NEW YORK: Despite its growing prevalence, brand journalism will not win a Pulitzer Prize in the near future, panelists at the PRWeek Conference in New York on Tuesday agreed.
In response to a question from Steve Rubel, chief content strategist at Edelman and panel moderator, about whether branded content producers could win the prestigious journalism award in the next five years, the panelists concurred that traditional journalism and brand journalism should remain distinct.
“We want to avoid blurring the lines, and we should not be trying to make marketers journalists,” said Jim Kennedy, SVP of strategy and digital products at the Associated Press.
He discussed AP's plan to enable brand-sponsored tweets during events.
“If we bring down the walls, we slip down the slope, and we won't develop this [branded content] as well as we could,” he said.
Rather than perceiving branded content as journalism, Rob Wolf, social media manager at Microsoft, said he sees it as a type of advertising.
“It is much better advertising than a static ad, and more enriching, and it can be thought-provoking and educational, but at the end of the day, it is advertising,” he explained.
Dan Roth, executive editor of LinkedIn, said content that comes from a corporation will have a bias. “We trust readers to understand that, and we don't hide it – readers are smart enough to know what they are getting,” he said.
Roth added that one benefit of this type of content is that it can be shared and also updated by major media corporations.
While branded content is distinct from journalism, PR and communications professionals should not fall into the trap of repurposing existing brand content, members of the panel said.
“Repurposing commercial messaging in a storytelling environment is a mistake,” said Kennedy. “When opportunities come along, you should change the format.”
He added that publishers have to say no if the content is not good enough.
“It's about cultivating the space and making it a compelling environment and not letting it go in any direction,” Kennedy said.
With an increasing number of brands, agencies, and publishers moving into branded content, Rubel asked the panelists whether we could reach “peak content” crisis.
“We will be forced to up our game, but good content will always rise to the top,” said Wolf. “We saw this play out in the Super Bowl with Oreo's tweet, and then all brands tried to replicate it during the Grammys.”