There has been a lot of talk about brand newsrooms; can organizations truly create a newsroom in order to meet the insatiable information needs of their fast-moving, we-want-it-now audience? On the surface, the idea seems logical – newsrooms are built to react when outside events warrant.
As the folks at Nabisco showed us during last year’s Super Bowl, even a rather pedestrian idea can be a winner if it matches the moment. However, that was the Super Bowl, and because it was a big event the marketing team behind Oreo was gathered together, and they had access to instant corporate and legal approvals. So, not exactly your everyday situation at the office.
Meeting the moment is not easy. It requires the preparedness and ability to act at a moment’s notice. In other words, it requires a newsroom.
However, newsrooms are quirky places. I’ve worked in a number of them, and I don’t believe any of them would have fit neatly into a corporate environment. While the best newsrooms have many positive attributes, a typical newsroom is not a good match for most businesses. The concept might sound exciting, but there are some things businesses need to understand about newsrooms and how they operate before they invest resources in creating one.
Here are three characteristics of newsrooms that brands need to understand before diving into this brave new world:
- Newsrooms are fast moving. Decisions in a newsroom need to be made quickly. Getting approval from the General Counsel’s office in two weeks won’t work. At least not if you want to be effective. Tension between the pace of business and the pace of content creation is just about inevitable.
- Newsrooms are unplanned. Most businesses rely upon careful planning. Preparing for the quarter ahead is a big part of what they do. Logic and order reign supreme. However, that is not the case with newsrooms; they must react to external events in order to be successful. They are, by their nature,unplanned. They excel when te plan gets tossed aside. A brand that wants to embrace a newsroom approach to content marketing and social media must be willing to allow the newsroom to break free of its plan when events warrant.
- Newsrooms are inefficient. This is a major reason the news media are struggling; it’s expensive to do the job properly. There is a built-in inefficiency in searching for stories, conducting research and interviews and then doing the actual content creation. Consider this – Red Bull, which has an awesomely successful content strategy, has more than 100 fulltime staffers working on their content effort. The best journalism comes from humans, not technology platforms, and humans are not only inefficient at times, they also have to be paid on a regular basis. It’s difficult to get a newsroom running smoothly, with a regular rhythm, in a cost effective way.
To be sure, brand newsrooms don’t have to be as heavily staffed or move as quickly as CNN or the New York Times. However, they do need to approximate the behavior of a newsroom; otherwise, it’s just your marketing department.
Building a brand newsroom within your organization sounds like a great idea. But it won’t be easy, and it might not be a good fit for your business. Brands need to carefully consider the impact on their culture, and whether a newsroom within their walls will have enough opportunity to succeed.