Textual & Visual Media

Revista de la Sociedad española de periodistica

Spanish journalistic society journal

Brand journalism in Spain. Profiling the brand journalist

Sumario

4. Professional profile of the brand journalist

It is clear that the logic and function of brand journalism places it in close proximity to corporate and entrepreneurial communication, geared towards new tendencies in public relations and the generation of «engagement» between brands and clients. However, defining the curricular profile of this professional is quite complex as he is halfway between journalism, publicity and marketing. In this sense, there is already sufficient scientific literature as well as authors and experts that situate themselves on one side or the other. In the last few years, especially after the peaking of the financial crisis, journalists have found career opportunities and even self-employment in business and/ or institutional communication. Indeed, by 2012, 41% of employed journalists worked in the professional field of communications in companies (APM, 2014 16th of December). Therefore, it seems quite obvious that professional journalists have been taking on the role of heading corporate communications in contrast to maintaini   strictly journalistic roles. In the forum titled «Tendencies in Global Communication» celebrated in 2014 by the Association of Directors of Communication (Dircom) and the Associated Press of Madrid (APM), the then director
of APM, Carmen de Riego, stated that «journalism is communication but not all communication is journalism». In this sense, the president of Dircom, José Manuel Velasco, commented that «the frontiers between journalism and corporate communication are becoming blurred», which provokes a broadening of the concept of communication in itself (Dircom, 2014 30th of April).
It is all about publicity strategies based on editorials. In this manner, we can verify how in this type of communication many of the assumptions and requirements demanded by journalistic work are met. But we should also contemplate the vast differences concerning their goals, which have provoked diverse sectors to reject the concept of brand journalism.
For Rodrigo Martín, Sánchez de la Nieta and Hernández «brand journalism looks to use the professional journalists´ abilities to publish interesting stories aimed at specific, and often specialised, audiences» (2014: 1.614). That being said, they defend the idea that it is not and cannot be journalism, since these writings do not contain a series of distinctive features of this discipline, although it can be considered that it is really «a perfectly legitimate commercial strategy that can benefit from the narrative abilities and specialised knowledge of professional journalists to reach optimum effectiveness» (1.615). We will now briefly go over the main arguments wielded by these authors to clearly and authoritatively distance brand journalism and place it squarely in the field of publicity, public relations and marketing. In the first place, the discipline under study cannot and should not attempt to stand alone since it deals with self- serving commercialism and should not be presented as journalistic news  as such. In the second place, it is not, nor does it pretend to be objective, since it is not an impartial presentation of information nor does it balance voices and perspectives. As well, its commercial purpose is fulfilled by vying for visibility, but among its priorities we will not encounter public service interests.
However, as brand journalism is basically a journalistic task, we come across a large number of professionals among the members of these work groups who have been trained in the journalistic environment. And although the purpose of this article is not to debate the suitability of calling this practise journalism, it is also true that in the resulting contents of brand journalism we can find qualities common to rigorous journalism: transparency, variety, honesty, informative interest, editorial policy (differentiated opinion), accessibility and the utmost impartiality (Millán, 2017; Gomes Franco e Silva and Cruzat, 2016; Aparicio, 2015; Carreras, 2015).
For the Mexican journalist Carlos Sánchez the potential controversy over calling this dynamic communication «journalism», as well as the possible customer deceit involved, could be solved by a simple warning within the information portals of the brands where it clearly states «The content you are about to read was made possible by the sponsorship of product X, but this media, or the editors or the director guarantee standards of truth and professionalism» (Sánchez Hernández, 2016 9th of March). In general, as we have seen, journalists are the professionals who most proficiently carry out and engage in the tasks typical of brand journalism. Nevertheless, Barciela points out that webs «are managed in their day to day by journalists. And, by the best», in brand journalism «the underlying strategy comes from above» (2013:128). That is, although the journalists are the ones ultimately entrusted to develop, update and manage the information web portals of the brands, the approach to be used is determined by the marketing and communication strategies according to company objectives and «branding objectives» and its mid and long term strategic guidelines.

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