New & Next

Brand Newsrooms: What they are and how to build one

The buyer’s journey has changed, and that means marketing also needs to change. Now, the buyer is in control of his or her relationship with brands. Brands can continue to market the old-fashioned way, with interruptive marketing that tells the audience how wonderful their products or services are. However, that tactic will work less and less, as audiences’ tolerance of being “talked at” is quickly diminishing.

That’s why brands are embracing content marketing: the creation and distribution of journalistic, audience-focused content. With this change, brands are suddenly charged with creating a significantly higher volume of content; to be successful, they need a new approach.

Enter the brand newsroom concept.

But what exactly is a brand newsroom?

It sure isn’t the marketing department you’ve known all these years. A brand newsroom is designed to meet the new content need; it’s the organization that creates content and drives a brand’s publishing efforts. Here are three characteristics of newsrooms that are different from traditional marketing departments:

  • Newsrooms are fast moving. Decisions in a newsroom need to be made quickly. Getting approval from the general counsel’s office in two weeks won’t work. At least not if you want to be effective. Tension between the pace of business and the pace of content creation is just about inevitable. However, this does not mean you need to live on the razor’s edge all the time. Breaking news is only part of the job of a newsroom.Most marketers think that brand newsrooms are all about breaking news and capturing the moment. Blame this on the savvy marketing team for Oreo, which “won” the U.S. National Football League Super Bowl in 2013 with their “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet after a power failure in the arena. Yes, newsrooms need to move fast, but thinking that’s all they need to do is a disservice to the concept.
  • Newsrooms are unplanned.??Most businesses rely upon careful planning. Preparing for the quarter ahead is a big part of what they do. Logic and order reign supreme. However, that is not the case with newsrooms; they must react to external events in order to be successful. They are, by their nature,??unplanned. They excel when the plan gets tossed aside. A brand that wants to embrace a newsroom approach to content marketing and social media must be willing to allow the newsroom to break free of its plan when events warrant.
  • Newsrooms can be chaotic. For organizations accustomed to logical, straight-line processes, newsroom “procedure” can be a shock to the system. The reality is that chaos often drives creativity, particularly when there is heightened demand for both quality and quantity. There can be a built-in inefficiency in searching for stories, conducting research and keeping up with today’s pace of information, conducting interviews and then doing the actual content creation. Consider this: Red Bull, which has an hugely successful content strategy, has more than 100 full-time staffers working on their content effort. The best journalism comes from humans, not technology platforms, and humans can be inefficient at times. It’s difficult to get a newsroom running smoothly, with a regular rhythm, in a cost-effective way.

So, still interested?

If so, you’re going to need to hire some people. Not everyone in a traditional marketing department will make it in a brand newsroom; you need a different combination of skills and attitude. With that in mind, here are the positions you need to fill when creating your brand newsroom:

  • Editor-in-chief. This is the person in charge, who works with the director of marketing to set an editorial direction, and then spends each day ensuring that the editorial direction is fulfilled. This person needs to have a background in journalism, and have an understanding of what makes a story worth telling, and the mechanics of how best to tell it.
  • Journalist(s). Journalists are curious people. They ask questions; that’s how they learn details that enable them to tell great stories. They’re comfortable interviewing sources, have strong writing skills and are always seeking the more interesting and compelling story??behind??the story. Depending on the size of your team, you need at least one. As you build out the team, it’s best to have a combination of full-timers and freelancers, for flexibility in both budget and task completion.
  • Video producer. Everything is going towards video, particularly as the use of mobile devices to access information grows. But video must be well-produced—handheld videos taken with your smartphone are OK, but having a professional who can create high-quality video easily and efficiently gives you a significant leg up in the marketplace.
  • Graphic artist. More and more, user experience matters. That means sharp images and eye-catching layout and presentation. Having an artist on staff can help to make content pop.
  • Digital outreach professional. This is someone that can be part PR person, part SEO/SEM specialist and part social media whiz. It this person’s primary responsibility to grow the audience by pushing the content to where the audience can find it.
  • Community manager. Social media is a huge piece of content distribution. If you’re doing it properly, it can also be the front end of story ideation; by listening to the online conversation, great ideas will bubble up and your brand newsroom will be able to create content around the topics your audience cares most about.
  • Analytics pro. You can’t manage what you can’t measure, as the saying goes. Analytics enable you to manage the success of your brand newsroom. When you start, you’re guessing at what will work and what the audience wants. An analytics professional helps you do this.

Perhaps most of all, a brand newsroom is a new approach to marketing, and that means it requires a new mind-set. It usually requires some people with editorial sensibilities. Finding and leveraging that isn’t necessarily easy.

But it just might be the future of marketing.

John Miller

John Miller is the founder of Scribewise, a division of Trellist Marketing and Technology. Scribewise is an outsourced newsroom that helps its clients set and execute a world-class content marketing strategy. Follow him on Twitter at @ScribeMiller, and learn more about Scribewise at www.scribewise.com.

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