Journalists and marketers – You need both

Don’t replace your marketing department with a newsroom. A journalist can’t do the the job of a marketer, or vice versa.

Thinking about getting rid of your marketers and replacing them with journalists? After all, content marketing is all the rage and as we are constantly told brands should now be publishers.

There’s been an abundance of blog posts in recent years about replacing the marketing and/or communication department with a newsroom. And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of the CMO and have an Editor-in-chief instead.

If you’re seriously contemplating something like this, I have a serious piece of advice for you. Don’t do it. Really. Just don’t.

The case for journalists

I get the reasoning behind this idea. When traditional marketing is less effective let’s cut back on that. And since content marketing is creating good results of course we should have more of that.

There are certainly good reasons why most companies would benefit from having journalists help them with their marketing and communication. A couple of years ago Kirk Cheyfitz wrote a great piece on this topic where he listed three things that a newsroom attitude could bring to brands:

1. A unique point of view. One of the things journalists are great at is to filter out the stuff that is relevant to the audience and to that particular newsroom. This means that they’re not only good at telling stories, they’re good at sticking to the messaging in those stories on a consistent basis.

2. A newsroom cares more about the audience than itself. A key part in content marketing is the ability to have an inside-out perspective on a product, to tell a story that is relevant to the target audience. There are few people better at this than journalists, because they’re trained from day one to focus on the readers

3. A good newsroom predicts the future. Part of what journalists do is to think about the next step, what comes next. This is also a valuable quality in content marketing, where an important objective is to get closer to the target audience with consistent quality content.

All in all, some very important qualities in today’s marketing world. And some compelling reasons for creating that brand new marketing department that’s built like a newsroom.

Yeah, no. Still no. Really. Just no.

The case for marketers (and communicators)

When I said earlier that traditional marketing is less effective that’s actually a flawed statement. Because it’s not that simple. Just like content marketing isn’t always the runaway success all the hype surrounding it might have you think. The reality is that the situation isn’t that clear cut. In many countries traditional marketing may be loosing ground, but it’s still very effective. And in most parts of the world content marketing, native advertising, branded content etc still represent a small part of the entire marketing and communications output for medium and large companies.

And in most companies the real problem isn’t whether to build a brand newsroom or not. It’s about creating a marketing and/or communications department that has a converged media approach. That works with full integration between paid, earned and owned media. And internal communication as well. That has an efficient, data-driven approach to identifying clear target audiences and the most effective way of reaching them. And that can do it in a non-channel specific way, in order to get the most out of every dollar, krona or pound invested in marketing and communications. While at the same time being able to show the rest of the company, and senior management especially, that it understands digital transformation and the opportunities that brings as well.

Ideally while using less money than before.

This is not what journalists are trained to do. I’m not saying that there isn’t individual journalists that would do a great job here, but you can’t expect a ”brand newsroom” to solve all of this.

The solution

The world of marketing today is a mixture of old truths and new paradigms. This means that a majority of companies need to create the right mix of old and new marketing/communication methods.

Lots of marketers and CMOs feel comfortable with the tools of traditional marketing. But they are not familiar with a number of new methods and tools, primarily in the digital arena. The obvious solution is to bring in people who understand these new methods and tools.

And in order to strengthen the storytelling and newsroom capability of brands the best way forward would be to work more closely with journalists and editors.

The solution for most companies, for a number of years to come, is to create a marketing/communication departments with specialists in areas like digital, social, analytics and storytelling. And have them work together with colleagues who are more familiar with traditional marketing methods and tools, with PR and with internal communications.

The key to successful marketing and communication is efficiency and convergence. It’s about recruiting a number of experts, not just a specific set of qualities.

And the sooner we stop hearing or reading about ditching the marketing team and bringing journalists the better. Because then we can have a serious discussion about what is needed in the field of marketing. And considering the rapid transformation we’re in the middle of, we need that discussion.

Over to you

What’s your take? Should we replace marketers with journalists? Have your say in the comment section below.


Image source: From “His Girl Friday” Photo: Irving Lippman/Columbia Pictures

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