Can a Former Journalist Be a Content Marketing Writer?

I once thought, yes…of course a former journalist can be a content marketing writer. That’s a no-brainer. But after going through the evaluation and hiring process for a content marketing writer, I’m not so sure it’s that simple.

Journalists and content marketing writers are actually very different professions. Yes, they both require an excellent grasp of language and an ability to tell a story. But reporting and marketing are two unique disciplines that have different goals, audiences, and motivations.

However, with more content being produced every day for brands and journalism jobs dwindling, there is a gap in the need for great writers. Let’s explore the question and see whether or not a former journalist may find a new career in content marketing.

Journalist Jobs Decline

The field of journalism has seen a steady decline. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, journalism jobs are projected to decreased by 9% from 2016 to 2026. This isn’t a shock since so many newspapers have either folded or been consolidated.

People consume news much differently in 2019 than they did even 10 years ago. They seek news from social media sites and other alternatives rather than subscribing to their local newspaper.

Thus, there are many journalists seeking employment in a different field—one where their skills may easily translate.

But this transition doesn’t happen overnight because the type of article a journalist writes and the one a content marketer writes are wildly disparate.

Reporting vs. Content Marketing

The job of a reporter is to state the facts with less emphasis on emotions and commentary. Journalists are investigators, seeking the truth as to why something happened. They then sew that into a story that delivers to the ready an unbiased view of the situation.

Reporters seek out sources that can support the story and provide their own experiences based on the questions asked. They then use these sources as proof points to educate readers on events that have transpired.

Content marketing is, of course, much different than journalism. Content marketing is all about creating and distributing relevant and consistent content with the objective of attracting a distinct audience and engaging them to trust your brand.

Each piece of content produced for a business has a goal to be compelling to the target market, helping them address challenges or answer questions.

However, there are some similarities between reporting and marketing. Both journalists and content marketers must be inquisitive, and they each use sources to support the thesis of each article. And at the heart of what both professions do is storytelling. Although with content marketing, the story is going to usually have a more defined point of view with bias implied.

content marketing writer - storytelling

Content Planning and Journalism

Content marketers can actually learn from journalists, especially in terms of content planning, which can draw inspiration from a newsroom atmosphere.

Journalists and content marketers also face similar challenges in content planning. The news never sleeps, and the same could be said about content marketing, although on a smaller scale. While journalists have more rigid guidelines in content planning, each group uses some type of content calendar or editorial calendar.

Even though a typical journalist operates in a different world than a content marketing writer, it’s possible to transition to this new career. But would journalists assimilate easily or are their passions and motivations too disparate?

Different Passions and Motivations

Content marketers and journalists are motivated by different things. Marketers are typically more economically driven and focused on engaging audiences and convincing them that their company, product or service is the answer to their pain points.

Journalists, on the other hand, are often a bit more altruistic. They see themselves as truth-tellers, breaking stories to reveal injustices or uncover scandals. But they must do all this objectively.

Content marketers have the freedom to be more subjective and understand that their efforts are specifically tied to revenue generation.

Journalists, too, are responsible for producing income for their employer. While much news is “free” these days, newspapers still need paying subscribers and advertisers. And the quality of work produced by journalists can impact these things.

Even though these two occupations have different motivations, they likely have at least one unifying passion—to tell amazing stories. With this in mind, let’s look at why journalists may make excellent content marketers.

Why Journalists Could Become Successful Content Marketers

content marketing writer - interviewing

There are many core attributes of journalists that would easily carry over to a new career in marketing. Here are some of the top reasons.

They Have Formal Training

Journalists have been trained well in the art of grammar and style rules, which are also important in content marketing. They also know not to plagiarize or simply make up facts to suit their angle. If you have content guidelines for your brand, they’ll know how to follow it to ensure consistent tone.

They Are Exceptional Storytellers

Being a great storyteller is one of the most important characteristics for a content marketing writer. And journalists usually nail this one. They have a good grasp on understanding their audience, which should translate to marketing’s buyer personas.

Storytellers use a narrative format with a beginning, middle, and end. This is important for any type of story, in a newspaper or on a company’s blog.

They Know How to Research and Interview

Much of your content probably involves research and interviews. Journalists are well versed in this area. They know that research is pertinent to supporting a story. In the case of marketing, this research probably equates to finding proven stats that prove the point.

Interviews are important as well in content marketing. Content marketers need to engage with thought leaders and subject matter experts. Asking the right questions matters here, as these groups aren’t always forthcoming with information.

They Get Deadlines

Publications have strict deadlines that can’t be missed, so it’s already a normal part of their work ethic. A content calendar is full of important deadlines, and although they aren’t as rigid as a publication’s, they are still vital to a brand’s success.

Journalists are very deadline-driven, which means they will respect when something is due and not drop the ball.

The worlds of journalism and content marketing aren’t really so far apart. If your company is seeking to expand its writing team, you may just find a valuable asset with a former journalist. A truly gifted writer can enter a new niche and convert their experience into a new realm with amazing results.