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Announcing Iain Hepburn as first Director of Brand Journalism in Scotland

I am utterly delighted to be announcing ex-Digital Editor of the Daily Record and STV Local Editor Iain Hepburn has joined Contently Managed as the country’s first Director of Brand Journalism allowing us to add to our social media package to businesses in Scotland.

This, as they say, is exciting times folks…

I’ve known Iain as a journalist since his early days at the Press and Journal, kept in touch as he headed south to show them how digital was done at SFX and the Daily Mirror before he returned home to take the Daily Record website to award-winning levels – and even having CNN nick some of his videos. And despite throwing in long hours at his work, he still found time to get involved in digital aspects for hobbies like MMA and launch Scotland’s second-best (but most swearing laden) movie and TV podcast The Thumbcast.

But that’s not the question you’re asking

Why Iain?

A couple of reasons – the man is a grafter, through and through. For those starting out in any aspect of comms who think doing digital is easy, ask the likes of Iain and Allan Barr – it isn’t. It’s long hours to do it right. Iain has never shirked in the long hours, doing what it takes to make something perfect.

More to the point, Iain shares the Contently vision – that Scotland still needs a lot of help in embracing digital (go read this blog post he did at the weekend about broadband take up in Scotland) and no-one will be served by digital chancers thinking that because social media is new then they can charge £3,000 a month to blog and tweet. Iain’s ethos has always been that digital should be inclusive and by being affordable Contently wants to bring more people to the digital table (so to speak), so we share a worldview there.

Even more to the point, Iain talks as it is. If you know the big man you know he doesn’t hide behind waffle. He’s always helpful – perhaps bluntly sometimes but he’s always trying to be helpful – but can’t stand bullshit. At Contently we like plain talk – again, if you’re hiding behind jargon then you’re probably up to something.

But if Why Iain wasn’t the question you were asking, it was probably…

What the hell is brand journalism?

That’s quite simple. If you were at Napier University’s journalism course, it’s the style of journalism advocated by course leader Diana Brand.

Actually it’s not, but it does have something in common with what that course taught – it’s all about content. So let’s have a quick FAQ on Brand Journalism.

What the hell is brand journalism?

Brand Journalism is where companies – or their representatives – are doing the journalism. They are creating the content and publishing it. Some companies go as far as to hire reporters who then file back to papers, others just publish the information themselves and let media pick it up. Sports have been doing it since 2008.

Who’s doing it?

Cisco is the biggest name doing it at the moment. And if it’s good enough for Cisco, it’s good enough for businesses in Scotland. Also, if David Meerman Scott thinks it’s important, then it probably is.

Why do brands need to do this?

A couple of reasons – people no longer go direct to newspapers for information, they go to Google/Bing/Facebook/Twitter so companies need to have their sites (and Apps if they have them) up to date with relevant information – that’s information that can be used by staff, potential staff, investors, customers.

In days gone by, if the traditional media didn’t use your stuff, you were screwed. Now, you are the publisher.

Also, most websites now get better traffic than the majority of newspapers in Scotland.

Surely this isn’t that important?

Yes, you’re right – fresh content isn’t that important. People want to read what your company was like in 1999 when you set up your web page. Think about it – people go online for nothing but fresh content – fresh discounts, fresh information from their friends, fresh things to play. People want new and engaging content. If you don’t provide it, your competitors will – and guess where people/investors will spend their money.

Surely it’s just PR?

No, it can be issued by the PR team in a firm if they want but the role of the brand journalist is to make a package that can be picked up and used by media without the need for editing. The brand journalist creates, the PR distributes to their network – both equally important jobs.

It’s just PR

Really? When was the last time you saw a press release also give you options for the full video and audio that you could use/embed? Yes, there are Social Media Newsrooms and releases but so far, the take up of them in Scotland has been poor.

So is brand journalism part of PR or marketing or something else?

Depending on the organisation, it can be all of these, some of them or none of them.

So what comes with brand journalism?

Anything you want. It can be news that goes on your site as text or video/audio, it can be a podcast. It’s however you choose to deliver news to your audience. What it has to be though is strong, engaging content. Not fluff.

The key words here are good and content.

Can we do this in-house?

Yes, it doesn’t need to be carried out outhouse.

We aren’t the size of Cisco. In fact I’m a cornershop with four staff. Is this for me?

Yes. Good content scales to every business.

Why can’t PRs do this?

Last time I checked most PRs were up to their eyes in existing workloads without taking on more. Besides, you wouldn’t ask a PR to clean your toilet would you? If you’re serious, you get the right tools for the right job. Journalists can spot and tell a story in a sharper way than most PRs. They can also execute quicker. This isn’t a dig at PRs – many of whom are hard working and have great news skills – but in 2011 the role of the average PR is way past that of just spotting a story.

Besides, do you have time to learn the new Final Cut Pro?

How would this work for our business?

Get in touch – our details are at the top – and we’ll tell you…

  1. This huge news – and very exciting! Congratulations to you both on pulling off a coup like this.

    This simply adds to my growing optimism that content is slowly, but surely earning itself the place at the top table that it so richly deservces. Substance will win out over style in the long run – we just need a few marketing teams (in the boradest sense) to grasp the reality of the changing web. Content is indeed king.

    In my lecturing I always mention brand journalism to the students as something to consider and be aware of, and now there is a real live – and importantly – local example for me to point to. For entirely selfish reasons I’m therefore stoked :)

    Good luck to you both and I look forward to watching you make a real success of this.

  2. Ellen Arnison

    You will be a powerful partnership – good luck with this.

  3. Great news guys, this is what Scotland needs – a
    progressive attitude to content creation.

    Blog post reads slightly defensively mind you but I guess you feel you are
    ahead of the curve and need to bring people with you.


    Best wishes with it!

    • Thanks Mark – yeah, you know what it’s like here. Softly softly should win over more hearts and minds than big shouts of ‘IT’S TEH FUTURE!’

    • It isn’t really Tim – most PRs (especially in Scotland) couldn’t shoot video or do a podcast. As I said in the blog, the Brand Journalist gets the copy/material and the PR has a totally different role in that scheme.

  4. Stephen Breen

    Well done Craig – good appointment and good luck with the venture.

  5. John Maclean

    Congratulations Craig and Ian. I think what we’re starting to see is talented journalists adapting to the changing media environment and leaving the big-beast media giants behind.
    What I’d love to see is all the “lone wolves” getting together in a pack to help each other create and offer services that companies REALLY want and are REALLY effective.
    Collaboration is the name of the game.
    Exciting times, old bean. Good luck!

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