Can journalists write great marketing content?


David Meerman Scott clearly thinks so. In his latest post, he says:

“At every speech I give, I suggest one of the best ways to create great Web content is for companies to hire a journalist, either full or part time, to create it. Journalists (print or broadcast) are great at understanding an audience and developing information that buyers want to consume.” (My emphasis).

On a similar subject, Roy Greenslade at The Guardian points to former Sunday Telegraph editor Sarah Sands in her Independent on Sunday column:

“Once I stopped being a newspaper editor, I began to notice a discrepancy between the sorts of things journalists were interested in and what their readers liked. Journalists like crime and politics and sex. Readers care about gardening and, as it turns out, singing. The BBC series The Choir … has been one of the best things on television. There has been little fuss about it in the press, but at the school gates and in the garden centre it is very big news.”

Last year I was discussing an editorial promotion with one of the big financial trade mags – the ad sales guy was giving me the full sales pitch about reader demographics – I asked the editor for the rationale behind the editorial feature our client was being asked to support ie what rational basis did he have for choosing the subject matter. He cheerfully admitted it was “a gut feel” and he didn’t really know much about his readers at all. You could hear the ad guy audibly wince as we decided that perhaps this wasn’t something that we’d recommend our client spending thousands on – given the lack of hard evidence.

In summary, I don’t think journalists are automatically great at understanding audiences (and neither are PR and marketing people for that matter). I’ve often found that when journalists write PR or marketing copy they often produce something they think the customer wants ie full of the jargon and buzzwords they get subjected to themselves. Or when magazines try to do their own PR, it often falls into the traditional cliche they normally deride PRs for.

Truly understanding an audience is a lot harder than most people think – whether you are a journalist or a marketeer. However, proper investment in this area – backing it up with hard analysis and genuine listening – can reap rewards for hacks and flacks alike.

PR is “deader than the journalistic trade”: Mike Magee


Mike Magee, founder of The Inquirer, co-founder of The Register and one time editor of PC Business World, has penned a rather amusing departing shot from Incisive Media. In a self described “final act of ennui”, he gives us the definitive Guide to Modern 21st Century Journalism.

He has seven rules for the budding tech hack (reproduced in full below). As Peter Kirwan says, it’s a sensible rant against Google-driven hackery.

Rule 1 did get me thinking though:

Totally ignore PRs. The PR profession is deader than the journalistic trade. What place is there for an agency PR person when all the vendors throw up press releases instantly copied by serried ranks of “data gatherers” so cutting out the middle bunnies?

Amidst the satire, there is a serious point about the role of a PR agency today. Clearly there is a role to be played, but it almost certainly doesn’t resemble the PR stereotype of yesteryear. Sadly for Mike, it will involve knowledge of SEO, analytics, etc – but should still include the basics of good content skills and media relationship talent. And personally speaking, I don’t see why booze needs to be cut out of the equation.

Finally, as Intel and AMD’s PR departments break open the champagne, Mike says he will be “at his wit’s end at the end of the month at what to do”. I think the Coach and Horses beckons – for old time’s sake.

Those rules in full:

Rule 1 Totally ignore PRs. The PR profession is deader than the journalistic trade. What place is there for an agency PR person when all the vendors throw up press releases instantly copied by serried ranks of “data gatherers” so cutting out the middle bunnies?

Rule 2 A Modern Journalist never leaves the office, never has a drink, unless it’s a non-alcoholic Pimms, never double checks a story, never takes a chance, and has a pathological fear of a telephone unless the Health and Safety Inspectors clean the mouthpiece and earpiece every morning before the tidy world begins.

Rule 3 Google is the robotic news editor which rules the roost towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century. A Modern Journalist can do nothing except spur Adsense sales by endlessly re-writing stories that appear on Google News, which may never have actually been broken by anyone but first processed by the more important class of “data gatherers” who get early access to the er, press release.

Rule 4 The Modern Journalist never “breaks a story”. That would court the ire of the serried ranks of news management spinners and would breach Rule 2 to boot. Plus, even if a story fell into her or his hands, it would have to be “gathered” and then “processed” through the serried ranks of lawyers who act as an expensive filter to ensure that no boat is rocked.

Rule 5 The Modern Journalist must have gone to “journalist school”, where she or he will be taught all the tricks of the trade, such as sitting in serried ranks, never going out, never using the phone, re-cyling the endlessly re-cycled, and shamelessly cohorting with legions of other “professionals” such as people that went to “PR school” and those that drink non-alcoholic Pimms. They must be taking other stuff to get them high, surely? An old-fashioned hack would never do that. We think.

Rule 6 Show your adherence to 21st Modern Journalism standards by mouthing marketing slogans in your copy at every turn. If you have a news editor, and she or he wants you to “break stories”, complain through levels of the organisation that you’re being pressured and abused because she or he is complaining that you’re just recycling either press releases or re-cycled chunks from Google News.

Rule 7 Make sure you ignore this so 20th century saying: “You cannot hope To bribe or twist, thank God! the British journalist. But seeing what The man will do unbribed, there’s no occasion to. – Humbert Wolfe, Over the Fire” Accept bribes gracefully.

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