JOURNALISM IS THE NEW MARKETING DEGREE

Last week I came across an article — ‘Journalist to Run Its Branded Content Department’.

The opening sentence in it highlighted a ‘sarcastic motto among New York Times staffer’ — Journalism is the new marketing degree.

A day prior to reading this article, I was asked by a recruiter about my reasons to move to digital marketing from journalism.

The then (2010) burgeoning of social media platforms primarily in context of marketing and the desire to explore the multi-format, convergent new medium was my primary reason.

After a few months into digital marketing, however, I realized other similarities between the two industries.

1. STORYTELLING

Either with emphasis on facts or interpretation, journalism has always been about relaying stories and narratives about people, events and ideas. It is necessary to build a context in which events or ideas are reported or analyzed. This gives clues to readers about why should they care about a news item.

Contrary to one-dimensional presentation of a product/service in a print or a television ad, marketing in the digital age has evolved to include the brand story. Inspiration and vision of the company founders, process of product/service creation, employee experience, company culture, consumer opinions, product/service performance — these elements have to be tightly woven into a compelling and interactive story.

2. MORE THAN JUST A BUSINESS

The concept of ‘communities’ has become pervasive in journalism and marketing processes.

The internet provides free space for consumers to discuss their experiences and consult with each other. Journalistic and business success relies on the knowledge of consumer perspective and opinions.

It isn’t about simply buying a product or reading a news item. The journey of a consumer towards the product (or of a reader towards the news item) has become important.

Thus, a community has to be nurtured and grown by talking about this consumer journey and experience, expectations from product/services, and suggestions for improvements. This community is also a place to discuss the lifestyle the product/service caters, understand the aspirations and inspirations of community members and help them achieve it.

Journalists and marketers are showing unprecedented levels of investments and involvement in consumer experiences and preferences. Journalism has become more than just information and news. Marketing more than just propagating and selling goods and service. Value rich consumer experience is crucial.

3. AGENDA SETTING

Journalistic theory of ‘agenda setting’ propounds that media decides what news consumers think about (topic-wise) and how do they think about it i.e. they decide on the salience and valence of topics in public agenda.

Marketing campaigns in the digital age follow a similar principle. A successful digital marketing campaign is the one which makes the consumers think and talk about the brand in a specific way.

In the digital space, both journalism and marketing efforts are actively involved in public opinion formation. Knowing what you want your readers to take away and think about or what your consumers to experience and share is crucial in achieving your objectives.

The challenge often lies in the knowledge and clear expression of what you want out of a marketing efforts or a news package. Thus, clear understanding of agenda or objective is an important first step in journalistic publishing or marketing efforts in digital space.

4. CONTENT IS THE KING

A popular success mantra for online marketers.

Consumers on the internet are spoilt for useful, entertaining information.

For example, a fan community of an organic juice brand is not only concerned about the product and its performance but about general information related to organic food and fruit juice industry, its health benefits or drawbacks, latest scientific studies about it, current policies and changes, other consumer experiences with organic food products.

Content has expanded from brand singularity to encompass a lifestyle and belief. Most brands are invested in producing in-house, original content.

Working within a single theme and coming up with content with different ‘angles’ and thrusts is a core responsibility of journalists.

Content production by a digital marketer or a journalists thus follow a similar thought process — working within and retaining the big picture or theme, being aware of different stakeholders, knowing their concerns, interests and achievements, clear writing, and good grammar.

5. LISTEN TO YOUR AUDIENCE

This goes to the point of abandoning one-way communication and a passive, couch-potato image of consumers.

Digital consumers are active and aware. Online consumer conversations and conduct have invaluable insights embedded in them.

Journalists often cite using social media to keep in touch with the community, knowing the community pulse, and based on it coming up with news story ideas.

Job descriptions for a digital journalists or marketer profile often includes social listening skills, ability to tap into community pulse, and knowledge about social listening tools.

I am keen to hear your thoughts on this. Any other point of convergence between the two that occurs to you?

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