Opinion

Why journalists make the best content marketers

Michelle Beckett argues the case for hiring content marketers who've spent more time in the newsroom than the boardroom.

We live in a world where consumer demand for content is verging on being insurmountable. We’ve read all the stats and facts about how often we reach for our devices to churn through the endless content available for our viewing pleasure. Yet we want more, and we want it now.

And so it continues; the battle of the ‘thumb stoppers’. We all want to win. That one piece of video or still image that slows the swipe and grabs our audience’s attention long enough for them to hear what we’re trying to sell them.

Because let’s be honest, no matter how we like to talk around it, we’re marketers and our job is to sell something.

What many of us forget is that our audiences are savvy and won’t consider our content for more than a second if they see even the smallest evidence of ‘the sell.’ And despite how many of us are out there ‘creating content,’ only very few have mastered how to authentically join in this conversation or credibly engage with their audiences.

For over a decade I’ve been fortunate enough to work around the globe with some of the world’s top creatives and their respective agencies (both as a client and for clients). There are some extremely talented and intelligent individuals that move amongst us, there’s no doubt about that, and I have learnt a lot from these people.

However, I never came across anyone (myself included) that could truly master the art (and it is a fine art) of telling an authentic brand story that really DID connect with the audience until coming home to Australia.

And then I stumbled across a group of creative individuals (not “creatives”) that simply knew how to tell a great story for brands that people actually watched and engaged with: journalists.

Their secret? Having spent more time in newsrooms than boardrooms… and meticulous focus on three key areas.

Audience

It seems obvious and we all talk about how important knowing our audience is when planning any strategy, campaign, creative execution. Although, do we really know our audience? We look at the data, which is absolutely a necessity and there’s no denying that but have we had an actual face-to-face conversation with the people we are trying to engage with and have them engage back?

Yes, there’s the textbook focus group with a handful of the target demographic – is that really a true representation of who we are trying to reach?

And let’s be honest, if we genuinely critique our work, I’m sure we can recall points in our career where we can admit that we lost focus on who we were actually talking to and prioritised our beautiful, potential award-winning campaign creative that would make us famous.

So how do journalists do it? They hit the footpath and knock on doors, literally. They get out into the real world and simply listen. They immerse themselves, so they get to know every single detail about their audience and their lives. And that’s how they have mastered the art of telling a genuinely compelling story that is credible and means something in culture and the circles in which their audience operate.

Yes, marketing budgets are being cut, so resources will always challenge our means of getting out from behind our Macs, but if journos working in skeleton teams with far less resource can manage this, then perhaps we can find a way too.

Brand purpose

We all know the greatest marketing has come from brands that have a single-minded brand purpose and never digresses away from it, regardless of the campaign or creative execution.

Unfortunately, with all best intentions, sometimes that clear purpose gets lost in marketing chat and bypasses the audience because it doesn’t connect to what’s relevant to the cultural zeitgeist (the overused buzz word we’re all so over hearing).

Rather than just having a clear story and pushing it to their audience, a true storyteller will look at what the hook is. They’ll uncover what is the one thing that will credibly integrate into culture and be part of what’s happening now.

Agility

Every organisation I’ve worked in has had the ambition of being more agile. Regardless of structure, hierarchy, layers; agility is what can bring the most brilliant campaign down. Patience is a thing of the past. Audiences know what they want, and they want it now. Then they want the next thing, and then the thing after that.

For multiple reasons (and I have been guilty as any) many are unable to master the art of true content publishing.

Ironically, agility can be misinterpreted to mean unstructured, which is contrary to what makes true agility possible. In fact, if you consider a newsroom, there is meticulous forward planning and process in place to allow continuous storytelling and content generation.

Where agility comes in is from being intricately clear on audience and purpose. Such clarity leaves no room for overthinking, strategising, creative for creative’s sake, and simply brings things back to good old-fashioned storytelling that’s relevant and timely.

Michelle Beckett is general manager, Enthral.

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