Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,

My name is Warren Kirby and I’m from Wieck. As you may know, Wieck is a global organisation with offices in Sydney, London and Dallas, and we build online newsrooms for the PR industry. We have been building enewsrooms in Australia for 10 years now and during that time we’ve been monitoring the changing relationship between corporate communicators, the media and the general public. Technology has over the last decade but our core business has stayed the same - to help companies disseminate their news. But my reason for being here today is not to talk about online newsrooms, it’s to show you why enewsrooms and other online technologies are a vital tool for the new kind of journalist – the brand journalist.

Brand journalism has become part of everyone’s lives. Whether people are consciously aware of this or not is irrelevant, the reality is that corporations are now more trusted as a source of news than the media. The online world has changed everything about the way we, as citizens, consume and share information.

In the last twenty years people have stopped receiving multiple pieces of news from a single source to receiving a single news item from multiple sources. Communications departments can talk directly to consumers without the media – paid or earned – because PR departments are now retailers of news, no longer wholesalers. As a retailer of news, gone are the days of pointing media towards a story with a media release and relying on them to complete it for the consumer – it’s now up to you to produce and disseminate the whole package. Developing a strong communications team dedicated to brand journalism is a necessary business tool for all corporate communications departments.

These statements may seem like hype or that I’m spruiking the next big thing but once we examine some of the data available I think you’ll agree.

Let’s start by examining the media.

Everything we thought we knew about the media is changing at a phenomenal rate. Not that long ago “the media” was a term used to refer to newspapers, magazines, television and radio. Now, almost on a weekly basis, we’re told of traditional media outlets closing the doors while new media ventures are making billions. Media isn’t dying, it’s evolving and it’s evolving because of the change in how people consume news.

As recently as 10 years ago you could penetrate every major news organization in Australia by inviting only a handful of journalists to a event. Today, at least in the Western world, traditional sources of news have seen a dramatic fall in their power and influence. They are no longer the sole voice of the people.

Falling revenues and staffing levels underline this change in the media landscape. By the end of 2013, The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance estimated that 1500 journalist jobs had been cut by major media outlets in just 18 months and over the previous six years the number of newsroom staff had halved.

This decline in the workforce has been exacerbated by the increase in workload. Journalists are now often required to produce words for print and online as well as video and images to break up the pages. There are no subs to help with the copy and there are few photographers or video crews available for the visuals. Journalists working for traditional media outlets are now more receptive than ever to receive PR content – especially multimedia.

The 2014 PR Perceptions vs Media Realities survey received responses from 354 media people were, 99 per cent were Australian, and many published in multiple outlets – on average, they each worked in two different media channels.

It shows that 93 per cent of our media respondents said they used supplied images, and more than half use them at least once a week.

When it comes to video, no less than 78 per cent of media outlets said they used supplied video content, and 41 per cent used it either daily or most days. It’s worth noting this is specifically content supplied by PR departments to journalists.

The introduction of online applications like Wordpress has lead to the emergence of digital natives, such as Huffington Post or Mumbrella, who are now extremely powerful influencers, also drive part of this reliance on supplied content. I know of one automotive website that didn’t exist 5 years ago and is now the most read car publication in the country.

In short, what we consider to be ‘the media’ is growing rapidly and with that growth is not just a willingness to accept content but an increasing reliance on corporate communications to supply content. Of course, supply includes making this content available online.

The thing is though, the general public no longer rely on the media to get their news. In fact, according to the 2015 Eldeman Trust Barometer, when it comes to information about a business, the first place most people look is an online search regardless of whether they are looking for general info, as the first source of breaking news or to confirm something.

Consumers are now searching for a single news item from multiple sources.

The most trusted source of news for most people is their family and friends.

Not surprisingly sharing news via social media is amazingly popular and how this affects business is also clearly demonstrated in the Edelmen Trust Barometer. Apologies, I know this is hard to read but this graph shows the correlation between how people respond to a product or service based on what their friends have told them. If your friends/colleagues – the people you trust most – have negative opinions about a product or service, the chances are you will too. Conversely, if they have a positive opinion, so will you and you’ll be willing to share that positive sentiment with your friends.

The trick with social media is not to work out a way to create cool marketing campaigns that go viral, the best way is to create news content that is so engaging people want to share it with their friends.

My son plays guitar in a band, don’t worry, I’m not going to play you any of their music – but you might consider buying their EP!

Anyway, as any good dad should, I occasionally do some Twitter stalking and this has given me an insight into the mind of a 16 year old girl that I really wish I had’ve learned when I was in High School, rather than now when I have a daughter of my own.

He came up to me one day and said, “Dad, I’ve made it – Acacia tweeted me.”

