Smart Content Marketing: How Forbes Integrates Brand Journalism

How the renowned magazine is making its mark in brand journalism

Jeff Mignon

Jeff Mignon

posted on June 23, 2014

There are many ways for the media to jump on the content marketing bandwagon in order to develop new sources of income. One of them is to take advantage of “brand journalism.” However, how do you do so without the risk of compromising the integrity of the media brand? Forbes magazine has an approach that deserves attention.

Firstly, brand journalism can take many forms. Lisa Ostrikoff, gives a definition in her article “Farewell ‘push’ marketing, hello brand journalism” (Globe and Mail, 1/31/2013): “It’s a way for brands, big and small, to use the approach of professional journalists to create, curate and share expert content in the form of blogs, articles and video…”

Another way to approach brand journalism is the strategy used by Forbes magazine. Forbes developed a program in 2010 called “AdVoice ™."  The idea is simple: to enable brands to develop content that integrates into the magazine or website. There are guidelines that must be adhered to when inserting  branded content into the magazine or website:

The content must be clearly identified as being branded content: the logo must be visible in the page header section, the brand name in the signature section next to the author, etc.

The content cannot be promotional content. That said, we have found content on the Microsoft page that is clearly promoting Microsoft.

An editor must be dedicated to this initiative and control the content created by brands.

This editor must participate in the editorial meetings while being clearly identified as part of the marketing team.

Online, this program is reflected in the space “Forbes Brand Voice.” All articles contributed by brands are aggregated into a type of micro-site under the brand’s name (eg. UPS). The articles deal with general topics related to the world of business and do not speak directly about the brand. For example, here are two articles published by UPS: “Three ways to include logistics in your business plan” or “How A Company Recycles Ocean Plastic Twice The Size Of Texas."

This content is not limited to this specific area of the site,  it can also appear on the home page, a page section, etc.

In the media space, the Forbes initiative is interesting to observe and possibly duplicate. That said, it must be implemented in an extremely controlled and transparent manner to the reader, so as not to mix genres and maintain the separation of “Church and State”. Once again, we were surprised that the Forbes team has allowed several promotional messages to appear on the pages of Microsoft Dynamics Voice, especially after hearing Mark Howard, vice president of advertising and digital strategy at Forbes, last Thursday Social Content Summit in New York, ensuring that brands could not publish promotional content.

Clearly, this kind of strategy is not applicable to all types of media. Do you think it would work for your media brand?

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