I have a new moonlighting gig this spring. I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to teach as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Communications at Elon University near Burlington, NC. I teach a senior-level class in strategic PR campaigns, and it’s a blast. Our future colleagues in the PR profession are bringing a lot to the table, I can attest.

My collegiate interaction with the next wave of PR practitioners has included some insightful discussion of current trends and practices in our business. One of these discussions was about the concept of brand journalism, a frequently bandied topic in PR blogs and tweets. If you’re not familiar with the concept, here’s a working definition from marketing and PR strategist/author/speaker David Meerman Scott:

“Brand Journalism is not a product pitch. It is not an advertorial. It is not an egotistical spewing of gobbledygook-laden corporate drivel.

Instead Brand Journalism is the creation of Web content—videos, blog posts, photos, charts, graphs, essays, ebooks, white papers—that deliver value to your marketplace and serve to position your organization as one worthy of doing business with.” Source: https://www.webinknow.com/2010/03/brand-journalism-.html

What was the general take on brand journalism among my particular class of Gen-Yers on the verge (they hope) of gainful employment in PR? Not surprisingly for a group where online engagement is a lifestyle, the reaction was, “How would you justify NOT including brand journalism in a strategic PR plan? If you’re not delivering content that your virtual community finds worthwhile, how are you connecting with your audiences?”

Interesting. Apparently, the professional discourse about whether brand journalism is an oxymoron, or some kind of quasi-ethical mingling of flackery and the noble fourth estate is meaningless to those who know how audiences in 2011 gather information. They understand that the implementation of online or social media engagement and “traditional” PR should be seamless. The reality is, the messaging that brand journalism brings to a PR initiative is as integral to PR in the digital age as press releases and talking points.

Leave it to a college class to tell us when a lively theoretical exchange about PR practice has become academic.

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