Brand journalism has been around for quite some time, but is fast evolving; it's now topping 2014's lists of most popular marketing trends.

Everyone loves a good story, which is why effective brand journalism campaigns see such a high return at a relatively low cost. But how do you make your story stand out in the sea of content marketing? 

Whether you run a small business or a massive corporation, your brand journalism campaign must have a strong strategic component. Stephan Spencer is a master of SEO and online marketing who has done consulting for such major international brands as Zappos, Sony, and Chanel--implementing brand journalism on a daily basis. Spencer credits the success of his campaigns to these five rules:

1. Be Remarkable

With so much content out there, you need to make sure you stand out. You don't have to be the best. You just have to be remarkable.

Or in other words, worth remarking about. Useful, interesting, compelling content is just the starting point; add your own flair by telling a good story.

2. Identify a Viral Hook

Attention-grabbing headlines are extremely important. Take a controversial opinion of a topic or create a top 10 list or infographic. Use a YouTube video that was funny or spoof a famous commercial. Whatever tactic you use, make sure you turn some heads.

3. Add Massive Value to the Audience

You don't go out on a first date and propose right after you sit down to dinner. Business relationships are just like personal relationships--they need to be cultivated. In the very first stages, your main objective is to add massive value to your audience's businesses or lives.

The homepage of your website shouldn't be littered with hyperbole about your company's awesomeness. No one's reading that. Instead, give your audience a valuable tip, resource, or piece of advice that will help them grow their business. This will create a positive feeling of trust, so that when it is time to buy, they will know that you are worth the purchase. This also immediately makes your site more link-worthy.

4. Capture Contact Info Before They Bail

If you don't capture a potential customer's contact information the first time they visit your site, the likelihood that they'll ever return is extremely low. You must compel them to give you their contact information, but you can't do this by asking too much right off the top, or you run the risk of looking pushy and a little bit shady.

On the first visit, make sure you get their first name and email address only. You'll obtain more information over time, but the barrier to entry should be very low in the beginning. Turn what could be a taking page into a giving page by offering value and not asking for their info until they click to download your free goodies. (LeadPages has a great tool for this called a "lead box.") Your goody could be a free estimate, self-assessment quiz, personalized action plan, or video training series.

5. Build Relationships with Online Influencers

Online influencers are some of the most valuable contacts you can make. Find them. You can do this in person, by attending blogger conferences (such as BlogHer, New Media Expo, and WordCamp) and local meet-ups, or by locating the appropriate influencers online and reaching out to them. In both scenarios, create rapport with them first, then ask for something later. Build a strong relationship with them, so they will consider your website as a credible resource to link to when the time comes.

Remember that no one blog, ad, or video can tell your brand's full story. A great story will get them hooked, but a great strategy will reel them in.

Published on: Aug 5, 2014
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of