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March 24, 2009

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» Brave new world: media and PR must accept new realities from Wade Coleman's Blog
I think some people reading my blog might think that I take a macabre delight in watching the downward death spiral of newspapers. I certainly don’t – it sucks when anyone loses their job. I understand the feelings of anxiety... [Read More]

» An Alternative Future for Journalists from One Man and His Blog
There's no doubt that the number of traditional journalism jobs is shrinking, and shrinking fast. I struggle to think of a single publishing company that hasn't had layoffs or title closures in the last few years.There is, suggests David Meerman... [Read More]

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Zack Simpson

Great letter, interesting insight. I got my degree in public relations over a year ago, but ran into a difficult job climate. I ended up with a company that does internet advertising, but I work on the marketing and PR for the company, not the clients.

As a result, I've been able to write and work in what you call "brand journalism". I think your concept is really the hybrid future of marketing and PR - an online consciousness and communication pipeline for companies of all sizes.

I feasted on your "New Rules" and I believe quality online information and content is critical for success in today's business world. Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts and genius!

Andrew Davis

David,
I completely agree. As a former television news producer I'm keenly aware of the need for great story tellers in today's environment. When 1.5MM blog posts appear everyday, you've got to have great content and real stories if you want to stand out.
Journalists are a wonderful resource and should be embraced with their objective point of view and knack for efficient story telling they can work for us anytime!

I wrote about this same concept recently after reading an article in Mass High Tech magazine.
http://blog.tippingpointlabs.com/2009/02/online-content-marketing-blurring-the-lines-between-branding-and-journalism/

Kevin

David,

I couldn't agree more. I'm a former sports writer and I have been helping to run a legal blog.

www.seriousaccidents.com/accident-blog/

While I'm still blogging and working on my own website on the side -- www.takingbacksports.com/drsportsfan -- many different companies are turning to blogs and SEO websites to advertise their product/service.

It took my boss a bit of convincing, but he's now beginning to realize that hiring journalists (or at least professional writers) is the way to go.

But not a lot of businesses get that yet and are using in-house staffers or part time college students to do this.

Glad to see you're out there helping out the former fourth branch!

justin locke

well at the risk of a complete non sequitur here is a blog i happen to really admire:

http://doublebassblog.org/

this guy is a freelance bass player in chicago area, does this blog all in his spare time and it has become a major force in the clasical music world, not just basses. talk about content rich-- he does podcast interviews, videos, guest bloggers, and great formatting too. whenever he does a blog on me, sales jump bigtime. his name is jason heath, great guy, recommended as a role model and who knows what he might do for the right price??

Brad Brooks

I live this dual life as a radio host (calling myself a journalist is an insult to those that ply the profession) and in a tech firm - in a marketing role.

I think the results you get come from your intention. If you start with "What do I need to say to sell something?" you'll end up sounding contrived and your readers will see right through it.

But if you start with "What can I say that will teach, inform, encourage or help?" the tone changes completely. In other words, ask the question "How can I serve?"

What I've found fascinating are the results to the bottom line on the two approaches.

Where we've taken an "inform and instruct" approach, our results have easily outdistanced our "hard sell" approach.

seamus walsh

David, Great post! I agree, we are now publishing OPC (other peoples content) on our website and our B2B content match service is in the works. We have 30 independent writers and journalists signed up to be part of our April launch.

This is a win-win, to the writers looking for work and to our clients who need custom content.

Kelly M

The blogs/websites I follow and check regularly have a writer that updates often and asks the readers questions. People don't just like to be talked to they like to feel like they are part of a community too. I appreciate when a blogger writes the way they speak, it makes the blog more fun to read.

David Meerman Scott

Wow. Excellent insights here. Thank you all for commenting. I especially appreciate the comments from journalists.

Michelle Tripp

Inspiring Post, David! Pro journalists also have an advantage they need to start leveraging: familiarity with interviewing and story assembly, series writing, and basic journalistic prescience. A lot of bloggers don't have the benefit of those skills or the experience of using them on a daily basis. What could be a daunting time for journalists can be very exciting if they realize they have an edge on homespun bloggers.

