Making the Transition from Journalist to Marketer

I’ve seen several blog posts of late referencing the trend for PR and marketing agencies to hire journalists. Having recently made the transition myself, I’ve got some advice for journalists considering the move and agencies considering the hires. Seven reasons why journalists make good marketers

1) We understand the concept of audience. Any experienced editorial person knows one of the first questions you ask when you’re handed an assignment is this: Who’s the intended audience? We’re familiar with changing the format, tone and length, among other things, depending on the audience and where, when and why they’re reading our content. That skill is critical in marketing PR content development, as you might be crafting a contributed article for a trade pub, assembling a press release for the business press, editing a case study for prospective customers, creating pithy copy for a Facebook posting or writing a white paper for prospective business investors. Not only does the audience, tone and type of writing vary between each of these, you also need to understand the underlying messaging and the correct voice for the client.

2) We’ve been pitched articles by agencies. As a result, we can give our colleagues tips for what works (and what doesn’t). We’re also used to researching story ideas, and that’s often an easy way to start a dialogue with writers and editors on the media side. Having sat on the other side of the desk, we can tell you how the editorial process works, what we’re often looking for and what really turns us off. We also bring an assortment of media contacts to the agency, which usually gives us an inside edge on landing a story or nailing coverage for our clients.

3) We understand the need for context. No successful journalist would ever show up to an interview (or input session, as we call them here at Greenough), without doing our research. We’re used to casting the net very wide, then distilling that information to assemble the story. The first step in casting that net is a basic understanding of the company, its customers, the problem it’s trying to solve and the industry it competes in. We like doing research—it’s part of the journalistic process—and it’s critical in developing compelling and accurate marketing PR content.

4) We’re usually very detail oriented. What, exactly, does that mean? Three sets of skills rolled into one person: We’re expert proofreaders, solid copyeditors and seasoned fact checkers. I’ve worked with and for established publications, where fact checkers doubled back to verify my quotes, titles or statistics, but most of the time the job of fact checking my own work fell to me. This is critical when assembling materials for clients, which should be perfect.

5) We like variety. A journalist’s job is never boring. One day you’re writing a piece on weight training for Women’s Health; the next day you might be updating small business owners on the current lending market. We’re used to diving into a topic area, getting up to speed quickly, churning out an authoritative piece and moving onto the next topic. Sure, many journalists develop an expertise (or, if you’re coming from a newspaper background, a beat), but even within a particular subject matter we enjoy the variety of changing topics. We’re naturally curious, and we ask a lot of questions. Most of the time these skills translate nicely into understanding what our marketing PR clients need.

6) We like to write. Enough said.

7) We’re on top of the news. Part of a journalist’s job is spotting trends—and that means staying on top of current events. That skill translates perfectly to agency work, where finding opportunities for your client’s CEO, for instance, to comment on current events or trends is a nice win.

The #1 thing journalists need to know about working for an agency

1) The client is always right. Pleasing them comes first. Forget about writing the pieces you want to write—your job is to understand the client’s messaging and strategy, then craft the right words to relay that message across multiple channels and readers. Got something else to say? Channel your opinions to your personal blog or do freelance work.

Barbara Call is director of content for Greenough. She can be reached on email at bcall@greenough.biz or follow her on Twitter @BarbaraCall1