MasterCard Sees Brand Journalism As An Interactive PR Experience

With Ad Week dominated by talk of content, content…CONTENT!!!, it should surprise no one to see more and more major brands create their own publishing platforms. As Matt Crenshaw of Mother Nature Network told us, “…it’s not enough to build a corporate website because no one goes to corporate websites.”

We’re interested in watching different brands offer their take on this trend, and the latest is MasterCard. While the brand has long maintained its own newsroom, its newest endeavor is a two-sided re-invention of that feature, which now consists of the Engagement Bureau news page and the Cashless Pioneers blog.

We posed a few questions for Jennifer Stalzer, VP of global digital communications at MasterCard, and we’ve posted her answers and our analysis after the jump.

Why did MasterCard decide to go in this direction? 

“We recognize simply shouting messages from a “corporate soap-box” is ineffective in the age of digital and social…This effort is all about bringing a point of view to life through engagement, visual storytelling, conversation and rich digital content that can be created, shared and published real time.”

The point of view mentioned above is that cashless payment is a good thing for consumers and business owners alike. Some newsroom posts directly promote products like prepaid cards, but the blog will, according to MasterCard reps, focus more on stories relating to innovative business owners and philanthropists who happen to use cash-free services as well as highlighting MasterCard’s own CSR efforts.

What makes this project different than other, related efforts? 

“We have redesigned both the newsroom and blog…From snackable news summaries to the increased use of imagery and video, it’s about sharing information and ideas in real time.”

Here’s the content creation/publishing/aggregation angle. MasterCard’s press release describes the project as a “publishing ecosystem” designed to help people/journalists discover the stories and news described above while facilitating a conversation about “the benefits of digital payments technology”, AKA credit cards. The release also mentions “instant access to communications contacts within the company via social, mobile and traditional means”, which sounds like a new sort of job for the PR team.

“The integration of mobile and social will further enable us to be included in the editorial process. It’s a new contract for our PR team to be available to the media 24/7 via our traditional contact info or our social handle.

So anytime a journalist or average Joe has some interest in/questions about a story published by MasterCard, its team will be there to engage. Does this 24/7 PR operation guarantee more coverage?

“Our team is also leveraging tools like ‘Percolate’ to curate content and conversations from the online and mobile world, surface it within our properties and add to the existing dialogue. We then republish in real-time back to the communities where the content and conversation began.”

That means re-posting material from sources like Business Insider and AllThingsD to complement original content while creating mutually beneficial relationships with such publishers. In the ideal scenario, MasterCard would eventually become a comparable player in the media world.

“The newsroom is designed to deliver news and the new blog and digital ecosystem allows us to extend stories and breathe new life into them.”

Here, for example, is an interview with MasterCard’s president of international markets elaborating on overseas CSR projects.

How do the new site and blog fit within your larger brand strategy? 

“We think the Engagement Bureau and the Cashless Pioneers blog will contribute to the common goal of connecting with people and talking and demonstrating the value of a world beyond cash and the value MasterCard brings to this vision.”

So it’s all about creating and curating content that supports MasterCard’s primary talking point: the world is moving away from cash as a unit of payment, and our brand can help you make that transition—here are some examples.

How would you compare the project to American Express’s Open Forum?

“While we don’t comment on other companies’ efforts, we do think we are approaching our storytelling efforts in the way people want to consume information. By rising up third party stakeholders to share their own stories and by weaving in curated content about topics relevant to our business, we are putting the spotlight on others to help tell a bigger, more interesting story.”

What do we think about MasterCard’s brand journalism project and its PR component?