Marketing Works Today

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Brand Journalist or Another Title?

Real Estate Brand Journalism via Email

You can call me anything you want as long as I get paid and you don’t call me late for dinner.

I’ve been doing “brand journalism” and content marketing since the 1980’s at IBM. Before that I was a national magazine and newspaper reporter, contributing editor, stringer, feature writer, managing editor, etc… Lots of titles.

It’s all semantics.

The lines between a classical journalist and a content maker are blurred almost beyond recognition.

I’ve had magazines ask me to write puff pieces for advertisers for their news section. I’ve produced videos for companies that ended up as segments on Discovery or a local affiliate, I’ve produced “News Minutes” for radio that focused on an advertiser’s product or service, and on and on.

Media company journalists are content makers. So are brand journalists.

The media company will say they are objective and don’t take a position on a story. The brand journalist clearly takes a position. Do you believe the media company?

I’ve learned since sitting in media company editorial meetings pitching stories: There is little, if any, objectivity.

The fact that an editor or editorial staff would choose to run a story on a celebrity divorce, instead of a story on the Marines that were killed this week in a war zone, automatically demonstrates bias. They are biased based on what their audience wants and their business model vs. what really is important news.

The act of choosing a particular story, one quote over another, who to quote, one fact over another fact, is an act of bias. There’s very little that’s “objective” about it.

And that doesn’t include purposefully spinning a story the way media companies do. They have their “editorial positions” on issues and as a reporter, you better follow them, or out you go.

Each writer and editor brings all their experience and baggage to the party. You can try to fake objectivity, but using judgment about a story is an act of subjectivity.

The news business is a business first. The “code of journalism ethics” is a fairy tale [Oh, there I’ve gone and said it – let the hate email begin]. Nice thing to aspire too but not followed or in most cases not practical. The code is to sell eyeballs and ears, as many as you can, so you can increase ad revenue, not some lofty goal of news nirvana.

Newsletter Postcard

The only reason there is evening news from a local affiliate TV station is to put content around the advertising – not the other way around. Do you really care about the car wrecks, burglaries somewhere else, weather emergencies outside your neighborhood, etc? What is the journalism “code” for that?

It’s great to tell all sides of a story. That’s what hard news and feature journalists are supposed to do. But it’s rare when it happens for a lot of reasons: time, space, budget, knowledge…

Most Americans trust journalists less than lawyers or car and real estate salespeople. Why? Because they know objectivity is a myth. They would rather that the writer/producer just be honest about it… like brand journalists are.

Brand Journalism (or whatever you want to call it) – helpful information that customers and prospects care about, usually told as a story – has driven more press to my employers and clients than thousands of press releases.

In fact, I have publishers from newspapers, magazines, and GMs from TV stations contact me to get in on the action. They figure it’s better to find a way to work together than compete. It’s all about the quality of the content and the analytics. Get more eyeballs than the press, and the press will come running.

How about this for a title: I’m a for-profit content maker. No? Better yet, just call me paid.

Filed under: Brand Journalism, Content Marketing, Print, Real Estate Marketing, Writing, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blogging, Free Speech, the Law, and Reality

I was recently criticized by an idealist blogger about my position on blogging, publishing, and why you should be careful when publishing negative content. 

One of my specialties is Reputation Management and Crisis Communication.  I’m not a lawyer, but I have prepared Rep and Crisis Communication Strategy and Plans, and had to execute them for many companies and clients.  Plus, I’ve been on both sides of the fence as a journalist and PR pro – including communication law cases.

I’m a 30-year professional journalist and college j-school teacher.  I’ve taken and taught media law for a long time. You should know there are consequences for libel and slander.

This post isn’t a class in media law; but, it is a practical overview of the issue on the street.

I encourage you or anyone to speak your mind anytime you want. Freedom of speech is of vital importance to our country and liberty.  I get it.

Supreme Court

But the truth matters. Facts matter. So does reality.

If you purposefully lie, distort the truth, publish outright false information, and it materially damages someone or their reputation, and they can prove it, the legal action could be a real drag.

I’m not talking about opinion. That’s different.

If you want to publish that you don’t like something or someone, it’s not illegal. Most companies or individuals won’t take legal action. It’s a business decision. Cost vs. bad press, reputation, or customer relations. Public companies usually won’t take action.

Plus the burden of proof to prove libel is all on the person bringing the lawsuit and it’s hard to prove to the standards set by the law.  Congress and the Supreme Court made it that way to protect free speech.

What I’ve explained so far is the ideal world.  Now for some reality.

