What is brand media and how they work

For a long time, there was a system of public communications in the world, built on the media, which were monopolists in this area. In order for people to find out about a deal between companies or a bank robbery, the information had to get into the newspaper, radio, and television. Whether this or that piece of news was worthy of being on the front page in the morning was de facto decided by editors, publishers, owners of media companies, and the authorities. Even if there was no state censorship in the country, self-censorship always worked – editorial policy, as well as a consolidated position adopted in the self-regulating community of journalists about what is good and what is bad. There were unspoken ethical norms and editorial standards of the world’s leading publications, to which all the rest were equal, accepting their dogmas.

In this system, the editor-in-chief was the key link – it was he who ultimately made the decision whether to publish the material, to broadcast the story or not. Due to the monopoly on the dissemination of information, the media have become the very fourth power, which, for example, was able to dismiss the president of the world’s largest power.

In the twenty-first century, everything has changed. A digital revolution has taken place, comparable to the invention of printing. After all, when the printing press was invented, it turned out that not only monks in monasteries can copy books, but anyone, anywhere can print and replicate them. This produced an absolute explosion, and so a new time appeared, an era of enlightenment began. Today, thanks to technological progress, we find ourselves in a world in which everyone has smartphones, tablets, computers. And this again exploded the situation, depriving the media of the very monopoly that was mentioned above.

Russian journalist and media theorist, author of books on the theory and practice of journalism Andrei Miroshnichenko, formulated the so-called concept of freed authorship. To publish some information, to make it publicly available to an unlimited circle of people, neither journalists, nor editors, nor newspapers or TV channels are needed anymore. All you need is a technological platform, and any one, from LiveJournal to TikTok. Any person at any time from anywhere in the world can go online to the audience with their messages.

As a result, we found ourselves in the communications world of the Wild West, where no one regulates anything, where every man is for himself, and fact-checking, journalistic and sometimes ordinary human ethics, and professional standards are no longer mandatory. Only relatively recently, the states and the platforms themselves have taken care to try to set some kind of framework at least for bloggers with a large audience, and who de facto work as a mass media. Social networks have introduced rules for publishing content, community norms, and their own fact-checking services. True, it often began to work as an instrument of censorship and manipulation of the information flow and public opinion.

The radical change in the information landscape has led to the fact that a significant part of the professional media began to integrate into the new reality, join the race for traffic, engage in clickbait, including reducing the requirements for their content. And some were forced to close altogether, having failed to monetize their media product.

What should organizations and companies with strong brands do in such a situation? Is it necessary, as before, to go to the editorial office and try to agree on how to continue broadcasting your news, meanings, values? Of course it is necessary, because traditional media have their own, stable, largely premium audience that cannot be lost. At the same time, in today’s world, almost everyone – an ordinary blogger, a craft lemonade cafe, a bearing factory or a university – is a media. This needs to be understood, accepted and used to the maximum, since there are huge resources hidden in this for expanding communication opportunities and advancing our agenda.

There are several well-known examples when non-media organizations launched successful media projects: Tinkoff Journal from the bank of the same name, Kalashnikov Media, launched by an arms concern. Many large end-consumer companies have true media ecosystems that target specific customer groups. Of course, brand media should not broadcast press releases and official corporate news to the audience. If you make brand media in order to tell what the company’s financial and production indicators are, with whom the CEO has signed an agreement, then such media is doomed to failure. People are not interested in this, so for success you need a dialogue, a conversation with the audience.

You need to tell interesting stories, introduce new research, give different points of view. For example, Tinkoff Journal is a de facto community of people who share a variety of experiences related to finance in one way or another, and in the Nike app for runners you can read articles about a healthy lifestyle. One of the first brand media is the Harvard Business Review (HBR), the university journal of the Harvard Business School, which appeared in 1922 and became one of the most respected business publications thanks to the publication of high-quality analytics and research.

The Higher School of Economics has recently launched HSE daily, a university brand media. Of course, it is still far from the laurels of HBR, but in terms of content it already stands out from the general row – unique research by university scientists, an expert point of view on current topics, discussions, lectures and master classes – this is what thinking people lack today in a chaotic information flow. At the same time, it is one of the university’s many brand media. The HSE portfolio contains resources for students and applicants, the academic and professional community, government agencies, and experts. YouTube and Telegram channels, podcasts, social media accounts – all this gives a tangible synergistic result and allows you to build the university’s communication with the outside world as efficiently as possible.

It is also important to understand that today the life cycle of any product has accelerated, become much shorter. This means that if you’ve made corporate media and you think it’s successful, maybe three or five years will pass and that media needs to be reformatted. And it is possible to completely close it, because it has ceased to be interesting to the audience. This is normal, do not be afraid.

The author is the director of the HSE Brand Media Center

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