Heidi Cohen has written a terrific overview of what she's calling Branded Communications in her column on ClickZ. It is well worth a read. I've used a similar term Brand Journalism because my panelists Ben Edwards, Director, New Media Communications at IBM and Colleen DeCourcy, chief experience officer at JWT from the Advertising and PR for Everyone session I moderated at the recent SIIA Information Industry Summit used that term.
In her ClickZ column, Cohen says: "Branded journalism is marketers' intentional, selective use of the conversation that surrounds a brand. The idea is to make use of the viewpoint set by the brand guardians and tap into UGC created both in- and outside of the company."
On the speaking circuit I always start my presentations with some variation on this basic riff: "Before the Web, the old rules of marketing and PR were that you only had two choices to get noticed—buy expensive advertising or convince the media to write about you. Now, the new rules of marketing and PR are simple: On the Web you are what you publish (and what others publish about you). The Web has made public relations public again after exclusive focus on the media and the Web has made marketing more than just advertising."
Whatever you call it -- Branded Communications, Brand Journalism, content marketing, Social Media marketing -- the rules have changed. On the Web you can tell your story directly and create reasons for others to tell it for you.