Why Every Company Needs a Journalist… for Online Marketing


“Journalist” according to Wikipedia: “A journalist collects, writes and distributes news and other information. A journalist’s work is referred to as journalism.”

It’s important to understand what I mean when I use the word. Many people hear the word and think of a “reporter” since most people who call themselves journalists today follow the news reporting line of the art. With that understood, let’s get right into it…

Every company who wants to reach the highest level of success in online marketing going forward needs to have someone acting as a journalist for the company. They needs someone who collects, writers, and distributes news and other information about the company, the industry, the customers, the local area – anything that has relevance from a marketing perspective. This hasn’t always been the case. Until very recently, a good SEO content writer would suffice as long as they had some skills to put together a nice press release every now and then. SEO content was all that you really needed to succeed.

Today and going forward, that’s no longer the case. That’s not to say that you don’t need SEO content. In most cases, you do, at least when getting your site put together. If you’re in a competitive industry like automotive, you’ll want additional SEO content pages to be built regularly just to stay ahead of the competition. To truly push forward and start dominating on both the search engines and social media, you’ll want to apply some journalistic art to your website and blog.

You need a journalist.

It doesn’t have to be a full-time job. It could be someone at the company who can do it occasionally. It can be you. If you’re involved with marketing at the company, it’s a great skill to have. It doesn’t take a degree from OU’s School of Journalism to get the job done. It just takes understanding your industry, a touch of creativity and brainstorming abilities, an eye for good content, and a willingness to stick to it.


No, a Content Writing Service Won’t Work

There are plenty of very strong and useful content writing services out there. Some of them put out great work. Most are mediocre, but even that’s okay as long as you can edit it a bit before publishing. The problem with these services is that they’re designed specifically to build SEO content. They rarely put out content that is worth reading and sharing which is the goal of your company journalist.

More importantly, they aren’t at your store. They aren’t there meeting and talking to customers. They aren’t shooting the breeze with the guy in accounting or participating in the March of Dimes walk like the girl in the service department. This is where the journalist comes in and it is hard (impossible?) to outsource.


The Journalist’s Role

The goal is to put out content that helps in four major areas:

  1. Search Rankings – Google and Bing need SEO content on the site to let them know the proper purpose of each individual page, but they love real content that people are willing to read and share. They can tell the difference between content that is meant for them and content that is truly meant to entertain or inform your visitors. This type of journalistic content can propel your other content to the top in ways that SEO content alone simply cannot do.
  2. Social Sharing – Nobody is going to share your specials page. They’re not going to share a piece of content written by an SEO content writer titled “Chevrolet Dealer Serving Madison Proud of Award Winning Models”. This content has its place, but it’s not going to find its way on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+ without some artificial inflation (which Google and Bing can smell from a mile away). What people will share is a piece of content at the same dealership titled “Everything We Know About the 2014 Corvette is Mind Blowing”. An outsourced content writer might be able to put out something decent, but then it won’t have the flair that your business demands. Make it special. Use a journalist. Be a journalist. If you know you’re industry, you can do it.
  3. Public Relations – Again, it takes someone at the store to take pictures and videos when you sponsor the local Social Media Saturday meetup. Yes, there are plenty of press release services out there that do a nice job, but they can’t put out the real content that is replacing the canned content that goes into press releases. Real people don’t read PRWeb. Real people won’t find the content that gets syndicated to Yahoo News except for the few weeks that it ranks well in Google. Blog and website content that sticks, that’s already associated with the company, and that you’ll have some measure of control over forever – that’s the place where real public relations starts in 2013? Why? See reason #2. Social media is the new public relations driving force, not press releases.
  4. Humanized Businesses – Today more than ever, people want to deal with other people. The business atmosphere is loaded with automated telephone service, autoresponder emails, and vanilla content that nobody reads. By adding the human flair of a journalist at the store posting pictures, videos, and stories at the store, on the blog, and across social media, you’ll be able to highlight the human factor that people consciously or unconsciously crave. They may not know why they prefer to do business with you, but after the transaction is complete it won’t matter. Now it’s time to keep them happy through ongoing service – a different topic altogether. You have to get them in the door, first. Humanizing your business is a step in the right direction for both you and your customers.

