While newsrooms are notorious for being the center of chaos, deadlines and pressure, they're also known for something else: trusted, efficient journalists.
Turns out, that's just what marketing agencies lack, especially when it comes to their departmental solutions and structures. And it’s starting at the top.
A startling 57 percent of CMOs have been at the helm fewer than three years, according to an analysis by Korn Ferry. CMOs stay at their employers for short stints, perhaps because employers seem to gravitate toward those with degrees in everything and anything… except marketing.
Yes, 44 percent of CMOs in the study had MBAs, but few had spent time learning the ins and outs of the emerging marketing world, let alone educating themselves in the discipline. This leaves them destined to fail because the marketing platform that works best -- owned media -- eschews vague success metrics and focuses primarily on “share of voice” versus brand competition.
It’s a faulty system that leads to irrelevant organizational charts based on bygone eras and pushy paid media, mixed up and unable to handle a society that loathes advertising but craves customer-centric information. Even Michael Chrisment, Nestle’s former global marketing head, has warned that the world of advertising is in chaos and needs a lifeline. Procter & Gamble agrees.
And Harvard Business Review highlights the Marketing2020 study, which found that most marketers realize they’re in hot water, even if they aren’t calling the only people who can save them: the journalists.
How journalism can rescue flailing marketing departments.
Every journalist possesses inherent traits that can take a marketing department to the next level, starting with a deep understanding that writings should be newsworthy. Unlike marketers, journalists focus on audience first and brand second. Their writing is agile, speedy and accurate, something especially needed in an era where distrust is common. Stories written by journalists have a voice, which builds trust and personality. Instead of simply creating narcissistic pieces, they break out interesting information woven in a storytelling fabric; in other words, they already know how to handle coveted “owned marketing.”
What’s not to love, especially from a marketing standpoint?
Regrettably, many businesses dig in their heels and hire traditional marketing agencies instead of making their marketing dollars work by moving to a newsroom-style content development strategy.
Entrepreneurs who go the agency route may discover quickly that they aren’t getting a true “owned media” solution based on available research and development data. For example, agencies tend to lack the intellectual curiosity and time necessary to learn their clients’ businesses. As generalists, they can’t delve deeply like on-staff journalists can; if they did spend the time on investigative reporting, they couldn’t turn a profit. Consequently, agency writing lacks reach, engagement and crafting.
Unless you want your marketing department to stumble in the dark, why not flesh out the team with true brand journalists who are driven to tell your story? Here’s how:
1. Spend as much time on owned media as you do on taxes.
As referenced in Accounting Today, most entrepreneurs spend more than 41 hours a year on tax preparation, and 40 percent of entrepreneurs devote 80 or more hours each year to taxes. If you’re devoted to accounting, you should devote just as much time and energy to your owned media. Founders have wonderful stories; you are no exception. Look at Richard Branson: The man dropped out of high school at 16 because school just wasn't his bag, and he now owns Virgin Group, one of the most successful brands in the world. Let a journalist isolate the main tenets of your stories and develop brand mission narratives to educate and entertain your target audience.
2. Make your business attractive to high-quality brand journalists.
The brand journalists are out there, and they’re looking for work. Insights from Indeed show that content marketing jobs are hot, rivaling reporter advertisements on the site after a more than 230 percent increase from early 2015 to 2016. Be sure to promote your company as an owned-media proponent that acts like a publisher, benchmarking the competition. Brand journalists can then step in to help you increase your digital footprint and solidify your authority based on research.
3. Only hire brand journalists who have journalistic training.
Any content writer can claim he or she is a brand journalist; focus your attention on writers who have been trained in journalistic reporting in the field and, depending on their skill level, at a reputable school. At my company, we only hire people who have a background in journalism because they can pivot rapidly, assimilating with our brand clients and extracting share-worthy content. The learning curve is short, which gives us an edge.
4. Stay on the cusp of technology.
Just because you’re using an “old school” newsroom approach to marketing doesn’t give you leeway to ignore technology. Emerging technologies allow brands to capture, curate, distribute and measure high-performing content. Your marketing “newsroom” -- whether in-house or virtual -- will become a bridge for the journalists and technology platforms to evaluate engagement. Remember: You don’t have to invest in an actual physical space for your publishing; part-time and full-time freelance journalists can save money while boosting your owned content's return on investment.
Hanging on to a marketing structure that’s failing fast? Summon the strength to rip everything apart so you can rebuild a stronger replacement. With journalists on your team, you’ll have the resources necessary to turn out a steady stream of tip sheets, whitepapers, articles, blog posts and more to bolster your brand.