The Aciacia he referred to was Acacia Brinley - a social media superstar with almost 650,000 twitter followers. It’s also important to recognize that Acacia doesn’t just have a lot of followers; her followers are engaged. That night his twitter feed went into overdrive with thousands of teenage girls talking about it.

Acacia is so influential to teenage girls that her blog has rollover price tags on what she’s wearing in her selfies. When she talks, her audience listens and there are plenty of other social media celebrities that have established themselves as a trustworthy sources of news.

And here’s the critical difference between traditional media and people like Acacia – major media outlets have reach, social media stars have influence.

Some areas of social media are so influential they can single handedly create an “instant success”. I gave a talk to a social media conference in March last year and made reference to another Australian band whose members happen to be friends of my son. At the time they had done two world tours with One Direction, they had millions of followers on social media and were about to launch their first single. Not one person in the audience had heard of 5 Seconds of Summer, who have since had multiple No.1 hits around the world and whose fans managed to closed down streets in New York for a week so they could watch them perform on Good Morning America.

But I digress, the point is people no longer rely on traditional channels of media to provide them with the information they want to hear. People now choose the news that interests them and they choose the source of that news.

Business is actually perfectly positioned to create the news. Businesses have the incentive to generate good news stories, they have the budget to employ resources to create news and, again from the Edelmen Trust Barometer, the public trusts them to tell the right story.

In the last 15 years we’ve gone from ‘the fall of the celebrity CEO’ and ‘earned media is more credible than advertising” in the beginning of the millennium to now ‘business to lead the debate for change’ and ‘trust is essential to innovation’ – literally “trust us, this is innovative!”

You may feel like I’m harping on about news whereas you have company information – that’s exactly the point. Corporations must now think in terms of creating news items, not distribution corporate information.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services are an excellent Australian example of brand journalism and the value of this was demonstrated clearly during Tropical Cyclone Marcia last month. QFES have a relatively small media team who were providing news updates, video and images from the affected areas during TC Marcia and even livestreaming of important announcements via their online newsroom and social media channels.

At the peak of the storm on Saturday, their newsroom was visited by around 18,000 unique visitors, many of them being referred to the newsroom from both social and traditional media. One of the techniques QFES employs is to put content onto their newsroom and share the link on their social media properties and that encourages people to get the news from the source. The surprising thing was how many of them were smartphone users – 10,977 to be precise. I say surprising because it shows just how much mobile devices are being used to access news content. This simple fact alone indicates that a huge proportion of the public are prepared to go directly to the source for information rather than traditional news outlets.

Of course, this is a government department and one of significant interest to both the media and the public however it’s important to note, they do not simply rely on disseminating news updates via their newsroom. They also create interesting and engaging stories that serve the media and the public equally well.

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This video has been watched 12000 times so far. It’s got nothing to do with fires or emergencies but it helps establish QFES as a great source of news by encouraging people to visit their newsroom where they have great stories as well as the latest updates.

When it comes to business there are many large corporations who are developing their own in-house media units.

Nissan's corporate story-telling site is Their global media center team has produced all of the content on this site. They have video producers, photographers and writers who are all on the same corporate team in Japan, Nashville and London.

This site delivers product and corporate information that the media team generates. There are multiple examples on Nissan Global that are examples of how modern communications professionals are now retailing news to everyone rather than wholesaling it to the media. I chose this example because I think virtually every PR has written a media release about some kind of corporate sponsorship. This is Nissan’s way of communicating a sponsorship agreement.

This video contains beautiful overlay vision mixed with interesting timelapse shots all tied back to Nissan’s generous support. Above all, it’s a great story.

The final example I’d like to share with you is from Baylor Health. Wieck’s Dallas headquarters helped assisted their PR team in live tweeting a heart transplant procedure, sharing photos, video, and constant updates from the surgical team as well as the family of the patient. This project took months of research, planning, and legal approvals, but it was a huge success. Aside from generating a positive news story for Baylor, this example of brand journalism raised awareness about organ donation and gave some insight into what happens in one of these procedures.

The best part about that video is it’s a news story about news story that created a PR department that generated news via social media. This is NOT a social media case study. This is a PR team using all of the tools at their disposal to create a narrative that people wanted to tell their friends about. That, ladies and gentlemen, is brand journalism.

I should also point out brand journalism is not content marketing. Brand journalism is about how an audience can benefit from content created by the brand whereas content marketing develops content thinking about how the brand can benefit. For a consumer of news, it’s the difference between sharing and selling.

The age of the corporate PR being passive wholesalers is coming to an end. There are too few reporters doing too many stories and occupying too many positions. Couple this with the fundamental shift in trust by the consumers of news towards business and it’s now a requirement that the corporations step up and help them get the news they want.

Brand journalism isn’t the next big thing. It’s happening now and those who have recognized this shift in the way society as a whole consumes news are creating compelling content suitable for both the media and the public.