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Six Reasons Journalists Make Awesome Marketing Professionals

by Eric Sorrentino  |  
September 13, 2012

A few years ago, when newspapers around the country started laying people off and downsizing like it was going out of style, I began to question whether I chose the right career field.

I was five years out of college with a degree in journalism, working as a sports copy editor, and college football and basketball blogger. Sure, I went to school to pursue a career in journalism, but I did not anticipate the unstable condition of the industry. Your age or tenure, or how many awards you accumulated didn't seem to matter. If you worked in a newsroom during this time, your brain was programmed to expect the worst when it came to job security.

Seeing the writing on the wall, I began to think big picture. How long did I want to work in a decaying industry? What skills had I acquired that would translate well to another field? Did an industry aside from journalism exist for someone with my editorial and content-producing background?

I quickly realized the answer to my final question: marketing.

Working in journalism taught me how to write and edit content, engage with the audience, build credibility with the audience, and think like the audience. It turns out these skills are quite useful in the marketing arena as well. In October 2011, I became the social media manager at Grantham University in Kansas City, Mo.

Marketing is not what it used to be, not in the modern era of blogging, social media, and online reputation management. Organizations have realized the powerful impact of generating content and establishing themselves as a trusted source of information. Kind of like a newsroom.

Organizations used to create first impressions with their customers via phone calls or face-to-face meetings. Nowadays, first impressions are created through Google searches, Facebook pages, Twitter profiles, and blog posts.

Whether this shift to less formal communication is a good thing for society is up for debate, but one constant has remained: the quest to build trust with everyone who comes across your brand. That seems to be the common thread between journalism and marketing. That focus to provide customers with reliable information made my transition from journalism to marketing more comfortable.

With this in mind, here are six reasons why marketing professionals should take a hard look at journalists when recruiting talent.

1. Journalists have experience in being published online

Most journalists have had a portion of their work published online through blog posts and/or news stories. Their ability to write for and communicate with an online audience translates well to marketing.

Marketing managers won’t have to introduce industry topics, such as keyword optimization and strategic link building like they’re trying to explain a foreign language. Many journalists, particularly ones with blogging experience, already write with SEO fresh in mind. Everyone loves web traffic, right?

2. Journalists are well-versed in social media

Social media marketing plays an integral role nowadays in the overall strategy of an organization. Journalists---especially bloggers and beat writers---often are required to have an engaging and interactive social media presence to build trust in their communities. Sometimes, these social media profiles act as information highways for a particular topic. Journalists associated with these kinds of tasks are familiar with establishing credibility in the eyes of their community, something that marketers strive for as well.

3. Some journalists may carry editorial management experience

If marketing managers recruit a journalist with editorial management experience, it could sharpen a focus to become more organized with big-picture projects. For instance, journalists with management experience could lead brainstorming sessions for various campaigns/blog articles, compose a content calendar, or report on web traffic, leads and social media.

4. Journalists have a mindset that stresses convergence

One of the first things I learned as a professional journalist was to always think of the different types of content or media that could be packaged with my news story: blog posts, audio clips, podcasts, pictures, video clips, etc. This ability to think creatively translates well to marketing.

For instance, think of the different pieces of content that could work well with your latest blog post: calls to action, e-books, infographics, webinars, videos and related social media campaigns. Journalists have a background to think creatively and connect this kind of content.

5. Journalists are familiar with audience interaction

Journalists are encouraged to interact in a professional manner with community members in the comments section of their blogs and stories, and through social media channels. This experience will help greatly in the quest to preserve an organization’s online reputation.

6. Working on deadline is second nature to journalists

The mind of a journalist naturally operates with a certain section reserved for hitting deadlines. Every story or blog journalists write has a deadline associated with it. Of course, marketing projects come with strict deadlines as well, a pressure that journalists will be well-equipped to handle.

What would you add to this list? Feel free to let us know in the comments section.

Eric Sorrentino is the social media manager at Grantham University and the managing editor of the GU blog.

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Eric Sorrentino is the social media manager at Grantham University and the managing editor of the GU blog.

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  • by Gretchen Lembach Thu Sep 13, 2012 via blog

    Agreed, 100%. I've found that working with writers from other backgrounds isn't nearly as productive or efficient. Plus, former journalists are critical thinkers who can be valuable in other ways as marketers, such as challenging a strategy--and a client--where needed.

  • by Eric Sorrentino Thu Sep 13, 2012 via blog

    Hey Gretchen, I'm with you on this. Journalists can often answer the question, "How much will the audience care about this?" quite accurately, based on their news background. This can help with marketing campaigns designed to engage the audience. Thanks for your comment!

