A journalist, marketer and a senior vice president walk into a bar
Most “3 guys walk into a bar”-jokes are about a clash of cultures or POVs. As brands explore what it means to shift marketing to content marketing and even bring in journalists trained in story-mining and storytelling, they will suffer culture clash. Every business is different, but there are three constructive ways to connect these cultures such that they strengthen each other. That may work for you. You may have your own suggestions – please share.
First there is journalism culture and marketing culture. One spawned by high-mindedness and a social responsibility, the other born to sell.
Here’s how Kevin Maney, journalist, separates advertising and journalism:
“Advertising is something a company wants to say, regardless of whether it’s useful, informative or relevant to the audience. Journalism is useful, informative and relevant to the audience, regardless of whether it’s something a company wants to say.
By definition then, advertising is usually content a company has to push at the audience — often by paying for placement. Journalism is content that people seek out and pull to them.”
This is pretty typical of a journalist’s POV on what marketers are trying to do. The best marketers out there are sweating bullets trying to understand customer needs and emotions and then connect with them in some authentic way. That being said, Kevin’s points about push and pull make sense.
Natalie Burg at Contently describes some of this tension a bit differently,
“And that’s just the first point of tension. Journalists focus on storytelling, fact checking and style; marketers care far less about Oxford commas than reaching their business goals. Journalists tend to be realists; marketers tend to be aspirational.
“They come from different worlds,” says Brendan Cournoyer, former journalist and director of content marketing at Brainshark. “No matter what, it’s an adjustment, and there can be some tension.”
You can quickly see the tension between these two cultures. One is about attracting people through relevance and story, the other gets the job done.
The third culture is whatever company culture you have. Very few companies have a dominant marketing culture. Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies like Unilever and Nestle do. Google and Microsoft have engineering cultures. Banks have banking cultures. Even brands like Nike have a performance culture above their marketing culture. Usually companies with strong cultures that are not marketing-centric have a distrust of marketing as a discipline. Journalism also seems too tangential to how companies make money to care.
So, three cultures often with some tension between them. How do you convert non-healthy tension into a new, powerful way of marketing?
Put the editorial calendar at the heart of marketing and communications
Imagine if you could document all of the product and service initiatives and persistent marketing commitments – new product releases, new service enhancements, conferences, research initiatives – all in one place. Then you got your entire marketing and communications force to coordinate efforts around the calendar? And what if the marketing ‘moments’ on that calendar were handled as interesting stories – some big, some small? Now you are adopting a habit of editorial organizations. Actually, you would likely go beyond what most editorial organizations have achieved and built an editorial “map” visible to all inside the organization and with the express purpose of getting disparate players to sync up their efforts.
If the calendar becomes everyone’s “heads-up display”, it makes it easier to inject spontaneous and opportunistic stories as well. Let’s say a big global storm inhibits shipping from China, if you were a supply chain management company, you could more easily align marketing and communications to generate and publish useful stories about your POV on successful supply chain tactics during a disruption. Ann Handley offers a great example of “newsjacking” when Kapost jumped on a story essentially about a competitor in a rather nimble way.
The editorial calendar is a powerful organizing principal and one borrowed from a journalistic culture.
Align everyone to a common measurement model
Marketing is all about effectiveness. At Ogilvy, we always referred to the David Ogilvy quote, “we sell or else.” One of marketing culture’s gifts to this new land of content marketing is a business-relevant way of measuring performance.
By establishing a common and relatively simple model for evaluating marketing and communications efforts, suddenly all the stories in the editorial calendar and all the tactics deployed become more strategic. That means blending measurement for most marketing with most communications (i.e. public relations). It also means connecting the KPIs (key performance indicators) to sales-related results.
The common performance measurement model aligns all disciplines and is one of marketing culture’s key strengths.
Build belief in a new connected-customer journey
Executives in an engineering culture, a banking culture, a health care culture need to understand the impact and contribution to the business from marketing – especially this ‘new marketing’ where valuable content plays a much bigger role.
How you build belief is really up to what works and what communicates best on that culture. Engineers may favor quantified problems and well-designed solutions. Bankers may favor the numbers. However you need to present your case, you need to be doing it all the time. Belief rarely happens with one event (crisis can do that, look at Dell, BP, GM). Belief is built over time and it is prone to erode or give way to competing beliefs.
Three things that appear critical to building belief in what the journalism and marketing cultures are trying to do: the new customer journey, the numbers and the work.
The sales funnel isn’t dead. It just doesn’t explain how buyers behave anymore. Whether a consumer or a business decision-maker, how we buy is changing. With immediate access to all the information in the universe via Google, peer recommendations via social and more, how we move through to make a buying decision – never mind choices around sticking with a company – has changed. Gaining agreement internally around this new customer journey will help build support for marketing going forward.
Do you have an executive marketing dashboard…that you believe in? Getting that weekly or monthly one-pager that really captures how you are doing helps (especially if it’s based upon the common measurement model above.
Executives are people, too and great, beautiful work helps rally support. Always be sharing the great work. It inspires and helps people want to be a part of something inspiring.
Now I just need to come up with a great joke to pay off on “A journalist, marketer and an SVP walk into a bar…”