 

Front & Backroom Legal Action

Private individuals or privately held companies are a different matter when you attack them with a blog, especially ones with deep pockets and no board of directors to report to, when they decide they personally don’t like something a blogger publishes.

I witnessed the president of a privately held company legally and financially game and drain someone dry because of blogging.  The blogger is living with his mother now. 

Would the president win in court?  Probably not, even though the blogger was a jerk.  However, the legal amusement from a vindictive person with lots of money is endless and so is the cost – for the other party AND YOU.

The question is… as a blogger, how much time and money do you want to spend with lawyers?  How much do you have?

How much do you have?

If you turn your publishing into a full-time rant, the savvy will launch their reputation management system and make your posts irrelevant or worse – you can ruin your own reputation.

If you’re really nasty in your posts, with the sole purpose to ruin someone’s reputation, some will take legal action based on “poison pen” law. I just read that a ranter just got found guilty of that.  They’ve gone for years in the legal process. Great fun for them I’m sure.

By the way, this isn’t just about one or two court cases.  There have been many.  Most don’t make the press.  You have to read the court records.

Many posts and blogs have been taken down by an ISP or blog hosting company because of violations of terms of service.  Most article directories won’t even allow you to mention a company name unless it’s yours.  They don’t want the grief.  Censorship?  Yes.

In an ideal world, you’re right.  Nobody should censor.

Unfortunately, this is a hugely litigious country and the folks with the biggest bank account can bleed you dry.  Is it right?  No.  Does it happen?  Everyday.

Here’s how it works.

In almost all cases, lawsuits settle – you never get to court to have a “decision” based on what is right.  Most of the time there is a signed agreement by both parties – and the judge that you never get to meet – requiring you to shut up about the case.  So you won’t read much about it or the litigant that leaked will have to go before that judge and defend against contempt of court.

Usually they settle somewhere in the middle after both parties are tired of spending or the hassle.  Your time and cost will be yours – at $150-$350 per hour for your lawyer, who usually wants to keep it going, plus mediators at $750 a day.  When all is said and done, the lawyers got richer and you got poorer.  Is it worth it?

My point is: there is an ideal and purely constitutional law side to this – and there is a practical and real-world (and some would say cynical) side.

The ideal is a free flow of ideas and honest discussion, agreement, and disagreement. That exists most of the time and it’s good.

But get your facts wrong and in the process harm someone badly, or go over the top with opinion to the point that you anger someone with deep pockets, and I guarantee you’ll wish you never wrote that post.

I know: reality stinks.  You can live in an ideal la-la land in your head.  Or you can live in the real world.  It’s your choice.  The key is to pick your battles.

Sometimes, it’s just better to listen to what your mother taught you, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.”

Filed under: Blogging, Crisis Communication, Media Law, Public & Media Relations, Reputation Management, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Marketing Works Today

This blog is to help you learn how to connect with customers. The goal is to show you how to get the most qualified leads, traffic, relationships, and sales for the lowest cost/customer. I'll write and aggregate content that relates to the goal. You're welcome to subscribe, comment, and post. Send me your news tips!

What’s In A Title?

I've had a lot of titles [Director of Marketing, Communications Director, Advertising Director, Multimedia Producer, Managing Editor, Reporter, Copywriter]; but, I approach every project as a digital producer... what does the audience need and how can I deliver it most effectively and for the lowest cost?

Sometimes I write with pictures or video, sometimes with words. I always keep the goal in mind: sales, leads, traffic, a better brand image or awareness, or just a really good story, etc.

Yeah I create content for money. But you'll see from my background that I'm way better at making money for others than I am for myself.

I wish I had 1%. I'd be surfing with my kids all the time now.

Contact me and I'll make some for you.

Mike Brown
www.BrownLtd.com
MikeBrown@BrownLtd.com

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I have 8 years experience setting up, writing, and managing small business and simple product campaigns ($100/week Google Adwords) and large business campaigns with multiple divisions and product lines (up to $20,000/week in Google Adwords – more than $1.1 billion in annual sales). Contact me to create your campaign! MikeBrown@BrownLtd.com

R. Michael Brown
Marketing Consultant, Public Relations Consultant, Freelance Writer: West Palm Beach, Florida

"I help organizations increase sales, and pump up the value of their brand, using media, for the lowest cost per customer."

Digital Marketing and Public Relations consultant, writer, and producer with over 20 years experience launching brands like DiVosta Homes, IBM Multimedia, Nextel, Motorola business and government sector, and SunFest Jazz Festival.

MikeBrown@BrownLtd.com
561-756-1674

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