Editorial Strategy

Top image via Shutterstock

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