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Sandie YoungSeptember 14, 20124 min read

Why Every Content Marketer Should Have Newsroom Experience

Marketers are excited about the content marketing movement. Journalists might see it differently. 

I recently entered the marketing world (and the professional world, for that matter) with a journalistic background, and quickly realized the tangled relationship between these two neighboring industries. Of course, there are stark differences, but so far I’ve found that newsroom experience can be a great asset to marketing pros.

Lewis DVorkin (@lewisdvorkin) recently published, Inside Forbes: The Advertising Trend that will Shake Up 100 Years of Journalism. And that trend is? Content Marketing, of course.

Says DVorkin: “The idea that a company—as a brand and marketer—can be an expert content creator and reach an audience by disintermediating reporters is confusing, threatening and scary to an entire profession that had its way for a century."

From this point of view, it is scary. But, speaking as both a journalist and a content marketer, I see the evolution as a positive change.

Why? Because unique abilities learned in the newsroom, coupled with business experience, can lead to captivating brand-marketing materials.

While some journalists fret over the slow death of traditional print media, others see the abundant opportunities gifted by the social web. Maybe it’s time for journalists to consider a potential career change into the content-marketing space.

Throughout my journalism training, I was taught to follow five sequential stages during the writing process. I quickly found that this process translates into something of a marketing guide; each stage can be applied to must-have (or should-have) skills in the marketing field. The process may serve as a helpful model as you tackle your next content-marketing project.

The Life of a News Story (or Content Marketing Project)

Stage 1: Brainstorm

Great stories don’t just happen. All great stories begin with a great idea.

Re. Typical Day in the Newsroom

An editor hands the reporter a simple assignment. The journalist’s job is to transform the topic into a juicy story with useful information and striking quotes. So, before any words are written, the journalist must brainstorm.

A journalist is trained to see a single idea from every possible angle.

As a content marketer, this skill is crucial. One hot topic may be covered by thousands of different outlets and bloggers. So, it’s up to you to cover it in an original way that will generate social media shares, traffic and conversions.

Stage 2: Seek the Source

The next step is to pinpoint sources to interview. The average journalist knows how to choose a source, plan strategic interaction and stay in touch. Essentially, journalists are communication experts. And, with journalist-like communication skills, marketers can generate credibility with industry experts, peers, and busy co-workers alike.

Connecting with these sources is useful for a variety of reasons including: interviews for content development, guest blog posts, content collaborations and staying updated on industry news to keep skills sharp.

Stage 3: The All-Important Interview


When granted an interview, the journalist strives to make the interviewee feel comfortable, inspired, motivated and—hopefully—proud.

Branded content isn’t always intellectually stimulating (or entertaining for that matter) but if you ask the right questions, you might just find an undiscovered hook. Before you dive into an interview, think about what draws you to a product or brand as a consumer, not a representative. Then, ask pointed questions to uncover a product detail or interesting back-story. 

Stage 4: Draft the Article (or Other Content Asset)

Journalists often see their writing as entertainment. Marketers write with intention to sell. The challenge is writing content that entertains and simultaneously drives the reader to take action. Ask yourself: Is this something I would enjoy reading? Or garner value from?

Effective marketers (like journalists) find and share the story behind the product or brand. Once you’ve got your angle, use colorful language. Think about the language that draws you to your favorite publications, like strong verbs, imagery and sensory cues.

In addition, journalists know how to get to the point, often using nut grafs, or paragraphs that follow the lead in a news story and summarize its overall importance. Nut grafs basically answer the question: Why should I read this?

This is especially applicable to web content, where it’s crucial to quickly tell the reader what’s in it for them. Those who are particularly interested will read the whole article, but not all readers will make it to your last sentence. 

Stage 5: The Deadline

The printer waits for no one. After experiencing the looming pressure of the deadline in a newsroom, marketers may be more apt to keep this in mind in the corporate world.

The story is complete, but the process isn’t over. Copy is then given to designers for layout and eventual publishing. Similarly in content marketing, the completion of copy isn’t the final step.

In order to use a piece of content to it’s full potential, plan backwards from the release deadline. Don't forget to allocate time and resources to promote the content. Develop landing pages, send it out to contacts via email, stay in touch with new leads from the piece with lead-nurturing, explain to your co-workers how to share the content via social media, meet with sales reps to discuss the value of the piece to different types of prospects, etc.

Remember, once the content is published, it's only the beginning. Track its performance and impact on program goals, learn from how audiences engage with it and surrounding campaigns, and tweak the process moving forward to maximize results. And, think of other ways to repurpose the piece in the future.

What processes help you in your content marketing efforts? Please share in the comments below. 

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Sandie Young

Sandie Young started at the agency during the summer of 2012, with experience in magazine journalism and a passion for content marketing. Sandie is a graduate of Ohio University, with a Bachelor of Science from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Full bio.