With the rise of content marketing, more and more brands are putting out their own content — just like we do right here with Media Bullseye on behalf of CustomScoop.
But is branded content a legitimate, viable source of information for the public, or is it propaganda?
Veteran writer Adam Lashinsky of Fortune remained unconvinced that content produced by brands served any purpose other than “propaganda,” despite a spirited defense by Alex Jutkowitz, chief global strategist of Hill+Knowlton Strategies.
Later in the same piece, this exchange was recounted:
A content marketer from Cisco asked Lashinsky what her company needed to do to get its content picked up by a journalist like himself. Lashinsky responded that as someone who had a bias against commercial content, he wasn’t the best person to target.
“I wouldn’t try to reach me,” said Lashinsky. “I would be content with who you are reaching, and I would suggest reach me in other ways, such as the old-fashioned way.”
I find it ironic that Lashinsky raised his own bias while condemning the bias of others.
Ultimately, all media is biased — and that’s not a bad thing. As I have argued before, quality trumps bias every time. If a brand publishes uninformed, opinionated drivel, it’s going to fail. But the same applies even if you’re the New York Times or NPR.
The best branded content strives to build an audience of individuals who share interests and ideals with the brand. It’s not about direct selling — that’s what marketing websites are for. This article, for example, does little or nothing to convince you that you need media monitoring and measurement at all, let alone that you should use CustomScoop for it. (Or at least it didn’t until that last sentence, but it’s hard for me to make my point without including it, ok?)
Our entire goal with Media Bullseye is to provide a source of public relations news, tips, and commentary that will appeal to the people who often require the services that we provide. We create some of the content to fulfill our own curiosity or to provide an outlet for our opinions (like this one). Sometimes we write material that answers questions we have heard from clients or others in the industry. Or we might develop podcast interviews that feature other leading thinkers.
Is that propaganda? Not more so than what you might find from any other media outlet. Their motivation — building an audience that they can monetize — is exactly the same as ours. The only difference is that they may rely on paywalls or advertising for revenue, while we (and others) seek to sell our own products.
There’s really no need to toss around derogatory terms like propaganda when we’re all in the same game.