Not to mention instead of working on the crime beat of the local "rag" their voice can carry on the web, and their stories can make a difference on a broad scale that never would have happened in a corporate newsroom.

@michelletripp

SpiritintheVillage

David this is a great post and a reminder that everything is changing. Companies will be looking for ways to engage and there's an opportunity for jounalists and marketers to tell stories, make it personal, interesting and bring customers into the fold.

On the other dark side I see sales (especially those who are customer focused) as having a unique ability to guide this process of building customer relationships and helping to create content that gives value for the client.
Kevin

Emily Sheetz

Yes, we are brilliant and will make you lots of money, dear companies. We can give your website a voice, a soul, a brain, and - dare I say? - a heart. In these times of unrest and company CEO weariness, a great writer will make your company seem not so evil. Listen to Mr. Scott and embrace us writers, companies, what do you have to lose?

Lorraine

David, I agree 100% that journalists are superbly qualified to take on marcom work for businesses and non profits.

In a recent post PoynterOnline noted "10 Reasons You Should Hire a Journalist"--mentioning journalists' incredible work ethic and their ability to multitask, meet deadlines, use the web,etc.

See the whole post here: http://bit.ly/qx45P

It's all true, true, true.

But there are fundamental differences between marketing/communications writing and journalism.

Yes, good copywriting uses elements of story telling. But marcom tools are always written with the audience in mind and are aimed to engage, persuade and move readers to action.

No, content needn't be "advertorial" or hard driving, red fonted long copy.

But there's no getting around marketing copy's aim: to sell products and services.

I'm not so naive as to think journalism doesn't also have the ulterior motive of selling magazines, but still...

There is a ethos inculcated in journalists that's different from copywriters.

And even if journalists are willing to change careers, it takes training to make the transition--to even learn corporate and marketing vocabulary. To understand job titles and industry structure.

Not to mention the learning curve for grokking new formats: web content, direct mail, collateral--so different from straightforward feature writing

It's a HUGE transitions and one that many of my middle aged journalist friends are finding extraordinarily hard to make.

David Meerman Scott

Lorraine, Thanks for commenting.

I am not talking about "marcom" and I am not talking about "copy-writing". My idea is not to create sales brochures online.

This blog and my books are about the idea that valuable content on the web that helps people to solve problems brands a company as one worthy of doing business with.

What I advocate that journalists do for companies is not overtly sales related but is instead creating interesting stuff that engages.

This is what journalists already do.

David

Maria Schneider

Thanks for suggesting this David. How would you recommend journalists and editors approach companies who are looking for wordsmiths?

Adele Revella

I want to add my plea to David's and ask the journalists out there to PLEASE consider making this transition. Buyers deserve access to content that is informative and useful to them. Buyers can't be bothered with corporate speak -- they want to see that this company has exactly the right solution to their problem.

During the eleven years I was VP Marketing in three tech companies, I hired three journalists for marketing positions. They were some of the best hires I ever made -- one went on to be VP Marketing after I left.

How to get these jobs? Talk to the VP of Marketing about the impact their current written content is having on buyers. Ask them how much time their team spends writing stuff that no one reads. Tell them that you are trained to quickly assimilate information that you are unfamiliar with, and present an argument that is persuasive and compelling. The smart people will hire you. You don't want to work for the others anyway.

Kyle Austin

Very interesting post David and it got me thinking about the overarching idea that all companies seem to be realizing: "Every Company is a Media Company."

The supply and demand factors you point to, caused by the economic and media meltdown are further entrenching the idea within most organizations.

In fact, according to a study released in December by Junta42, 56 percent of marketing decision makers plan to increase spending on content marketing for 2009. Social media tops the list (68%), followed by e-newsletters/email (60%), blogs (56%), case studies (55%), online video (51%), white papers (46%) and micro-sites (43%).

More will follow, with the guidance from the very journalists and editors you mention, along with marketing and communications practitioners, agencies and folks across the blogosphere and Twittersphere that understand the tools needed to create and aggregate content which: is easy to find and search-able (i.e. Google friendly), generates page views, is linkable, isn’t looked at as intrusive, doesn’t sound like an advertorial and increases dialogue around niche areas with current and prospective customers.

