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'Braided Journalism' a New Strand of PR?
By: Doug Bedell
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Valeria Maltoni on her Conversation Agent blog introduces us to the concept of "braided journalism," a term coined by Shel Israel to suggest how writers and public relations people are "intertwining" in the interest of building content-rich companies. Websites in "braided" settings don't just seek to sell; instead, they explain and inform, likely selling more in the process.  

Interesting. As newspapers fall back to the Internet -- in the case of The Christian Science Monitor becoming Web-only -- progressive corporate websites, with, Maltoni notes, Dell in the lead are becoming more like magazines. Writing skills are braiding with sales objectives. Whether the writing is in all cases "journalism" or not, will be up to the readers -- a business's potential customers -- to decide. Maltoni feels that some journalism already has gone the other way:  "I would probably argue that what passes for journalism in some news outlets is blatant opinion."

So, economic pressures and advancing communication technology continue changing the context of how we're being informed. We need to think no less critically about what we're encountering, but ink on paper is no longer the primary means of information transfer. 

Citing Dell's "The power to do more" portal as an example, Maltoni envisions the "impact of journalists and reporters" working in corporate communication settings as, among other factors, "bringing more customer and non customer voices to the conversation" and "including more representatives of the whole ecosystem the business operates in." These are, indeed, healthy factors for corporate and societal gains. 

Shel Israel tells how he was pleasantly surprised about Dell's editorial process after accepting the company's invitation to contribute to "The power to do more." After being invited with other writers to what was, in effect, a Dell story conference, and producing his share of the stories that resulted, he wondered how the editing would go. Dell, the writers had agreed, "would have final say in what was written."

"I was nervous about that last provision," he writes. "I have had traditional editors botch my copy, never mind PR folk payed to sell, where I only wanted to tell. In fact, the editing was superb. They tightened and cleaned up my language and I am extremely happy with the results of the stories I wrote."

That, in this instance, is great news, and we hope Dell's fine-grained "braided" style becomes the corporate norm. If not, though, the initiative could collapse, because readers/Web viewers will catch on. (Here, we could have corrected "payed," but that's how Israel wrote it.)

Informative public relations providing balanced, insightful information in an increasingly social context -- what newspapers typically did -- could give heightened vitality to corporate content and objectives. Whether straight or "braided," credibility always counts a lot. 


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About the Author
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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