In April, the Wall Street Journal published a survey by CareerCast.com, which ranked 200 jobs from best to worst based on five criteria: physical demands, work environment, income, stress level and job outlook.
Careers such as software engineer, physical therapist and computer systems analyst were among the top 10. Actuary ranked as the best job of 2013 and at the bottom, not to anyone’s surprise, sat the beleaguered newspaper reporter.
After sharing the study on Twitter, a former colleague of mine who’s a reporter at an established small-town daily said in response, “Thanks for the encouragement.” While print journalism is considered a dying profession, I think it’s merely evolving, and obviously has been for quite some time. Journalists still have an extremely important duty as “watchdogs of democracy.”
And as storytellers, too. So fret not. Writers, especially journalists, have the tools to succeed as content marketers. Here’s why:
Enough of the “gobbledygook”
Many of today’s burgeoning brands are successful on the Web in part because of their ability to produce stellar content, content that emanates from the passion they have for producing quality products and the desire to please their fans and consumers by exceeding expectations.
As people immerse themselves in valuable content on the Web via social media, as well as reputable sites like BuzzFeed, Huffington Post and Gizmodo, brands and marketers are finding ways to bridge the gap between journalism and advertising by becoming publishers.
Brand journalists combine brand storytelling with traditional forms of journalism, helping brands connect with their audience in a more personal, transparent way.
According to marketing strategist David Meerman Scott, the term brand journalism is nothing new. It was named one of the top 10 digital marketing trends of 2013. It’s when an organization or brand creates compelling, relevant and valuable content and in turn shares it with its target audience.
“Brand journalism is not a product pitch,” he explained. “It is not an advertorial. It is not an egotistical spewing of gobbledygook-laden corporate drivel.”
While the question of objectivity and transparency lingers, brand journalists report anything relevant to their respective industry. Instead of “pushing” out information or product-focused junk, brands have tapped the skills of journalists, editors, photographers and videographers to produce high-quality content, with objectivity in mind. People are always looking for stellar content (articles, blogs, ebooks, videos, images, GIFs, etc.) that they can engage with and share. Every piece of branded content reflects its particular business. So a brand that delivers great content on a consistent basis can be considered great, right?
Why your business can benefit from hiring a journalist
From a search standpoint, maintaining a healthy dose of high-quality content is key to holding a solid ranking on search engines under various search terms. While it may be unreasonable for you as a business owner to manage all of your content marketing duties, appointing a writer to take charge of that aspect of your marketing will benefit your company in the long term.
Google’s recent Panda and Penguin updates give businesses even more reasons to publish great content. No longer does content marketing mean writing for SEO purposes only or writing keyword-stuffed blabber that won’t do much for your visitors. No longer does it mean that you should purchase links, submit to a long list of irrelevant directories and focus solely on establishing your backlink profile.
Focus more on creating content, content with the purpose of benefiting your consumers. If you produce outstanding content, links will come organically.
If you want to get serious about your online marketing, you need to think more than just SEO. Handing a former journalist or writer the keys to your content (and social media) marketing machine could be the step in the right direction.
Here’s why hiring a journalist (or soliciting reputable writers to contribute to your blog) is a bright idea:
1. Journalists look for the latest “scoop” — As a former print journalist, I understand the rigors of being a daily newspaper reporter. Journalists simply know where to find the latest scoop (because they need to!), either by working an established network of trusted sources or by peeking their heads in the right places.
Staying on top of what’s trending in your respective industry could result in excellent traffic to your website or blog, or even lead to a piece of content on your site going viral, or picked up by a local news organization (free publicity!).
2. They know how to tell a story — If you fail to capture your readers’ attention within the first three to five paragraphs of your blog or article, you’ve already lost them. Especially on the Web, people search for the most fulfilling way to spend their valuable time. Journalists understand the importance of crafting a perfect lede and “nut graf.”
3. Journalists pay attention to detail — Whether or not you’re a news organization, brand, or emerging startup, one of the primary goals of any business is to earn the trust of your readers/consumers. You should build authority not only by understanding your brand from front to back, but also by being frank when it comes to your industry.
The second you try to dupe your consumers by serving up false information, or the time you over promise and under deliver, your business is bound to take a tremendous hit in the eyes of your consumers.
Journalists have a keen eye for delivering the most relevant (and factual) details of any given story, while keeping journalistic principles in mind.
Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, told Dori Clark in an article published by Forbes, “In an era where every brand is a publisher and a content creator, you have to have a point of view and a compelling voice. You have to know how to tell a story. Journalistic training gives you an ear for story; you learn how to draw a reader in. … You have to create content the customer will thank you for.”
4. They can handle strict deadlines, heavy workloads — Journalists are a different breed. They’re determined to construct the best story possible, but they also understand the great demand for meeting strict deadlines in a fast-paced, pressure-packed environment.
Like David Meerman Scott wrote in his book, Real-Time Marketing & PR, “the Internet has fundamentally changed the pace of business, compressing time and rewarding speed.” Promptly posting a blog, tweet or status update in relevance to a trending event or breaking news story can result in some serious traffic to your website and a sudden boost in brand interaction.
Scott recently wrote about how a team of reporters and editors helped transform defense contractor Rayteon’s Web presence by boosting its traffic more than 450 percent.
Why can’t this work for your website?
Delivering exceptional content—in real time
Media agencies have long adapted to the 24/7 news cycle. With print editions quickly fading, news organizations have focused their efforts on digital. If your business operates and thinks like a 24/7 digital news organization, you’re opening up a wealth of opportunity for real-time marketing.
Look no further than Super Bowl Sunday this past February, as a handful of brands took to Twitter to take advantage of the power outage inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Oreo took home top honors with this gem:
The quick thinking resulted in thousands of shares on Twitter and likes on Facebook. This is an obvious representation of marketing in real time via social media. But the same exact success is there to be had on your blog, or any other type of online media (YouTube, Vine, Instagram, etc.).
Creating relevant and timely quality content will increase the chances of a news organization writing about your brand, and your content being shared on Facebook and other social media platforms by both fellow businesses and your fans.
Brands with exceptional brand journalism
Granted, these are billion dollar brands with seemingly infinite marketing budgets. But just to get a better idea on who to model your content marketing strategy on, take a look at some brands that have forged ahead with exceptional brand journalism.
The media landscape has been changing for quite some time, but Coca-Cola didn’t miss a beat. Coke has long established itself as a leader in brand storytelling, “ideas so contagious they cannot be controlled.”
Coca-Cola Journey, Coke’s online content hub is geared around content that’s both relevant and significant to its demographic. While much of the content supports Coca-Cola’s numerous initiatives (i.e., healthy living), topics range from trends in the food industry to sports and entertainment.
In 2009, Adobe launched CMO.com to provide CMOs and other marketing specialists with a wealth of insight in the marketing industry so they can better use the power of digital media.
CMO.com looks a lot like your typical news website. It’s broken down into news (anything happening in the marketing, tech, and business world), as well as expert insight, research, analysis, strategy, management, etc.
Whenever you read the term brand journalism, Cisco’s The Network is likely to follow suit. The Network is Cisco’s tech news site, which encompasses stories about anything that its employees or customers may have interest in — the majority of which fail to mention Cisco at all, according to Cisco’s social media communications manager, Karen Snell.
Again this goes back to the thinking that if you produce great content and share it across your targeted social media channels, people are more apt to share and promote that content for you.
Has your business embraced this new wave of content marketing? If so, share your work with us below.