David Carr of the New York Times eloquently said in August of last year that “We are all Arbiters of the News.” The Fortune 500 are looking for a few of “us” to be “CEO’s.”

Matt Gentile

David,

Great post. This supports the reason that I come to your blog to post news content like our recently announced First Time Homebuyer's Survey. Yes, I released it via Business Wire, "Century 21 Real Estate First-Time Home Buyer Survey Reveals Increasing Demand Despite Concerns about the Economy."

See link, http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/century-21-real-estate-first-time/story.aspx?guid=%7BF8722CBD-30C6-4840-9034-4C348756982B%7D

(I know it's long, but wasn't sure if I could post a twitter shortened link in this space?)

but I'm also selectively releasing it to key blogosphere opinion leaders such as yourself because I understand the value of your media enterprise in the new news distribution paradigm.

Best Regards,

Matt Gentile, Director, PR
Century 21 Real Estate LLC

Stefania

That's true!
I'm a journalist who had to move to marketing. I've been working for a company where I tried to introduce the story-telling approach to advertise our products, but it's very hard: Managers are not always ready to accept this new concept and they often try to turn true stories into some kind of "advertorials" using claims instead of titles and abused expressions...

Adam Swarr

Your comments give me hope David! I'm a formers news reporter trying to break into the marketing world, with no luck to this point. Maybe instead of sending potential employers my resume I'll just sent them a link to this blog.

David Meerman Scott

Adam, keep the faith. You might want to create your own site or blog with links to your work. David

Kevin McCormick

David, very inspiring post! I've been following your posts for quite some time. I am a former PR manager for a Detroit auto company who left in November and hired myself out to show companies how to share their messages in a new way, using your principals in "The new Rules of Marketing & PR."

It's early in my transition, but the signs are very encouraging; I have several clients and am busier than I expected to be at this point.

Keep spreading the (new) truth and I'll keep being a fan. Thanks for what you do!

Barbara Grace

Yes, yes, yes. I work in educational marketing and believe the opportunities to share stories and create dialogue helps break down institutional barriers. To date, educational marketing meant brochures and quarterly journals written in dry, uninspiring tones. Good copy that establishes connections is an opportunity for schools to get more creative, journalists to do what they do well and families to gain inspiration and knowledge.

Nettie Hartsock

Great post David. I find that my decade as an online journalist has really gifted me in so many opportunities on the Dark Side! And it's wonderful to have both sides of experience to draw from.

Peter Spielvogel

There is an old sales adage "fact tell, stories sell." So, hiring a journalist who knows how to tell a compelling story is a great way to build a strong marketing team.

Thanks for all your insightful posts.

Brett Duncan, MarketingInProgress.com

Isn't everything an open letter now? (j/k)

Perfect idea, and I'd have to think this type of employment could at least be more lucrative overall. If content is king, then great content is master of the universe. Journalists have that kind of potential.

Your post has me thinking of who I should think of hiring . . . .

JeffB

David:
You've nailed it! In fact, I've started an agency to do precisely the kind of "new journalism" you are describing. Brady Media Group in Dallas. We are developing a network of freelance and part-time journalists and photojournalists to offer these services to our clients. Hire the 'professional story-tellers' to develop the content for your site.
So far, the response has been pretty overwhelming.
- jeff b -

David Meerman Scott

@jeffb - congrats. You should have a great career with this new agency model.

Raj Chotrani

Folks:

1. How do I identify companies that are in the "mood" to hire "brand journalists"?

2. I guess there are a lot of corporate in-house marcom people out there who're still stuck with the "old rules", even though the companies they work for have started to think in terms of "new rules". How are we, the "new rules" folks, manage our relationships with such obsolete peers and managers? Suggestions please.

atul chatterjee

I've worked as a journalist and more importantly for about a month I simultaneously tracked the Washington Post, The New York Times and The Guardian. Generally journalists write clean prose without mistakes.
As far as producing great stuff is concerned a lot depends upon the subject.
Even if the subject matter is not great a good journo will produce good copy most of the time, once in a while great copy.
This ability of being able to produce steady output is the greatest quality of a journo.
As far as the statement that journos are able to write for a specific audience, I have some doubts about that. An ad copywriter would be better at that.

