Nope: Selling a good brand story


Yup & Nope: A one-minute look at brands in real life. Who’s doing it right and who’s doing it all wrong.


On January 19, Postmedia announced it was laying off 90 staff members and consolidating some newsrooms. It seems the newspapers will keep their unique visual identities and brand stories (e.g. “Passionate-observer, business-minded and community-involved, The Journal is the voice of Edmonton and northern Alberta”) but content will be generated from the same (now smaller) pools of local and national reporters and editors.

In his memo of the announcement, CEO Paul Godfrey included this reassurance: “Let me be clear on one very important point – we will continue to operate separate brands in each of these markets. What is changing is how we produce these products.”

For some reason, this statement made me feel icky.

Godfrey went on to say, “stories covered will be adapted by platform at a rewrite desk dedicated to ensuring that the right voice and content makes it to the right brand and platform”.

‘Branding’ can have a bad reputation. Godfrey’s statement counters the work of those of us who believe that a brand shouldn’t just be A thing. Your brand should be THE thing you live by. It’s not in itself a widget, window dressing or the final staging to sell the house.

It made sense to me though when I visited the Postmedia website. There you realize ‘brand’ for Postmedia equals its products, the newspapers. This definition of brand is common and long-standing, especially with consumer goods. The brand = product = brand is primarily about packaging and the (often made up) stories of how the product originated. Many of the newspapers owned by Postmedia actually do have true and interesting histories but those are legacies now. These aren’t the newspapers your grandfather delivered as a boy.

I’m always more interested in the big B brand; the brand wizard behind the curtain that’s pulling all the levers. The wizard is Postmedia. On its website, there’s no apparent reference to the overall Postmedia brand as a company and what it values or stands for. There’s no talk about the responsibility of news gathering or the integrity of journalism. Unlike the individual newspapers’ write-ups, I couldn’t find any mention of the importance of being trusted by its readers or community involvement. As far as I could see the Corporate News section talks only about making money.

And, maybe that’s where my icky feeling comes from.

Now, I don’t know anything about running a media conglomerate and I realize businesses must make money. I’m not a total hippie. I want to make money too. I just always hope for more; that a giant corporation that affects and influences thousands of people is driven by something more than money. And, if I’m greatly mistaken (it happens) and Postmedia does have other drivers, that’s something, as a consumer of its products, I’d like to know. Otherwise, Postmedia’s commitment to top quality, locally-driven news seems like a noble, but fictitious, brand promise.

My naivety, although adorable, may be foolish. I’m interested in what you think.

Image: ©Dayna More

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