Meaningful marketing Five lessons marketers can learn from journalists By Matt Sailor

Nov 28, 2016

Hardly a week goes by without grim news about layoffs in the media industry. But as traditional journalism careers dry up, opportunities are expanding in marketing and brand communications. At AHA, we’ve been hiring journalists for our creative teams for years. We know journalists have the secret sauce to create richer, more meaningful communications that audiences can’t ignore.

Here are five reasons you should add journalists to your team:

 

1. They get to the point.

It’s the first lesson any journalism student learns in college—after getting that first assignment marked up with a sea of red ink. Don’t use two words where one will do. Journalists are experts at finding just the right words to express an idea and cutting the rest.

 

2. They’re experienced relationship builders.

The stereotype of the gritty, hard-nosed journalist notwithstanding, journalists are great with people. They have to be. Forming relationships and earning trust from sources on their beat is the only way to get the story and ensure that they’ll get the next one too. In the process, they become students of human nature. Journalists are attuned to the fears and motivations that drive decision-making—an indispensable skill for a marketer.

 

3. They ask the right questions.

Maybe you need to extract extremely technical background information from subject-matter experts. Maybe you need a partner who will ask probing questions that help zero in on the core idea for your campaign. Journalists are masters of the art of interviewing. They build their careers on their curiosity, going beyond the obvious to the questions that cut to the heart of an issue.

 

4. They sweat the details.

I’ve had half-hour conversations about the use of a comma. Why? Because I’m a journalist! This obsession with details goes back to print journalism, where space is literally worth money. You can’t afford to mess up with the typesetter breathing down your neck to make your deadline. In marketing communications, details too often fall by the wayside in favor of big ideas and flashy production. Journalists keep their eyes on the fundamentals. They are experts at ferreting out minute errors and making the small tweaks that make an entire piece suddenly work.

 

5. They put readers first.

Even some of the best writers out there don’t spend enough time thinking about the audience. They may be more interested in realizing their own vision or flexing their creative muscles. In the process, readers are pushed aside. But to the journalist, the reader is sacred. A journalist’s job is to give the reader information as accurately and efficiently as possible. Staying devoted to the reader leads to gripping, relevant, actionable communications, whether you’re writing a newspaper article, crafting a messaging system, building a brand or collaborating with others to create a corporate responsibility report.

 

Put all these together and what do you get? Meticulously polished, impeccably researched marketing communications that are as sharp as a front-page headline and as deep as an investigative report.

 

Matt Sailor

Matt is a writer’s writer and a client’s hero. He loves the interplay of words, and has a knack for developing a brand voice that rings true.

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Five lessons marketers can learn from journalists

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