Aaron Davis

This is exactly what I was looking for! My family owns a brick and mortar professional continuing education company and I took it online last year(internetce.com). Then, a couple months ago, I started our corporate blog to provide relevant content for my customers (continuingeducationjournal.com).

I enjoy writing, and believe that I am fairly good, but I'm relatively young and inexperienced, when it comes to the actual product my company sells. Further, I have so many other responsibilities when it comes to running the company that I find it very difficult to devote ample time to produce the articles I know we need. I know, with out reservation, that there are journalists and writters that have a breadth of knowledge and skills that my customers would find useful, however I am stumped on how much to pay said writers for their services.

I studied business in school, thus my mind returns to ROI at every turn...but I'm not convinced that this is the best model to use for hiring a journalist to help.

Is it hourly?
Is it per article and how much?
Is it based upon traffic generated?

Am I even in the ballpark?

Many thanks to everyone!

Chris Wilkins

I can say, as a journalist working for a large corporation, that writing is nowhere near as much fun or as interesting as doing proper journalist work. Sure, being a journalist can also be tedious at times. But when involved with a company that over-uses marketing-speak, it can become a tad more frustrating.

So I pose another question that has been touted around the internet, that of micropayments. Is this a viable solution to the problem of thousands of sacked journalists?

If ad driven content worked, then surely these same thousands of journos would fire up a blog, put on adsense, and then away they would go. But this isn't happening.

And "free" obviously doesn't work either. An unemployed journalist will chose to starve for only so long, keeping their blog going, before they go and find another job that pays the rent.

But what if they were paid a cent or two for, say, an article they spent the better part of a day researching and writing? Would this be totally unfair, or in fact be the answer.

Okay, okay. The technology hasn't been created for this. I am more addressing the overall concept.

So what do you think? I for one would seriously think about stepping back from corporate communications in favour of such a method.

David Meerman Scott

Chris

Sure, micropayments is another business model. But I do not think that it will "solve" the problem.

Many thanks for your comment.

Ron Miller


David,

The kind of writing you advocate sounds like less marketing than White Papers (which I've done), and for a freelancer like me, can be part of an overall diverse writing skill set. Anyone would be foolish to dismiss this type of opportunity out of hand. I've survived and thrived as a freelancer for more than 20 years by continually looking for new opportunities to use my skills and I would certainly look at any opportunity like this if it came my way.

It makes little sense to have rigid ideas about work. I've found that by diversifying across different types of writing and a broad client set, you can continue to work even when the economy goes bad (as it has several times throughout my long career). I'm still standing because I'm always willing to embrace new ideas and skills.

David Meerman Scott

Ron, you are my poster child for someone who has made a transition in how you think.

However, I do think it is more than white papers. It could be blogging, YouTube videos, podcasts, photos, charts, graphs and many other types of content.

Ron Miller

Thanks. I like being a poster child. :-)

I understand it's about embracing different types of writing and all of the new social media as it becomes available. I was simply referring to White Papers because I know lots of freelance journalists who write these at part of their repertoire. If you are OK with that, there is really no reason you shouldn't embrace the type of writing you espouse here because it's even less marketing oriented than White Papers.

Ron

www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61012901

Funny, I've just been hired by a company to do just that. If you find a company whose products interest you and whose stance you share, this can be a particularly interesting job to have.

I'm certainly enjoying it!

David Meerman Scott

Paula - let us know how it works out after a few months!

twitter.com/23Kazoos

David, this advice not only applies to journalists, but anyone who has found themselves in an industry that is suddenly becoming extinct.

It's time to reinvent ourselves, and adapt and adjust to the changing environment. There are huge opportunities out there, but we have to open our eyes and be open to change. The possibilities are endless! Enjoy!


Thanks for your great advice!

Wendy Kenney
http://www.23kazoos.com


Fiona Cullinan

Smart brands hire bloggers to tell stories not to create marcomms.