One of the most important parts of good journalism is to keep it as short as possible. On a topic like this, 1000 words simply won’t be enough, so proper journalist standards says that I need to break this up into parts. Part II of The Company Journalist Series will cover how to pick the right topics and give examples of what you should be posting on your site and blog to start building your content marketing goldmine.

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Leave a Reply


  1. You have described a marketer, not a journalist. The thing that makes it not journalism is that the person you describe is paid to promote the product and the company, not to find and determine truth.

  2. @Jonathan “Marketer” takes in a wide number of sub disciplines, and I agree that someone writing to promote a company would fall under this broad heading as well. But the point as I see it was to illustrate to difference between writing an engaging, company-specific story and simple content generation, a distinction with which I wholeheartedly agree. It is very difficult for a 3rd party to generate engaging stories on a frequent basis. I generally find that they lack personality – a critical element as it relates to the requirement articulated in point 4.

    While there is always some crossover in the various forms of writing, there are distinct differences in approach and style between, for example, advertising copywriting and blogging, between white paper authorship and journalism.

    And BTW, as to the journalist vs marketer thing, on the basis that a a journalist finds and determines truth rather than promoting something, there are probably very very few journalists left in the world these days!

  3. Great analogy, JD. I think as business start to turn into corporations or larger companies, they lose sight of how human their business used to be. Thankfully social media, blogging, and other inbound strategies are bringing the human back.

  4. nina

    “If you know you’re industry, you can do it.”
    Obviously, it was not a journalist or copy editor who wrote this. FYI it should be “If you know YOUR industry, you can do it.”
    Oh, and journos are supposed to be objective. Being employed by a “store” defeats that role.

  5. Thanks for the reply, Robin. I agree completely that someone involved in marketing needs to understand the company, and I agree that many of the skills involved in journalism are applicable. However, I maintain that the end goal is very different. Put simply, what happens when there is conflict of interest between revenue and telling a balanced and complete truth? In marketing, the final loyalty is to the company. In journalism, the overriding loyalty is to the user.

    I take your comment about “very few journalists left” seriously — not all journalism is good journalism. There are ethical lapses, and complicated gray areas. But journalists think and talk and work through these issues constantly, and news organizations have a long history of telling advertisers, publishers, and governments to fuck off.

    Let’s put it this way: can you imagine a marketer going out of their way to talk to someone who had a bad experience with the product, and honestly publishing what that person said? No? Because journalists do that every day. It’s simply not the same job.

  6. Jonathan. I think we may be driving at the same point but from different angles.

    I agree completely that there is a significant difference between journalism and marketing, but I didn’t think that was the point that the article was arguing. I took it to mean that bringing a journalistic approach / experience to the development of content to be used for marketing purposes, and making it an FTE internal role is a good idea.

    It’s a simple fact of life these days that most people can’t write their way out of a paper bag. Many think they can, because they write emails and know the difference between their and there, but in terms of writing a piece of lucid, compelling and well argued prose….not so much. Having a journalist on staff (or someone with a writing background and maybe some degree of journalistic experience) allows a company to generate content that is better thought out, more organized, better written, more compelling, and….the most important bit….actually tells a story.

    IMO, this last bit is where the journalism comes to the fore. People don’t share what is dull. They share points of human interest, they share jokes and bloopers, they share scandals. However, assuming most companies aren’t going to be producing bloopers and scandals to run on their SM channels, the other thing that people share is a good story. Journalists have an eye for what makes a good story. They can also often take a run-of-the-mill story and make it great with great writing. That is, in my opinion, one of the key things that much of the fluff we see spewed out on social media every day is missing. It’s basically dull writing.

    I agree with both your observations about news organizations retaining their integrity (there are of course exceptions), and marketers keeping critical feedback in house.

  7. The most important journalists have is copy writing skills especially for those we are experienced because they understand human behaviour, so that they can write a powerful copy to convince people.

  8. 30 years after I get my BS in Journalism, it suddenly pays off!

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