What Journalists Can Learn from Content Marketers

What Journalists Can Learn from Content Marketers

In this guest piece, regular B&T columnist, Storyation’s head of content, Lauren Quaintance (pictured below), argues content creators can learn plenty from their equivalents over in the marketing department…

Not long after I made the move from a media company to start a content marketing agency I wrote a piece for Marketing Magazine called ‘5 Things Brands Can Learn from Journalists’. My point was that creating content that audiences want to consume doesn’t necessarily come naturally to career marketers. Brands need to act more like publishers and drop the sales pitch in favour of entertaining, inspiring or informative content that aligns with their purpose and values.


I’ve spent the last three years evangelising for utilising editorial thinking in content marketing. I’ve talked about it in blog posts, in client workshops and on dozens of conference stages  Everything I wrote in that post three years ago still rings true, but I’ve also come to believe that marketers can teach journalists a thing or two.

Know your audience

At Storyation, we occasionally still come across marketers who only have basic demographic information about their audience but mostly they are working on developing better insights. Audience personas are absolutely critical to creating content that emotionally – or rationally – connects with your customer. Media companies, in my experience, rarely invest in uncovering sophisticated behavioural insights. Or if they do then those insights are not used by journalists on the editorial floor. We never really knew exactly who was reading the politics section of The Age or the travel section of The Sydney Morning Herald.

The power of strategy

The truth of the matter is that publishers aren’t nearly as strategic as you might think. Partly that’s a culture thing. When Kim Williams was CEO of News Limited in Australia he talked about the “Royal order of the tummy compass” which is the idea that senior media people love to rely on gut instinct.

Content marketers on the other hand know that every blog post, infographic or video needs to be aimed a particular segment, persona or phase of the customer purchase journey. (Which is not to say that there should not be room to take a risk; content marketers would do well to adopt Coca Cola’s approach where 10 per cent of content is reserved for high risk ideas.)

Think harder about distribution

When you work for a traditional media company that has been a destination for millions of people wanting news and information for a century or two, it’s no surprise that you might be complacent about distribution. That’s changing of course as publishers become more and more reliant on social platforms like Facebook for traffic – and journalists are increasingly judged on the size of their social audience – but brands who have to earn the trust of their audience post by post generally have a razor-sharp focus on how their content will be found.

No less powerful a force than marketing guru Seth Godin has said that the future of content marketing depends on hiring editors – not brand managers. “Real content marketing isn’t repurposed advertising,” he says “it is making something worth talking about.” And that’s true, but the reality is that to flourish in an organisation with a focus on the bottom line content marketing needs to be underpinned by solid insights and to be measurable. The ideal content marketer is both strategic and creative – those are the skills that will define the discipline.

Lauren Quaintance is co-founder of Sydney content strategy and creation agency Storyation She is also a former managing editor and general manager at Fairfax Media. 

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