I used to be a trad journalist, now I'm Grant Thornton UK's blogger.

But my job is not to write about their accountancy and audit skills. That's marcomms.

My job is to find interesting, engaging and relevant stories on the web and bring them to Grant Thornton's audience of business leaders and HNWIs.

I also amplify relevant company data - new research reports which they have commissioned and are relevant to the audience.

The analogy of a blogger being a dog sticking its head out of a car window and going 'That's interesting, look at that, now look at that new thing,' and so on, is a good one.

I agree with @BradBrooks above:"If you start with "What can I say that will teach, inform, encourage or help?" the tone changes completely."

I also agree with @Lorraine - it seems simple but it is a HUGE transition too. Internet culture is very very different and the only way to get to grips with that is to join in. Start a blog, learn your chops, join social media and engage with it. If you don't you will revert to traditional journalism and that style put online can be like reading a 19th century newspaper!

I'm probably preaching to the converted here though - if you're commenting on a blog post, you know the score I'm sure. :)

Now if only I could get a tourist board or travel company to hire me to tell the wider stories of their product with editorial freedom and final sign-off... but most are still stuck in trying to get their stuff into dying newspaper travel sections. Believe me, I've tried. I don't think they are there yet - though posts like this hopefully will help wake them up!

David Meerman Scott

@Fiona - Many thanks for sharing your story. Keep up the great work. David

Fiona Cullinan

@david - Erk. Hope I didn't sound 'me me me', was actually just trying to say that you don't have to sell your soul to the dark side when working for a brand, but that there are companies out there who understand their clients don't need/want marketing copy.

Maureen Fischer

David, I'm a former journalist now positioning myself as a freelance PR/Social Media strategist, which is suddenly helping me find project work. I have two clients (a retailer and a painting contractor) who want me to implement a social media plan for them. I'm looking for a way to manage their social media efforts from my office, rather than traveling to theirs. I want to send their Tweets etc. from my computer each evening but have it look like it's coming from them. Is there a software package that would allow me (with my client's permission) to Tweet from my office by connecting remotely to one of their computers? So it looks like they're doing it? How does this work technologically? My husband suggested PC Anywhere but that's a pretty old system. Your thoughts?
Thank you
Maureen@MaureenInk.com

Wayne Collins

I have a journalism degree and I've been a daily newspaper reporter and magazine writer.
I agree that journalists have a lot to offer in today's social media environment.
Getting the average client to understand the process of writing clearly and effectively, however, is often quite a challenge.
There are a few clear differences between a marketing journalist and a news journalist.
1. News journalists don't have clients with agendas and they don't need the subjects of their stories to sign off before publication.
2. Journalists (should) use more than one source for a story and that should be an opposing viewpoint to the one presented, in order to give a good picture of the complete story. Clients in business, however, would only consider secondary sources who are non-competing and who completely support the company's own message.
3. One news definition I learned long ago is this: News is something that somebody somewhere doesn't want you to print - the rest is advertising.
As a journalist I often found myself going back to that definition on a daily basis to keep me in line.
4. News must be timely, current, and relevant. Marketing should be all three as well, but it is not a law set in stone in the business world.
5. Journalists don't use adjectives too often. They shouldn't anyway. Marketing requires adjectives. That's what I've discovered from clients anyway.
6. Journalists who write marketing and advertising should no longer consider themselves journalists. I call myself a marketing communications journalist nowadays but the reality is that I am no longer a journalist in my opinion. Once I decided to write marketing, I knew I'd compromised my objectivity. I write with an agenda. For a true journalist, the only agenda is getting the facts straight and writing the truth.
Marketing is, for the most part, the truth but it is also slanted in one direction - and that is in the client's best interests.
There's more but I've gone on too long now. Besides, I don't know how objective I am about all of this anymore.
Wayne

David Meerman Scott

Wayne, While what you say is technically true, we are in a different world when any company can (and should) become a publisher.

Brand Journalism as I call it is about companies telling stories. It is about informing customers, employees, partners, and yes - even the media.

I think the more you dig into these ideas, the more the boundaries you describe break away - at least when brand journalism is done well.

