No Matter What You Call It, It’s All About Content Marketing and Brand Journalism

David Meerman Scott HCIC 2013

We opened the first full day of the 2013 Healthcare Internet Conference (HCIC) with a keynote by author David Meerman Scott. Scott’s been a regular feature at HCIC over the past several years, including last year’s excellent session on newsjacking.

This year’s focus was similar, but included two other ideas – writing for your buyer personas and creating content like a news outlet.

These are trends that are getting a lot of buzz right now and sometimes go by other names like content marketing and brand journalism.

Content marketing is all about using content to engage with your consumers. Health systems have a tremendous amount of reference content on their websites – content written in a very clean, professional way that explains what the organization does along with fundamentals of diseases, conditions and treatments. That content is great, but it’s not particularly engaging. It may answer a question when consumers are at a very particular point in their healthcare journey, but just as often, that content is doing little more than filling space. Content marketing is more about providing information that addresses the various needs of health consumers and patients at every stage of their experience with a health issue.

Good content marketing increasingly includes brand journalism – producing content in much the same way media outlets do. For some organizations like Chicago-based Advocate Health Care, it may mean creating consumer-friendly health information in the mode of WebMD or Livestrong at their site AHCHealthENews.com. For Nationwide Children’s Hospital, it means producing feature stories like their recent story on the risks of purchasing breast milk online and providing a related resource library for media outlets to easily pick up the story while featuring their organization’s experts. By writing consumer-friendly content, weaving in patient stories and human interest angles, and mentioning the organization’s brand as little as possible – such stories are more often read and shared than the typical content we see on healthcare provider sites.

Scott delivered these stories brilliantly as he always does and there’s no question that his challenge to the audience of digital healthcare communicators to step up their game was both needed and well received.

My issue with the presentation was that he seemed intent not to call these two trends by their names. For the people in that audience who most needed to hear the message (those for whom these concepts were genuinely new) are now left with nowhere to go for more information.

Scott advocates for companies utilizing customer evangelists to share the message of their brands. Likewise, both of these topics have growing communities of practitioners sharing information, insights and newly forming best practices. I see no better way to accelerate adoption of these practices than connecting session attendees to these communities.

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2 thoughts on “No Matter What You Call It, It’s All About Content Marketing and Brand Journalism

  1. Ben,

    Thanks for this post.

    Ah, “names”. Bottom line is that we’re just talking about marketing here.

    The issue is that various people and organizations are using different terms for what are essentially the same thing. Some, such as HubSpot (I’m an advisor) use “Inbound Marketing”. Some, such as Joe Pulizzi at the Content Marketing Institute, use the term “content marketing”. Some use “brand journalism”. Still others insist on the term “social media marketing”.

    While these things have subtle differences (for example in brand journalism I advocate that companies hire journalists o create content), they are essentially describing the same thing – how an organization creates content that is valuable for its audiences and that people want to share.

    I’ve been advocating for this stuff for more than a decade. For example, my 2005 book “Cashing in with Content” was the first content marketing book. To me these ideas are not “new” and I don’t want to slot my ideas definitively into one arbitrary categorization of what is essentially the same thing.

    The reason I don’t use names is because it’s all just marketing. People are solving problems by going to the search engines and connecting with people on social networks. So any successful marketing program, no matter what you call it, needs to be doing this stuff. I don’t have a strong preference around which term is “right” so I am agnostic. A few years from now, we’re not going to talk about these ideas in this way because it is just marketing. So I’ve already started doing so.

    Thanks again for the post. You’ve gotten me to think about this topic and I’ll likely blog about this soon. David

  2. Thanks for the reply and thanks for a great keynote. Couldn’t agree more that within this industry we need to push outside of the limits that we’ve typically found comfortable. -bd

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