When I left behind daily newspaper journalism, it was with a heavy heart. There I was, nearly 30, moving on from the career I’d dreamed about since getting my first story published in my high school newspaper and planned to be in forever, before the industry radically changed. I was moving on from a career that had thrilled and inspired me, and made me feel like I was part of a great community service. Would any career ever incite so much passion again?
It took a few years of trial and error in other industries, but since landing at a smaller digital agency, I’ve learned it’s a prime place to use all the skills I honed in my journalism career – not just the broad skills of writing and editing, but less-thought-about skills like critical thinking and interviewing sources. Luckily for me, the rise of digital marketing – especially content marketing and social media – has provided an environment where a journalism background is a real asset.
For Great Content Marketing, Think Like a Newsroom
Content marketing, real-time marketing, brand newsrooms … these are all some of the hottest trends in advertising right now. Some larger agencies are creating newsrooms staffed with social strategists and creatives who constantly keep tabs on current events and respond instantly on social media. While GDD doesn’t have a whole dedicated newsroom, we follow principles of journalism that are key to successful content marketing.
Our social media team regularly holds content planning sessions with our clients to plan for upcoming brand events, current news events, seasonal themes, etc. From this we create an editorial calendar for copy and images to go out via social media, blogs, emails and more. It’s important that our calendar is filled with original content on a mix of topics that are important to the brand’s audience, including product news, educational tips, and plain old-fashioned good storytelling. And then just like in a newsroom, our social media manager monitors current events and social media every day to look for new opportunities, and she monitors the metrics to see what works and what doesn’t so we can adjust our calendar as necessary.
Unlike traditional agency work that goes through months of brainstorming, creating and revising, content marketing has to be agile. This means having a great deal of trust from our clients that we’ll put out content that’s on brand and on strategy every single day, and working closely with our clients each day to handle sensitive issues. For a writer, it also means being creative on tight deadlines and in much of social media, limited space. This is where some of my most refined journalism skills come into play. I spent much of my time in newspapers working as a copy editor. “But don’t they just check punctuation, spelling and grammar?” you might ask. Actually, have you ever picked up a newspaper (or visited a news website) and just scanned the headlines? Those are all written by copy editors. Skilled copy editors can take any story and sum it up in a headline of just a few words, and those few words have to be informative enough to give a skimming reader the gist of the article yet interesting enough to entice the reader into the article. In comparison to a 5-word headline, sometimes Twitter’s 140-character count feels like a bit of a luxury!
Every Day in Digital Brings New Challenges
The fast pace isn’t limited to content marketing, though. In the world of digital marketing, everything moves quickly … websites, apps, emails, display advertising. At GDD, we have projects that go from brief to creative execution to tech development to launch in just a week or two. And at our agency, I’m often juggling multiple projects from multiple clients each day. Just like when I worked in a newsroom, I come in every day with some idea of what I’ll be working on that day … as well as the knowledge that in less than 24 hours, some things will have changed and I have to be ready to tackle anything that gets thrown my way. Thankfully, the biggest skill daily newspaper work taught me was how to work under pressure with grace (well, most of the time!). In fact, I usually thrive on deadline, multitasking, when my brain is going full throttle. This post is a perfect example: despite having the idea a month ago, here I am, writing it the night before it’s due, and I feel completely energized and in the zone.
The great thing about journalists, though, is not just that they work quickly. It’s that they’ve learned to be speedy while putting out high-quality work. They quickly home in on the most important and most interesting points, and they really understand how to consider the audience. That makes a journalist ideally suited to juggling clients in a variety of industries and tailoring the writing for each. In content marketing for our clients, we’ve found that writing informative, insightful and entertaining blog posts once or twice a week that really engage the audience is better than stretching to create a ton of blog posts just to be out there in front of eyeballs every day. In the same vein, we watch out for current events to comment on, but we only get in on the big conversations when it’s actually relevant to the brand’s audience. In a traditional newsroom, journalists work to find a unique angle on a big news story that is compelling to that newspaper’s readers; in essence, as brand content marketers we are doing the same thing.
Journalists Are Ideally Suited to Digital Marketing
However you can do it, bringing journalism into your agency or in-house marketing team can produce a lot of benefits. Talk to a local newspaper or journalism professor about hosting a workshop. Not every brand or agency needs a full “newsroom” for content marketing. But learning how to research efficiently, interview creatively, write succinctly and think critically are skills that can help anyone in any job.
And consider hiring a journalist for your team. They’ll bring these ingrained skills with them and can teach others. While I had a few years of agency experience under my belt, it was one of the front-page headlines in my portfolio that really captured the attention of my boss in my interview. I’ve felt lucky to find a great match in an agency where my journalism skills are appreciated and built upon every day. And I’ve rediscovered my passion for telling stories … just in a new way.