How Journalism Skills Transfer to Social Media Marketing

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As a journalist with years of experience working at traditional magazines I’ve discovered that many of the skills journalists develop while working at magazines are incredibly valuable to social media marketing.

Managing Chaos

Editors at magazines manage multiple projects at once. Whether it’s a story they are writing themselves, a package the entire team is working on or ensuring a whole issue is on schedule for publishing, there is a lot to juggle. Editors work with writers to ensure a story is coming together as discussed and stay on voice for the brand.

They sit down with fact checkers and copy editors who make sure there are no mistakes in the content. They connect with the art team or photographers to see how the visuals will tell the story in the most compelling way. They check in with the design team to see if a story’s length or layout needs to change and the ad sales and production team to see if pages will be added.

There are a lot of moving parts that require constant management so that a high quality issue gets into the hands of the audience.

Getting It Right

Another major part of day-to-day work at a magazine is making sure words are spelled properly and that grammar is correct. Sounds less than glamorous, right?

At the national health and lifestyle publication where I worked, during the days when the editorial team worked intensely on completing an issue, I spent hours reviewing the proof page layouts.

Armed with a ruler and a red pen, I scoured every word line-by-line checking for errors, inconsistencies and correct usage. Minor errors can do serious damage to a publication’s credibility.

Hunting for Experts

On non-production days, I spent most of my time hunting for expert sources: people to interview for articles and potentially onboard as writers.

For example, a health article sharing ideas for post-workout meals needs a nutritionist expert but a better source is a nutritionist who specializes in exercise nutrition. An even better fit is an exercise nutritionist who has just published a recipe book that readers can pick up if they want more information.

Attending Events

Going to exclusive press events is one of the privileged aspects of being a magazine editor. At the event, you have to uncover the most compelling story for your audience, collect information, interview available experts, and take photos or manage a photographer.

In the magazine world, a lot of work goes into making the final product look like it was easy to produce. The final product may be polished but was the result of many inputs from different production layers.

The same holds true in social media, and when I joined /newsrooms it immediately became clear to me that so many of my core news-driven skills would apply to social media marketing and continuous coverage for brands.

As a managing editor at /newsrooms, all of these skills apply:

1)  Grammar Police: Just like in magazines, small spelling or grammar mistakes on social media are not only embarrassing, but they also undermine the authority of a brand. When you’re writing for a brand’s channel that means their credibility is in your hands. Sure, typos are more likely in social because of the fast pace, ephemeral and mobile nature of the platforms but that shouldn’t be an excuse and with the right processes you can weed that out. At /newsrooms, we believe the high standards embraced by traditional media outlets should still apply to 140 characters or less.

2)  Sourcing Experts: No matter the medium or platform for a message, experts are a key part of the content. Whether it’s the clients’ own experts or third-party specialists, these individuals add context and valuable insights for the audience. Telling stories through people is also a classic way to draw in an audience and spread a message.

At /newsrooms we hire subject matter experts who work with editorial teams to really nail down tone, approach and content. If we’re talking about mining, we are using experts who know the space inside and out. If we’re talking about startups and entrepreneurship, we’re talking to people who live that life. If we’re talking about music, we’re using music journalists and musicians themselves. You get the point.

3)  Covering Events: When /newsrooms provides live event coverage for brands, an editor needs to find the best stories to tell, interview the right sources at the event and manage other team members, like photographers, who are creating content for the campaign.

You have to do it in real-time, with 100 things flying at you simultaneously, across multiple social media platforms. Is the photo up on Pinterest? Did the tweet go out three minutes ago after the keynote speech summarizing the key insight from the CEO’s speech? Where is the photographer? What is the tone of voice we should use for the next Twitter interview? Is the Facebook album ready? What hashtag is the audience using and is it trending? Good editors at a traditional publication are capable of managing multiple inputs simultaneously. When you bring those demands to a social media space it puts them on steroids. You pretty much need to be able to think about five things at once.

In some ways it’s unexpected that my time at traditional media outlets prepared me for the micro-style, fast-paced nature of social media marketing. But as I look back on the last 21 days it has become really clear how natural the fit has been.

Social media marketing is kind of like a magazine, in that you have to tell relevant stories for your audience. The big difference is that it’s continuous and runs at a much faster pace and it’s not all contained to glossy pages.

This post is part our 21 Days of Continuous Marketing series.

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Leigh Doyle

Leigh Doyle

Managing Editor at /newsrooms
I always wanted to be a writer. To tell stories. Share ideas. For over 10 years, I worked as a journalist with national trade, business and lifestyle publications as well as a content creator for brands in the financial services, healthcare and lifestyle industries. Now, as a managing editor at /newsrooms, I work with teams to craft dynamic stories not only with words, but also with photos, images, video and social media.
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