Let me tell you what the difference is between a publisher, a media house, a content studio, and a digital agency these days. Nothing.
“No agencies have the breadth of content that we have,” says Accenture Interactive’s head of digital content, Donna Tuths. Even as I digested the impressive stats for the management consulting firm’s in-house agency – 5 000 full-time staff producing $600m worth of content per annum – I mulled over the word ‘breadth’.
In the quest for an ever bigger slice of our clients’ marketing budgets, we’re all creating content across multiple formats – print, digital, experiential. Breadth? That’s just about throwing more money and resources at the project. But depth of content, now that’s a little harder to achieve.
Adding depth to your content is about digging for the stories, drilling deep down into the brand’s history and narrative, dusting off angles that resonate with your audience. (And over-extending metaphors, clearly.)
No one is better at digging for stories, even branded stories, than a journalist.
When we started our content studio three years ago, we hired a handful of solid, can-write-on-just-about-any-topic-in-any-format, mid-level content writers. It served us well in the beginning, but as our brands’ editorial pillars became more defined and often more niche, we needed to bring in the heavy artillery: the old-school journos.
Here’s why you need a journalist on your content team, whether you’re handling content in-house or through an agency:
- Journos are your storytellers. They don’t tell the stories the brand manager wants to share, but rather the ones the fans and followers are interested in.
- Journos are your fact-checkers. They’d rather die by a 1 000 tiny paper cuts than use a tweet as a source, and they treat Wikipedia with suspicion.
- Journos thrive in a deadline-driven environment. Once you’ve worked at a daily newspaper, you achieve headline-churning-Jedi status for life.
The good news is that since the great cull of 2013-14, when Media24 and Times Media sent almost 600 editorial staff packing, there are plenty of experienced journalists looking for a new challenge. Why not content marketing?
At Content Candy, about half our content team has a journalistic background and most Monday mornings kick start with an editorial ‘brandstorm’, not a status meeting.
Just last month we produced:
- An investigative piece on how Brexit has affected the National Health Service
- An 8-page interview with the CEO of a major corporate benefits provider on the future of employee engagement
- A documentary about a ground-breaking social agency’s first 10 years in business
- A six-module, 10 000 word-strong e-learning course for a tech start-up
You can’t Google the source material for this kind of rich, thought-provoking custom content. You plan it out, start digging and then interview stakeholders. You might even – gasp – pick up the phone to get the info you need. Journalists are good at picking up phones. They even LISTEN TO VOICEMAILS, gasp.
And it turns out that you can teach an old newshound new tricks. Most experienced journalists speak Twitter fluently, are perfectly adept at formatting content for digital and can upload to a CMS like a pro. (They still mutter about rogue apostrophes and sloppy fact-checking, though.)