4 steps to run a stellar brand journalism site

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When you’re a corporate communicator, you get a lot of requests for content. And a lot of those requests are bad.

You know your customers and employees don’t care about that groundbreaking ceremony last week, yet a senior executive wants you to cover it. What do you
do?

Try to find a human interest angle.

“When you work real people, and what real people are dealing with into stories instead of dry, press-releasy kind of stuff, it’s going to resonate with
the readers,” Jim Ylisela, head of Ragan Consulting, said in a session at Ragan’s 2013 Content Marketing Summit.

In his session, “Running the news desk: How to build an editorial process for brand journalism,” Ylisela explained how you can restructure your
communications department to operate like a news desk. Doing so can help you turn boring corporate stories into interesting content your audience and employees
will actually want to read.

Here how:

1. Learn how to filter.

The first thing you must learn how to do is say no, Ylisela says.

When people from every department want you to run their stories, this can be hard. You only have so much time and so many people on your team.

“The news site has to be very clear about what it will publish and what it won’t,” Ylisela says.

Ylisela explained how he helped Advocate Health Care create a list of editorial guidelines for its news site. Advocate decided it would share the latest
health news and research, health tips, interviews with experts, feature articles about employees, and a few other types of stories. Advocate also listed
the types of stories it would not publish, including press releases and marketing pieces. That content could run on other more appropriate
channels.

After you write your guidelines, let the rest of the company know about them, Ylisela advises. “Say, ‘Look, if you’re going to contribute something, or if
you want to write something for the site, here’s what we’re looking for.'”

2. Plan how you’ll feed the content beast.

If you build a brand journalism site, Ylisela says, “the beast must be fed, and the content must come every day.”

To make sure there is always strong content in the pipeline, Ylisela recommends your team meet daily, weekly and monthly. This may sound like a lot of
meetings, but the more you meet, the shorter these sessions will be.

At the daily meetings, find outside stories you can curate for the site. Is there a new study out that’s relevant to your industry? Is there a news item
you can relate back to your company? Assign these stories to your team members. They can rework the curated stories and add quotes from experts at your
company.

[RELATED: Learn why you need a content marketing plan at our content marketing boot camp.]

At the weekly meetings, analyze the stories that are in the works and evaluate new story ideas.

Monthly meetings should be about the bigger picture. Are there upcoming company events or projects you can cover? Ylisela recommends you also discuss how
well stories performed the previous month. Which stories had a lot of views, and which didn’t? Plan to run more of the stories that performed well.

3. Breathe life into seemingly boring stories.

Chances are your company has a lot of evergreen content that you would normally turn into press releases. Consider reworking that evergreen content into
fresh stories.

For example, Ylisela explained how Advocate had a press release about the different bug bites people can get during the summer. It was full of interesting
information, but the headline and writing were boring. Advocate reworked the press release into a relevant story that included a doctor’s advice about how
to avoid and treat four different kinds of bites.

Ylisela recommends your team look at these seemingly bland, stuffy stories and say, “Now wait a minute, there’s got to be a better way. Is this a story we
could do? Is there a better photograph we could take?”

4. Assess your progress.

After you do all this work to create interesting stories, you want to know your efforts helped the company.

First, check your metrics. How many people visit your site each month? How many people subscribe to your news feed?

Second, check the comments on each story. What type of comments do readers leave? Do they like your content?

Third, look for anecdotal feedback. Ylisela shared how Advocate discovered that doctors were getting new patients who discovered them through the brand
journalism site.

“That makes the suits really happy,” Ylisela says. “There’s your ROI.” 

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