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Why Every Marketer Needs to be A Journalist

Jun 14

journalist, marketing, social mediaWhen I made the leap from journalism to marketing, I got a lot of wisecracks from my newsroom colleagues. ‘Oh, you’ve crossed over to the dark side,’ they said. They wondered how I would be able to ‘sell things’ when so much of my career was focused on objective reporting.

But as a journalist I learned to be a storyteller, and that’s one of the most valuable skills I have as a marketer. Because these days, it’s not enough to talk about your products and services – you have to tell the story of your brand. A list of features and benefits won’t get you nearly as far as building an emotional connection with your prospective customers.

In today’s world, people demand to know more about the things they purchase, and especially the people they purchase them from. Why? Because they can. Now that a social media presence is becoming standard equipment for businesses, consumers can build a deeper connection with the brands they interact with. Today’s ‘marketing’ consists of daily conversation with customers on social channels. Those customers want to see the faces and hear the voices of the people behind your company. They want to read things you’ve written. They want to read things other people have said about you.

The difference between your website and your social media channels is that one is a tool for credibility, and the other is for authenticity. You still need a website to showcase your credentials and explain why you’re qualified – But your social media channels show a different side of your business, and yourself as the business owner. It’s the human side. Potential customers get to know you. And hopefully like you – which leads to buying from you.

But in order to build that connection, you must know how to tell your story. I use the same skill set I did as a journalist in my job as a social media marketer. Now, I just tell stories about businesses instead of fires and shootings.

I believe that every marketer (and yes, as business owners you are marketers!) has to be a journalist these days. They have to be able to pick out the parts of their story that will engage their target audience, and tell those stories in a way that builds an emotional connection.

Not sure how to do that? Just remember my favorite quote:

“Journalism never admits that nothing much is happening.” (Mason Cooley)

Something newsworthy is happening in your company right now. So, grab your reporter’s notebook and go find it!

Feature photo credit: @ katemichelle131




Katie is President of Katie Wagner Social Media. Before opening the agency, she spent more than 15 years as a journalist, working for CBS, ABC, Fox, CNN and National Public Radio. Katie works with clients across the country and is a popular public speaker.

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6 Comment to “Why Every Marketer Needs to be A Journalist”

  1. Great article Katie! Any advice for us beginner “reporters” on how to learn to think like a journalist? Is there a book you recommend or a good way to learn more?

    One of the most important phrases that you said is “…that will engage their target audience…” I find that so often businesses want to be all things to all people. Taking the time to get clear about who you want to read your articles is critical.

    Jun 15, 2012
  2. Mike,
    My best advice for thinking like a journalist is to always consider your audience – but it sounds like you already know that!
    So many people write about what THEY think customers should know about their business… instead, make a list of the FAQs you get from prospects, and answer those.

    It doesn’t matter how good your ‘story’ is if it doesn’t connect with your audience. So, always put their needs first.

    Two books I love:
    Content Rules by Ann Handley (another journalist)
    Heat & Light by Mike Wallace (60 Minutes)

    Jun 19, 2012

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