Journalists to Brands: Don’t Give Us “Content,” Tell Us Stories

ALTHOUGH I CAN’T TRACE THE ORIGIN with any certainty, I’m nevertheless pretty sure that the word “content” was first used by a marketer, not a by a journalist.

Journalists are in the business of stories. Always have been – and despite the 24/7 streams of info-snacks and feeds forced through ever-congested virtual pipes, they always will be.

So it should come as no surprise that a recent global study of journalists found that journalists don’t want “pre-packaged” news such as press releases, and instead are “looking for variety in the kinds of stories brands talk about and the way they are told. And they expect brands to be properly engaged with the relevant social networks – not a box-ticking exercise driven by the PR department, but a genuine engagement at all levels of the business.

In other words, stop with the “content.” Even the word “content” is cold, distant. Content is artificial intelligence. Content fills the feed but leaves you hungry.

Stories, however, are emotional. Stories are history personified. Technology may be the heart of social media, the muscle that keeps it moving, but stories are its soul.

Journalists tell stories and want to be told stories. According to the study, they also want brands to “deploy a full range of storytelling assets – brand stories must be supported by videos, images, infographics.

It’s also critical that the story be told consistently across platforms and social channels – media fragmentation demands clear narrative so the story doesn’t get lost or misinterpreted like a bad game of “telephone.” These narratives can and should vary based on the channels and makeup of the audience, but ultimately they need to be connected to a larger central theme.

With so much noise disguised as news, journalists want to hear from trusted sources and be engaged in real dialogue with real people. Social media gives brands a perfect opportunity to earn that trust – and if brands are ready, journalists are listening.

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