By: Erin McMahon, @emcmahon1
I was always one of those kids who knew exactly what career they wanted to have. From middle school onward, whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always responded with “journalist.” This was a bit of an odd response, as most other kids I grew up with blurted out answers like teacher, doctor, nurse or veterinarian.
My dad had also wanted to be a journalist, and worked as a reporter for a wire service right out of college. As a kid, my dad would tell me about the stories that he covered, including a prison break in West Virginia and when he got “the interview” with Dan Quayle, the vice president at the time. These stories fascinated me and I thought that journalism would be the perfect career. It would allow me to tell stories, utilize my communication skills and travel all over the world. What could be better?
After a long process deciding on colleges and which programs I’d like to target, I knew that the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University was the place for me. I mean, it even has journalism in the title, for goodness sakes! During the decision process, my parents (although incredibly supportive of me) suggested public relations as a potential major, considering the current struggles of the news media industry. After six years in the journalism industry, my dad had made the shift to PR and thought that I might like it too. However, stubborn me couldn’t think of anything more boring than doing, what I thought would be, the behind-the-scenes work for a company. I wanted my name in a byline, my face behind the news desk. There was no way I was changing my dream…until I took my first strategic communications course.
Upon learning about why consumers make certain product decisions and how to construct a marketing campaign, I knew that the PR and advertising industries were where I needed to be. While I was really happy with my shift in majors, however, I still had a deep love for journalism. I thought that I would have to pick between corporate communications and reporting – that is, until I heard of “brand journalism.”
According to Forbes, brand journalism is “marketers using the tools of digital publishing and social media to speak directly to consumers.” More easily put, it’s using storytelling and reporting to convey a brand’s image, without the messaging looking like an advertisement or PR stunt. For example, if my agency was trying to promote a new product, I could introduce that product through a story told by a consumer who was positively affected by the product. It doesn’t look like an ad – just a heartwarming story that gets all of the necessary information across to the audience.
The inception of brand journalism is shaping and changing the PR landscape, providing yet another new tool for companies to gain visibility. While new digital and social media devices are bombarding the industry and it’s tough to keep up, this is the best time to enter into the job force as a young professional – especially if you have a love for storytelling and journalism.
Once I had learned about the brand journalism industry, I became more excited for my future career than ever before. I can combine my love for storytelling with my creative, promotional side. And, I can still talk to my dad about my career, because even HE knows what brand journalism is. I guess older really is wiser (but as I like to tell him, “not for long!”).