Many organizations are desperately seeking people to create interesting information online that serves to educate and inform consumers. People now realize web marketing success comes from creating content-rich web sites, videos, podcasts, photos, charts, ebooks, white papers and other valuable content. Which is where journalists come in.
Journalists are better storytellers than marketers
Journalists are skilled at understanding an audience and creating a story to reach that audience. I’m not talking about PR and media relations here. This isn't about journalists writing press releases and trying to get their former colleagues to write or broadcast about their company. Nor am I advocating the old-school "advertorial" model. Instead, I'm talking about journalists creating stories as they have been trained, but instead of doing it for a media company, they create content for all kinds of companies, nonprofits, educational institutions, government agencies, and the like to appear on their blogs, websites, and in ebooks, videos and the like.
A great example of this idea of brand journalism is what Susan Christensen is doing as the public and media relations director for Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson, MS., the state’s only comprehensive medical rehabilitation hospital for patients with brain and spinal cord injuries, stroke, amputations and other neurological and orthopedic injuries and illnesses.
After more than ten years as a newspaper feature writer, Susan moved into communications and began covering her company like a beat reporter would. She and her colleagues have created a newsfeed with interesting stories that make the hospital’s service come alive.
“I always have my antennae up for interesting story ideas at the physical rehab hospital where I work,” she says. “And as you can imagine, I find plenty of features among the amazing stories of recovery that I encounter. Recently, I sent out stories about two West Nile virus victims who took advantage of our research knowledge and a young mother we helped overcome a postpartum stroke, and five different newspapers ran them verbatim. And I fell in love with this guy who lost a hand in an industrial accident. He was such a colorful character.” That story Bionic hand gets big thumbs-up showcases Roy Eavenson’s life, his injury, and how he got his life back.
These sorts of stories, written like newspaper features, show how Methodist Rehabilitation Center works with patients, families, and the community and are a much better approach than the product advertising style that the vast majority of organizations use.
Show, don’t tell, to make your products and service come alive
“Frankly, I'm amazed more hospitals don't do this, instead of sending out releases about their latest ‘groundbreaking’ gizmo or new hire,” Susan says. “After all, ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’ someone about your expertise is always more believable. And journalists excel at this.”
Occasionally Susan uses humor to tell a story, something that can be a bit tricky when you’re talking about a hospital treating serious injury. For example, a story titled Methodist Rehabilitation Center urges caution when using turkey fryers led with “George Glenn set out to fry a turkey last holiday season and almost cooked his goose.” Susan says this playful little injury prevention story is one of the most widely read stories they’ve ever done.
To make your marketing come alive, hire a journalist into your marketing department. They know how to make even the most mundane products and service come alive with excitement.