By Mark Zaloudek
It seems intuitive that when a business or nonprofit has news to announce or a story to share, who better to tell it than its senior-level communications staff? After all, they understand better than anyone else their organization’s institutional mission, its goals, how they plan to meet them and whose support they'll enlist along the way.
But like the song from a popular Gershwin musical says, “It ain't necessarily so.”
Other deadlines can get in the way of getting their message out in a timely way. Or there's a lot of information to convey and they're not quite sure how to make it cohesive and interesting to others. And then there are those pesky rules of grammar and syntax that can make any official communique land with unflattering results.
Here’s where a strong case can be made for enlisting writers who have worked as professional journalists. They know the right questions to ask to obtain the most significant facts and then present them in a way that resonates with their audiences.
It's all about getting the right message across. And that's what they do.
Meeting the ever-increasing demand for content
Successful for-profit businesses understand the need to craft messages that share their good news and aspirations, acknowledge achievements, differentiate themselves from competitors and build support among stakeholders and clientele. In a heartbeat, creation of high quality, original content has gone from something “nice to do” to a “must have.” Those who lag behind miss out on opportunities to strengthen their brands internally and externally.
With a similar need to shine a spotlight on their missions and accomplishments, nonprofits are often uniquely constrained by budget limitations. Paradoxically, finding ways to broaden their messages, often through original storytelling by a professional, will typically improve a nonprofit’s fundraising potential.
In the day-to-day bustle, it's not often easy for multi-tasking communications professionals to carve out quiet time to write effectively. Which facts are more important than others? How can I make a complex or technical subject understandable and easy to read? What elements may I be overlooking that would make this more informative or memorable? The typical marketing manager or communications specialist has little time to sort it all out.
What a journalist brings to the table
Writers with a journalism background instinctively know that it takes more than asking the “five W's and H” to build a story. It means recognizing when additional perspectives are needed and gleaning those insights through interviews. It may also require additional, in-depth research. And then there's the process of distilling all of the information gathered to tell the story clearly, concisely and engagingly. This often requires a more objective point of view – the perspective of an outsider who knows all-too-well the importance of satisfying the editor’s “So what? Who cares?” filter.
Journalists know what facts to gather and how to frame them based on the messages organizations need to deliver and the communities they need to engage. That’s why it’s also a good idea to involve the writer with journalism experience in the editorial planning process. Before the first word is written, two simple questions should be answered: What is the intended message? And what impressions should the reader take away from the story?
Journalism-trained writers also don't require a lot of handholding to do their job. They’re accustomed to working independently and under tight deadlines, freeing up the in-house marketing/communications team to focus on other tasks, including the challenges of inboxes that never seem to clear.
Enlisting the right talent to meet the growing demands for community engagement can keep your enterprise from losing ground to competitors and should play a key role in your content marketing strategy.
Mark Zaloudek has more than 35 years of experience as a professional journalist, primarily as a newspaper reporter and features writer in Southwest Florida.
Mark isn’t the only CCM Storyteller with a journalism background. Our team also includes award-winning investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize finalist John Wark, and veteran broadcast news reporter, editor and news director Mike Eisgrau.
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