Brian Corrigan
Oct 19, 2016

Why every marketing department needs a journalist

Hire journalists, even if they would be an uneasy fit within your marketing department, writes Spectrum's Brian Corrigan.

Why every marketing department needs a journalist

Most journalists won’t be looking for opportunities to make your products and services part of your brand story. They’ll be uncomfortable when team conversations descend into industry acronyms and business buzzwords. They won’t drink freely from the font of corporate Kool-Aid.

And that’s exactly why you need them on your team.

We’re all drowning in content. In the next minute, digital marketing consultancy Smart Insights estimates more than 1,200 blogs will be posted to WordPress and 400 hours of video will be uploaded to YouTube. We’ll send 205 million emails, make 3.3 million Facebook updates and type (or speak) 3.1 million Google searches. Another 422,000 tweets will be added to the mix along with 55,000 Instagram photos. It’s really very noisy on the interwebs these days.

The sheer volume of content being produced and shared makes it increasingly difficult to win audience attention. So although more than eight out of 10 organisations surveyed by the Content Marketing Institute are using content marketing, less than 30 per cent feel their efforts are effective.

Quality over quantity

That’s why quality is more important than ever. It’s never been a good idea to create content without a clear strategy, but it’s getting more meaningless by the day. Content marketing success is heavily reliant on understanding your audiences and, especially if you’re in the B2B world, producing work that they’ll find useful.

Research shows this is easier said than done. Creating high-quality content was the top challenge highlighted by marketers in The Asia Pacific Content Marketing Report 2016, published by HubSpot and SurveyMonkey. When the Content Marketing Institute asked marketers to name their top five content challenges, 69 per cent said producing engaging content. This response tops the list every time CMI runs its annual survey in Australia, the UK and the US.

All of which brings me back to journalists and marketing. Most of the reporters I’ve worked alongside and competed against are now producing branded content. This is not a coincidence. A trained journalist approaches every piece of content they produce with an audience-focused mindset—what’s in it for the reader, listener or viewer? They’ll ask the awkward ‘so what?’ questions when other members of the team drift into product messaging.

People are at the heart of every good story, and a journalist will pounce on opportunities to bring them into your content. When you only have half an hour to extract maximum information from a client or a senior executive, they’ll skip the corporate fluff and quickly get to the questions that matter. They’re also skilled at keeping a story alive by coming up with relevant new angles.

Holding the line

This approach to corporate storytelling has become very valuable as businesses scramble to bridge the gap between what they want to say and what customers want to hear. Somebody asked me recently if it was difficult to hold this editorial line when your employer or client is paying for the content. Well yes, of course it is, but this non-company view of the world is a large part of what they’re paying for. If they don’t understand that, the relationship is simply never going to work.

So if you’re struggling to produce high-quality content, do yourself a favour and hire a journalist. There are plenty of them out there looking for a new opportunity and most of them are pretty affordable. Start your search by looking for somebody with experience of writing about your industry—they’ll have a phone full of useful contacts, they’ll know the current trends and they’ll bring instant credibility with your audience.

Brian Corrigan is content director at Spectrum Group

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