But why would corporations go through all the hassle of press releases or creating stories for their products when they could just do it themselves? After all, according to Harry Evans, news is “something someone somewhere doesn’t want you to hear”.
Three days ago, Coca-Cola took the first step into the world of brand journalism. It has completely overhauled its corporate site, rebranded and repackaged it as a digital magazine, Coca-Cola Journey. This will allow it to produce ‘news’ to its own agenda.
Ashley Brown, director of digital communications and social media at Coca-Cola, said: “Our corporate site is our most trafficked online property, so we wanted to create an experience that would make this incredibly valuable digital real estate work harder for us.
“We want to make sure that as our brand becomes a publisher, we do so in the most beautiful and functional way possible.”
By doing everything themselves, Coke have eliminated the chance of press releases being taken out of context or warped, while also ensuring that everything they do promotes products and corporate values in the best possible light.
What is so disheartening about Coca-Cola stepping into brand journalism is that they have done it so well. The site is great to look at, contains a variety of different sections and hides what it actually is. If you were to stumble across the site, yes it is obviously to do with Coke, but there is no real indication that it is the corporate website.
Each story has a bigger theme but very carefully promotes Coke and the work they do throughout. For instance, there is a story on the site about Save the Children doing great work with children all over the world. But guess who else is involved?
Coke has, for positive stories, completely bypassed the mainstream press. It is quite surprising that other companies haven’t themselves ventured into this world of brand journalism. The fact is, it doesn’t matter if the site loses money, something that journalism can currently not afford to do. Even if it does lose money, the message they are sending is worth more to the company. After all, what is a slight loss to a company like Coke?
But a line must be drawn and clearly stated. This is not objective news and it is certainly not journalism; this is something that journalism should fear. When Coke is putting out such strong messages, journalists have to be careful of getting sucked into all the hype.
Readers also need to be aware that Coke is blurring the lines for their own gain. This is brand journalism at its very best and if Coke pulls this off, others may follow. Why would companies like Apple or Nestle, who have the money, stand by and see negative stories in the press when they can just put out their own?
This could be the next step in companies moving away from advertising and the mainstream media, into a new form of publishing. If brand journalism takes off, it is hard to see where it might end and the distinction too hard to make.