David

DanielBurstein

Hey David,
I see you say you're trying to recruit brand journalists, well we're looking for a good one. Know of any?

Well, perhaps more a journalist about brands would be a better fitting description. Someone open-minded. Someone who can create interesting information online. Someone savvy enough to read David Meerman Scott.

The job title is "reporter" and the job description can be found here -- http://bit.ly/MktgJobs

Normally I wouldn't post something perceived as spammy, but searching for a good journalist seemed in the spirit of this blog post...and perhaps a good resource for your readers?

Thanks.

David Meerman Scott

Daniel -- interesting. I'll tell a few people about the job.

Alice C.

Great post! I went over to the Dark Side 5 years ago. Recently a friend who still works at my old paper told me she was reading my blog and felt out of it because she didn't know anything about "content".
I told her that wasn't true - that content is really just reporting with a little Internet thrown in.

The bigger challenge is often convincing employers of what you're saying. "Media talent", as we are referred to, can be seen as distrustful or haughty. That wears off after a while, but getting your first non-journalim gig can be tough.

Renay San Miguel

David,
I notice that your "open letter" was written on my birthday in 2009 - about the time that I was starting to provide content marketing for my current employer, Splash Media, a social media marketing agency in Dallas.
Now I'm chief content officer here, and I'm getting the chance to not only work with some very smart and dedicated people, but also to practice ideas I'd had about blending news-style information with business marketing goals. This opportunity came after spending 30 years in journalism, with the last 10 of those spent at the national level as a tech reporter/anchor for CNBC, CNN/CNN Headline News and CBS MarketWatch.
Last October I wrote a blog post about my personal journey to the "dark side"..funny how it's much brighter on this side of the fence!
http://www.splashmedia.com/resources/blog/the-social-media-minute-for-october-22-2010/#more-2649
Thanks for retweeting your letter; I hope other recovering journalists see it and find their opportunities to keep telling stories.

Elkirkmo

As a professional journalist who turned to the dark side, let me just say it's not as rewarding as you might think. Part of the draw of being a journalist is the adventure of it all. Very few jobs offer the constant change of scenery, the chance to meet so many interesting people, the freedom to essentially work outdoors and a desk job at the same time. Aside from the lousy pay, it's one of the best gigs out there. But I've been working "brand journalism" for a year or so now, and it just feels soulless and forced. It lacks the energy and excitement that the old job had (Although the pay is slightly better). That being said, I'm sure there are great opportunities out there that are less evil than the company that I worked for.

David Meerman Scott

Alice -- Interesting that comment from your friend the reporter. They are content creators which is why they make such good additions to a marketing department.

Renay - Yes, this is an older post but one of my most popular. Thanks for sharing your story. It's so exciting to meet people like you who have successfully made the transition.

Elkirkmo - I read a stat that 12,000 people lost jobs in journalism in the USA in 2009. I forget where... If that (or something like it) is true, I am on a mission to have all of them employed by companies. I know many people doing EXACTLY what they used to do. Someone contacted me from Boeing to say they were flying to the UK to cover an air show. Your career is what you make it. No excuses for not doing something exciting.

Joshua Ninke

Quite interesting. I'm a broadcast news student about to graduate. I'm looking for work as a reporter and it seems like there are some jobs available, but not everyone is looking for a rookie straight out of college. I'm constantly looking for new opportunities and probably wouldn't turn down an offer for a job like this. Not quite what I saw for myself a few years ago, but a job is a job.

Kate Hayes

Love this article...just wish all PR/marketing agencies felt this way. I was a TV news reporter/anchor for 5 years, then a hospital PR & Marketing manager for 3 years. Now that I've started looking into agencies, it seems they all want someone who already has agency experience. They seem to overlook the fact that I was raised on video production, can swing incredibly fast turnaounds, and know how to tell a hell of a story...and in PR & marketing, I think those are incredibly valuable skills. Sometimes I am stunned at how long it takes the corporate world to produce things that TV people can do in a day. Former journalists are definitely undervalued.

שולחן מנהל

Nice post! I agree with you regarding opportunity at dark side. There are lots of opportunity but no safety for the future and any moments.

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