What Verizon Learned From a Pivot to Brand Journalism
A modern storytelling strategy, aimed at being relevant, authentic, and contextual, isn't all that different for publishers.
This is the tenth in a series of Q&A's with speakers at the Folio: Association Media Summit on May 3rd in Washington, D.C.
Like never before, brands non-endemic to the publishing industry are using content not just to communicate with their customer base, but to define the relationships therein. For non-profits and associations, there are boundless lessons to be learned from some of the largest and most well-established brands across the globe pouring unprecedented resources into content creation.
Torod Neptune, VP of corporate communications for Verizon, has taken the lead in adapting the communication strategy of his company—one of the largest telecommunications providers in the world—to the rapidly-changing ways in which audiences consume content and interact with brands.
Here, enjoy a preview of some of the insights he will offer at the Folio: Association Media Summit as part of the keynote panel, "The Brand Perspective on Content, Communications, and Mission."
Folio: Why the rise in brand journalism?
Torod Neptune: Changes in both the media landscape (traditional/digital) and in how news is consumed have forced brands to re-evaluate how we practice the PR craft. These changes have also in turn presented us with some pretty unique opportunities—from a functional vantage point—to contribute even greater value to our organizations. So what we’re seeing with the ongoing utilization of brand journalism is fundamentally a shift away from a very focused brand content marketing strategy to one that is now telling more meaningful and relevant stories that are less about “brand positioning” and more about their customer’s passion points.
Folio: How does it differ from traditional journalism? How is it the same?
Neptune: Brand journalism is at its core using journalism practices to redefine ‘news’ and how we communicate that news on behalf of our brand. So in order to reach journalists and other stakeholder groups in context of this new reality, we have to take a different approach to engagement beyond traditional media relations/print journalists. We know developing media that matches what our brand stands for with what our audiences care about is a more effective way to develop a dedicated online following, shape media coverage and drive measurable business results. In terms of what’s the same, our business still remains relationship-based, which will remain a constant, regardless of how we choose to drive for brand influence across the platforms where we choose to tell our stories. Ultimately, brand journalism combines traditional brand management and storytelling, bringing them together around a new and dynamic communications platform.
Folio: How do you think what you do serves Verizon's mission?
Neptune: As brands, we have an opportunity to take our ‘story’ to market in new ways by producing dynamic and relevant media/content that allows us to tell these stories in more compelling ways. We aspire to be relevant, authentic, and contextual, all of which a compelling brand storytelling strategy allows us to do in a much more meaningful and brand/reputation measurable manner now.
Folio: What's the most surprising thing you learned in your current role?
Neptune: To actually take the step toward being a modern, relevant media company involves not just a pivot in our GTM strategy, but a more significant pivot of our entire communications strategy—putting an owned channel at the center—Verizon News Center. We also re-organized our communications staff to accommodate an editorially-driven approach, with staff acting as content creators for our online news hub, as well as for our social media channels.