  • by Donna Cusano Thu Sep 13, 2012 via blog

    It's fascinating that you bring up the crossover--and it works the other way. I'm a marketer who is also a journalist and has been for three years as Editor North America of a healthcare technology news/opinion website based in UK, Telecare Aware ( It's been quite a learning experience for someone not professionally trained as such, but marketers are used to the big picture (I knit together various trends and articles into larger critiques), the founder set it up to be interactive and to embed video, and even though we are not a breaking news site, we have twice-weekly deadlines. I would only hope that others (as in employers) see the crossover as unique and valuable, as I'm one of those many experienced marketers who's trying to get full-time work in the field. (Frankly, the writing sometimes merely confuses them, but it has been an excellent way to learn about and stay in touch with eHealth.)

  • by Eric Sorrentino Thu Sep 13, 2012 via blog

    Hey Donna, I'm glad you commented because I had not thought of the crossover going in the other direction. It's a very interesting point, and I bet it works well, based on the expertise you provided. I can see the big-picture mind-set working to your advantage when picking out trends to analyze for stories and blogs. You can perhaps string that together for a print or blog series, or small section in journalism, much like you create eBooks in marketing. It's pretty amazing how similar the two fields are in big-picture thinking.

  • by Lori Turec Thu Sep 13, 2012 via blog

    We are very happy to have Eric on our marketing team. I would tell any CMO who is building a content-marketing strategy, to look to talented journalists!

  • by Rebecca Babicz Thu Sep 13, 2012 via blog

    Thanks for the post! It's pretty much my life story!

  • by Michael O'Daniel Thu Sep 13, 2012 via blog

    As a professional journalist of more than 60 years standing, having written for (and edited) many different types of publications, I believe the most valuable quality a journalist brings to the equation is the ability to draw people out and then listen to them and reflect accurately what they have told you. (I take pride in the fact that, while a subject may have objected to the point of view of an article, or the light in which he or she was portrayed, no one has EVER claimed that I misquoted him/her). This is skill that comes in quite handy when talking with stakeholders to gather the information necessary to create a branding or marketing strategy.

    Second and third would be the ability to dig for answers, coupled with the knowledge of where to find informed, reliable sources for those answers; and a reverence for the facts. If you don't have the facts, don't guess, and don't print opinion or speculation as fact. Unfortunately fact-checking is a lost art in today's blogosphere and I constantly see even experienced journalists for respected publications and websites publishing erroneous information that could immediately have been corrected had they just taken the time to look rather than worrying about beating someone else to the story.

    Just a bit of rambling from an alte kocker. (You could look it up if you don't know what it means... )

  • by Damien Ricaut Fri Sep 14, 2012 via blog

    I am glad to read your article because you are totally right. I am a former journalist and I want to work in social business. But it is impossible in France. Our companies are only looking for marketing specialists and they do not like to have different knowledges and skills. So, I will try to work in a foreign country!

  • by Eric Sorrentino Fri Sep 14, 2012 via blog

    Hey Michael, thank you for your insightful response. I greatly respect the fact that you've been a journalist for more than 60 years (and alte kocker is a classic phrase; one that I've heard countless times, but haven't seen spelled out!). I like the journalism/marketing correlations. I share your frustration with experienced journalists publishing erroneous information every now and then. It has to be a product of the modern age of instant breaking news, and the never-ending quest to be the first outlet to break the story. Twitter is becoming a quote source now (at least in sports), and I've known journalists who have been around for a long time who cringe at the thought. It's the day and age in which we live. Thanks again for posting, Michael. It made me think about a variety of interesting topics!

  • by amit Fri Sep 14, 2012 via blog

    agree with a lot of the comments here... is there a good way of recruiting a journalist for a position? I'm looking for someone in a PR/Communications role and seem to be getting more pure PR folks when I probably prefer the strong writing journalist type.

  • by Michael O'Daniel Mon Sep 17, 2012 via blog

    Amit, please give me more details and I can probably help you.

  • by Stanley Rao Fri Sep 21, 2012 via blog

    journalists are also critical thinkers like the marketers who can be valuable in many ways like a challenging a strategy–and a client–where needed.

  • by Fernanda Barros Thu Oct 18, 2012 via blog

    This article hits home for me. I graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism and I’ve been working in news since then. I find the news business to be one that brings out the best and the worst in me. I love telling the stories that people want to hear, but no so much the politics. Over the last few months I've been reading so many articles on the benefits of hiring a journalist for other jobs that I've decided to give it a try, but it's harder than I thought breaking into a new career. Many companies know that I have the skills of a writer (enough for a first interview) but no professional training in marketing. What am I doing wrong? Any suggestion is appreciated.

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