Can brands be content creators on the level of traditional media outlets?

Sure, brands can create content as part of their marketing and communications plans, but very few, if any, will create content that is on the level of a major media company, despite their resources. That is out of their reach - for now.

Yes

Harvey Hudes, Founder, Caliber Corporate Advisers
Sixteen years of experience in PR, content development, and marketing for b-to-b brands

Brands can be content creators and secure brand loyalty on the level of media organizations. If you build a reputation for consistently delivering quality and timely insight, you should be putting yourself in a much better position to have your audience reward you by becoming a client some day.

In order to do this, brands first need to decide whether they have the expertise and resources to build and maintain a presence. As long as objectivity is maintained, companies have a unique opportunity to control their message and offer insight that no outside media organization could offer on the subject matter.

With the explosion of social media and content sharing tools, when done right, your company's voice can be an extremely effective way to showcase a brand, become an authority, and increase SEO.

Because anyone with a Wi-Fi connection can publish what cereal they ate for breakfast, a clear content strategy needs to be established prior to internal or external communicators being allowed to push out content on behalf of a company. Establishing protocols early on will help minimize risk.

Most companies want to showcase their expertise in an objective and credible way. More and more firms are opting for journalistic-style pieces that can be of actual use to actual people. These people are your clients or customers, and ideally "actual" use leads to that person calling your sales team, but that doesn't have to detract from its educational merits. Great content markets a company's industry knowledge, not a specific product or service.

High-quality content offers organizations a chance to be credible sources of information on industry happenings. This is a trend that is likely to live on for many years.

Content creator is another title for an effective communicator. As with any successful PR or marketing initiative, you need to evaluate whether there are sufficient internal resources or if outside partners can help deliver your company's vision in order to become the trusted resource that you desire your organization to be.

No

Gary Goldhammer , Chief digital strategist, Hill+Knowlton Strategies
More than two decades of work in digital, advertising, PR, public affairs, and journalism

I recently asked my 14-year-old daughter how she got her information about the presidential election. "Not TV. I got it off The Vlog Brothers on YouTube," she said. "They are very balanced."

There you go CNN, Fox, and everyone else who still believes they are in the real news business. You are getting beat by two guys with a webcam and a YouTube channel.

The question 'Can brands create content on the level of media companies?' is based on a false premise. The real question should be whether brands can produce content at the level of respectable journalism.

Heck, not even some media companies are doing that. And while I applaud brands for trying, the truth is most will fail.

For every journalistic brand endeavor, such as McDonald's Our Food, Your Questions, there are countless initiatives such as GE Stories that, while well intended, miss the journalistic mark.

The best journalism is about real, honest, emotional stories, not content. Stories have conflict, heroes, and villains. They have winners and losers, personality and flaws, great highs and severe lows. In other words, stories require brands to reveal things they don't want anyone else to know about.

For brands to become great storytellers, they must create emotional impact; embrace friends and respect enemies; acknowledge mistakes, then fix them; and earn trust.

Sure, content is certainly safer and easier to stuff with search-friendly keywords. But the non-fiction story about a company is inherently more interesting than any fiction created for the purpose of earning friends, followers, and customers.

Let's be clear: Brands can and do create content all the time with press releases, videos, ads, and brochures. Whether they can create content at the level of today's media companies isn't debatable, either. With the right strategy, team, and resources, anything's possible.

But can brands create journalism? That bar is higher than most brands will be able to reach - and one that most of today's media companies have already sunk far below.


PRWeek's View
Sure, brands can create content as part of their marketing and communications plans, but very few, if any, will create content that is on the level of a major media company, despite their resources. That is out of their reach - for now.

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