Content marketing: Telling Meaningful Stories

What’s the difference between journalism and content marketing?

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In theory, every journalist can share great stories. It doesn’t matter what beat he or she is on.

Journalists try to tell stories from an unbiased observer’s perspective. Yes, there are some outlets who are openly leaning one way or the other, but in general, many traditional newsrooms have a declared unbiased opinion and viewpoint on everything.

When I was a journalist myself, I certainly worked hard on maintaining this perspective and believed it very much. Realistically, it’s pretty hard – if not impossible – to not bring your viewpoint or “baggage” to something. Our previous experiences influence how we see present experiences. Some media outlets, of course, are also very open about their biases, which actually helps them reach some very specific audiences.

Journalism, when done right is always a pursuit of the truest story, the one that holds a mirror to our communities. Sometimes it’s helpful, sometimes educational and sometimes it exposes somebody being wronged. It’s also about adding context. What does it mean?

Content marketing, when done right is also about the pursuit of the truest stories. I’m not going to pretend that content marketers will ever do an expose on their organization doing something wrong. But publishing less than positive stories from time to time can actually help organizations stand out.

The biggest difference between journalism and content marketing is that that content marketers work for the people and organizations that they are writing about. That, in theory alone, can give journalists some heartburn.

How could we ever tell true stories if they have to be approved by the people they are about? It’s possible, but I do see how in theory that is harder.

Most of what brand journalists will produce and write should not be under their byline. This isn’t the brand newspaper afterall. It’s brand journalism.

Brand journalists can do the most good for organizations when they help subject matter experts share their stories in their own words. Yes, that can be in the form of ghostwritten articles or produced videos or podcasts. Since journalists are likely much better storytellers than many experts, this is a great way to help the experts share their stories publicly in the most effective way.

Recommended reading for you:

What’s the role of content marketing journalist?

What journalism skills can be used directly in content marketing?

But the process to get stories – whether it’s for the newspaper or a brand – is virtually the same:

  • Spot story
  • Gather content for it (which typically means to interview the people involved)
  • Put content together in a way that people want to consume it
  • Publish
  • Distribute it

It’s very similar all around. Content marketing deadlines, for the most part, unless a brand is inserting itself into a breaking news situation, which is OK from time to time, are a little looser than news deadlines, which can happen every minute nowadays.

The language that is used is also very similar. Marketing people sometimes have a tendency to overuse superlatives – saying how great something is versus showing why it’s actually great. Great storytelling journalists show us why something is great.

As marketing guru Seth Godin has said: “The fun part of Show and Tell is not Tell.”

I even wonder sometimes if the biggest difference between journalism for a traditional news outlet and a brand is mostly perception. Producing stories for a news outlet – sometimes journalists claim that they are doing it for a greater good – to help the community, to keep the community informed. Hey, it’s OK. I’ve been there and said that, too.

But what if it’s not that different when journalists tell stories for brands? They are just sharing them on a brand’s behalf. Certainly, some executives have to still make the move from wanting to publish only marketing blah blah to true authentic stories, but once that learning curve has been mastered, journalism and content marketing will be even closer aligned.


Disclaimers: The information provided in articles is for informational purposes only and not personalized advice. It's accurate to the best of my knowledge at the time it's published. Enjoy and best of luck telling the best stories in your organization and life!

Christoph Trappe

Hello and thanks for stopping by. I’m Christoph Trappe.

I’ve written two books, speak at conferences around the globe and blog frequently on here. I love sharing my stories and helping organizations share theirs.

If you need help, just visit the Contact Me page in the navigation and drop me a note. I’m always happy to chat!

Thanks for reading!

– Christoph

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