In this guest post, Lauren Quaintance (pictured below), co-founder and head of content at Storyation, argues it’s time journos and marketers were less adversarial and worked to find a common ground…
You could say journalism was my first love. I started reporting for a children’s news agency on my local paper when I was 11. By the time I was 27 I was living in New York and on a clear autumn day that September I was faced with the biggest assignment of my career. I loved everything about journalism; the heart-quickening pace, the craft of long-form writing and the chance to do some good.
So when the financial model that underpinned the media business disappeared – almost overnight – I was distraught. As the revenue from classified advertising vanished so too did media jobs. In 2012 no fewer than 1,000 journalists in Australia (or 15 per cent of the workforce) either voluntarily or unwillingly became redundant.
Even though the last decade of my media career was spent in editorial management rather than as a writer, it was sobering to see the industry losing a vast well of talent. The best journalists are both natural reporters (sharp interviewers and dogged researchers); and gifted writers who can make even the most mundane topic poetic.
When I co-founded Storyation back in 2013 it seemed natural to me to harness some of that talent to work for brands by building the best network of content creators in Australasia. I had been briefing journalists who worked for me at Fairfax Media to write content for brands for many years but when I started working on branded content outside the Fairfax network, I admit I was surprised at how little marketers understood about journalists and vice versa.
Here’s what I’ve learned in four years:
1. Brands and journalists need an intermediary
Marketers and journalists don’t speak the same language yet. At Storyation we have experienced editors who distill the briefs we get from brands into a form that journalists can understand. We’re also here to sift out the story ideas from journalists that are not on brief and to massage content to fit with a brand’s tone and style.
2. Brands should not expect journalists to write a puff piece
If you want ‘content’ that is essentially a long list of the benefits of what you are selling then don’t engage a journalist. But if you want engaging copy about a subject that genuinely speaks to an audience need or passion then you need journalists – and just as importantly editors – with experience in connecting with large-scale audiences.
3. Journalists will interview real, live people
This might seem obvious but surprisingly enough some marketers have not thought about this. If you don’t want talent in your stories (experts and real people) then you are better placed using a copywriter because you are essentially rewriting press releases or brochure copy.
4. Subject matter expertise is everything.
Every day our editors are tasked with finding the right person for the right job. We believe that deep expertise in a subject such as superannuation or cancer or family travel is essential to creating create content. When we get it right that’s when the magic happens.
5. Journalists need to expect to be held to a higher standard
That’s right – a higher standard of research and referencing is often required by brands who have compliance teams even though long before so anyone getting out of journalism and into content marketing expecting an easy ride need not apply.