Journalists are the ones making headlines lately as we hear more stories about news layoffs. In August, Gannett laid off over 200 staffers in the media giant's biggest round of cuts in years. In June, the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire photography staff, deciding to arm freelancers and reporters with iPhones as replacements. But while traditional reporting and photography jobs are shrinking, content marketing opportunities are increasing. More journalists are turning to this growing industry, but can a hard-hitting journalist make a good marketer? My experience proves you can.
My path is certainly not traditional. After majoring in Mass Communication from Louisiana State University and working as a freelance writer for a local newspaper, I realized I wouldn't make enough money to pay the rent, even with two roommates. So, I made the move to television as a producer. After five years of working my way up from the assignment desk in Baton Rouge to Executive Producer at the ABC affiliate in Pensacola, Florida, I decided to make a big career change and move to Chicago to attend culinary school. Years later, I was working for a recreational cooking school when our publicist left. I saw the opportunity for someone with journalism experience and crafted a position within the company to fit my writing strengths and cooking knowledge, a hybrid public relations/content marketing position (though we didn't call it content marketing back then). A year ago, I expanded my marketing role to SPROUT Content where our clients' services run the gamut from paper converting to credit unions.
So, what does that say to you other than I like to write and cook? It shows that your next in-house marketing manager or content marketing agency team member could be a former journalist. As Holly Regan, managing editor at Software Advice, outlines in her article, "Hiring the Right Journalist for your Content Marketing Team," there are some key qualities to look for in journalists turned content marketers.
Here are some highlights:
1. They Realize the Lines are Blurred.
Today's marketers are also publishers. They are producing content that is relevant and useful for the company's audience but it's also focused on growing revenue. Without a background in writing self-promotional content, it could actually be easier for a journalist to create content that's valuable to the reader.
2. They Can Cut through Jargon.
Journalists have a way with words, and they are used to writing for real people. They should be able to translate business speak to language that anyone can understand. Give prospective candidates a writing test so you can make sure their language and tone are a good fit for your brand.
3. They are Technology-Savvy.
Journalists use the web for research, so they should be able to navigate the internet and social media pretty easily. They don't have to know HTML code or be familiar with every technology out there, but they should have a general understanding of SEO.
4.They Know how to Conduct an Interview.
Journalists should be skilled interviewers and know the right questions to ask to get the desired answers. Since content marketers are often asked to write about industries they may not be familiar with, the ability to source the right people and information is extremely important.
5. They Meet Deadlines.
The ability to work under pressure is a must in journalism. Deadlines also apply in content marketing, but the process is different. Someone who can understand the big picture and know that their article is part of a larger piece of the marketing puzzle will be a good fit for your team.
6. They Can Tell a Story.
Facts and figures are the basis of any story. The same holds true in content marketing. A successful marketer can find patterns and relevant statistics and communicate why they matter to a brand's audience. Since a journalist is used to coming up with different angles for stories, they could be a valuable resource for finding unusual ways to tell your company's story.
As marketing departments become more like newsrooms, business owners are starting to look beyond the traditional PR person who can plan an event and write a press release. Today's ideal hire also needs to be able to successfully master the world of online marketing and social media community management.
Holly provides advice for navigating the hiring process of journalists-turned-marketers, including potential red flags, in her post.
Have you hired a former journalist? Share your tips for integrating them into the content marketing industry here.