[Full disclosure: I am a graduate of journalism school and a 20-year veteran of print journalism as a writer and editor.]
I attended a presentation by marketing speaker David Merman Scott in Florida last week and to my surprise (and delight) he urged the audience to all go out and hire a journalist for their online content needs.
It was an audience of real estate brokers/owners - top performers invited to the annual Chairman’s Circle held by CENTURY 21 Canada. (Full disclosure: I blog for CENTURY 21).
Who’s Writing the Content?!
These busy brokers - professionals trained in selling properties, working with mortgages, home inspectors and like - are NOT editors or writers. Naturally, they related to a business pain expressed by Meerman Scott not only in person, but in his blog WebInkNow:
“…how can we actually create all this content you’re talking about: e-books, white papers, blogs and the like? We have a small marketing department and very little budget.”
The comments left at this blog post were as interesting as the post. For example, David Leland wrote:
“ I moved from journalism to marketing about 15 years ago, and clients always look to me for compelling, fact-based copy — with a compelling message. Oh, on time…!”
Digital Immigrants vs. Digital Natives
Obviously, as a seasoned journalist, I know the value of hiring someone with excellent writing skills - not only accurate and error-free but writing quickly and effectively in language exactly targeted to the readers.
BUT… what about those great, experienced journalists who are “digital immigrants” -i.e. they:
- Aren’t savvy to the styles of web writing (and how that differs from magazine or newspaper)
- Don’t know how to write with SEO to get the content found online and ranked high by Google
- Aren’t up to speed on using social media to disseminate their writing?
OK, so no problem, you think - I’ll go hire a “digital native” journalist…
Oops, now you’re facing a new set of limitations: Namely, a deficiency of proper grammar, sloppy English, spelling mistakes and a general depth of knowledge that they bring to the writing.
What to do?? As what I suggested to some of the brokers who asked my advice in Florida last week, consider hiring TWO people - part-time or contract should suffice for many businesses:
- Digital Immigrant but Seasoned Journalist: To write Case Studies, E-books, White Papers to go on your website. These are powerful ways to spread value-add content through the Internet/blogosphere. Invest in some basic web writing training for this hire so he/she can help write the company blog, too.
- Digital Native: To set up accounts at social media sites (YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), to upload digital assets to these profiles and maintain them.) You likely have a Gen-Y employee who is a rabid fan and user of social media - tap into that passion, which might be lacking in your older employees.
Look Beyond Print Journalists
Experienced writers, reporters and editors of magazines and newspapers are a great bet for generating online content for your company… but don’t rule out other types of journalists.
Radio and TV journalists (not the talking heads who wear lots of makeup as anchors behind desks) are great at getting the right quote, fleshing out a story, digging for details, and pulling it altogether as a cohesive, compelling story.
(I’d stay away from new grads from J-schools and definitely away from self-taught writers!)
Anyway you slice it, hiring a professionally trained and experienced journalist makes great sense at a time when Content is Online and King.