IceCream Bribes in a Branded World: Bringing Value to Writing
By MATT GALLAGHER
Hands down, no bull. One of the best moments of my journalism days: being bribed in ice cream.
I was writer and editor for a small town weekly entertainment pub. Bands came into town; I’d write ‘em up. And if the music’s vibe hit me in the solar plexus, I could really get that word processor humming a sweet harp – make you want to drop your kid, your job, your dog and go on tour.
And then out of the blue, some ice cream brand FedEx’d me two quarts. And that sweet delicious kickback opened me up to the world of content marketing.
And yes, my journalism ethics professor was sitting on a golden cloud halo above my bed, waving his finger like a bad acid Church Lady hallucination.”
Cold creamy bribery.
Living off a journalist’s paycheck, you never look free ice cream in the mouth. So in return for tubs of Rocky Road and Mint Chocolate Chip, I wrote up dripping ice cream reviews that couldn’t be beat. And then woke up with ice cream hangover guilt the next morning.
And yes, my journalism ethics professor was sitting on a golden cloud halo above my bed, waving his finger like a bad acid Church Lady hallucination.
Sure, those gloating ice cream reviews dripped sticky melting bribery, all standards of journalism buried in the kitchen trash beneath the empty containers. And while technically I didn’t lie, what’s newsworthy about the fact that free ice cream tastes awesome?
I sold the cow, bowed down to a shiny golden calf, a lesser god known as b2b content marketing. Yet my little ice cream charade was what first opened my eyes to the world of brand journalism, and the early beginnings of a new career trajectory.”
Brand journalism melting on the tongue.
Even the local banjo picking hobo rubbed my nose in it every chance he got. “You may write all right stuff, but that ice cream stunt was a total sellout,” he’d say, his banjo case brimming with change and dollar bills.
And he’s right. I sold the cow, bowed down to a shiny golden calf, a lesser god known as b2b content marketing.
Yet my little ice cream charade was what first opened my eyes to the world of brand journalism, and the early beginnings of a new career trajectory. And that filled my computer bag with cash, because even hobo punk writers need to be able to make a buck.
Milking the cash cow.
It’s no secret that Google killed traditional journalism. Following the direction of the wind, I retired from newspapers and boarded the SEO spam train. And in turn Google eventually too fed that world to a hungry Panda bear. Google declared that yes, good content writing actually had to mean something, be valuable to the humans who did the searching, not just the search engines themselves.
Which was like a gift of fresh air wrapped in a box from Amazon Prime. Writers need fed, but they also need to feed their brains, not carpal tunnel their fingers down to the bone. And that’s just what awesome content does – it feeds mouths, brains and audiences ‘til they burp. And yes, deliciousness means everything when it comes to brand storytelling.
Informed value in the digital age.
While newspapers are still hooked up to ventilators, information just happens to be more valuable than ever before.
When you’re a brand journalist or copywriter, you’re pretty much a critic of free ice cream. Nobody expects a cross dissected analysis of Rocky Road. You just need to describe it and make us want more.
Brand journalists are not used car salesmen. We’re really just storytellers for brands. The story informs to sell you on the idea, not the car itself. The best content marketing is sweet and delicious, but not too sappy.
Ice cream trucks for words.
And while every piece naturally starts with an outline, I prefer to call my outlines plots. That’s where all the juicy action happens, where the story unfolds – even if it’s ice cream melting on the tongue like red white and blue on the Fourth of July.
And meta titles and descriptions are really just “Good Humor” jingles in the world of content marketing services, enticing tiny fistfulls of cash to come running.