Key Journalism Skills for Content Marketing

Dennis McCafferty
McCafferty: “Hiring an ex-reporter for content marketing is a low risk/high reward proposition for the brand: With most journalists, you’ll know that the research and writing skills are already there – no on-the-job training is required.”

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As posted here previously, I recently contributed this Content Marketing Institute piece about the growing trend of recruiting former journalists to help execute brand-content promotion. Many of these ex-reporters are hired on a contractual, freelance basis, and others – like me – do it fulltime.

Either way, it’s a low risk/high reward proposition for the brand: With most journalists, you’ll know that the research and writing skills are already there – no on-the-job training is required for those needs. And many of these professionals are born storytellers, instinctively able to strike a resonant chord with targeted audiences.

Which is why I was happy to see this June 17 B2B Marketing Mentor blog post, from The article, headlined “Content is King and You Can Be Too: The Convergence of PR and Journalism,” supports through considerable research the contention that organizations should turn to available reporting talent to ensure the success of their content-marketing efforts. Managing Editor Holly Regan indicates that companies such as Apple have editorial staffs now, and these moves are influencing other businesses to do the same. She notes that nearly half of B2B enterprise marketers plan to increase their budget for content marketing in the next year, according to a Content Marketing Institute study. “To succeed at content marketing,” she writes, “your brand must have a department that can perform the functions of an editorial staff, while promoting the content it creates like an advertising agency or PR firm.”

Our high tech PR firm has done this for several years now, after launching the Content Creation Services division that I now oversee. Within this time, we’ve worked with a wide range of highly innovative IT clients to distinguish their products/services and position their executives as industry Thought Leaders. In her article, Holly lists the following attributes for successful content-marketing hires from within the ranks of traditional journalism, and I’m happy to say that these bases are well covered here at W2Comm:

Uphold traditional journalistic principles. No, we’re not talking about ferreting out corruption and, as old-school reporters always say, “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” That sort of diehard, traditionalist Fourth Estate scribe will likely never make a smooth transition to marketing. But there are many more ex-media types who “get it” when assessing how their talents can nimbly translate – by demonstrating good research practices, strong writing skills and high standards for overall professionalism. (Not to mention recognizing that they’re paid to help position a brand, not win a Pulitzer.)

Tell good stories. Good writing doesn’t necessarily make for good stories. But all good stories depend upon good writing. If you’re hired to distinguish a brand from a crowded field of competitors, you must build an engaging narrative – one that a targeted audience member will immediately find compelling, enough to share with others in his or her industry. I often get to the heart of the good story by opening a conversation with clients like this, “We’re going to drill down to two essential elements about your brand and what it does for customers: What was the existing problem, and how did you solve it?”

Adapt to the times. Journalists need to understand that they won’t always get 1,000 or 2,000 or more words to tell the client’s story. The valuable content marketer should be capable of delivering the same, on-point message whether in a 140-character Tweet, a 500-word blog or a 3,500-word white paper. Regardless of length or format or platform, the same basic communications skills apply.

I look forward to reading more posts such as Holly’s. It validates how we here at W2Comm were ahead of the curve when we started our content-marketing division in 2010. Since then, our clients have benefitted greatly with a “total package” of PR/communications services. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, please do contact us.


Dennis McCafferty is Director of Content for W2 Communications.