Content Marketing the Buzz Among Journalists at ASJA

What do traditional journalists have to do with content marketing? Quite a bit, according to the panel, “The Inside Scoop on Finding Content Marketing Work” at the annual American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference last week.

Contently’s VP of content Sam Slaughter was joined on the panel by Mary Ellen Slayter, founder of Reputation Capital Media, and Leslie C. Reiser, head of Midsize Insider, a website and content marketing arm of IBM. The panel was moderated by Michelle Rafter, an ASJA member and founder of the blog WordCount: Freelancing in the Digital Age.

The average age of newspaper readers is 57 years old, Reiser said, explaining how companies like IBM are exploring new ways to remain relevant by becoming publishers.

For example, beyond people visiting the IBM homepage, by pushing content outward through a variety of channels, the brand can reach consumers as a trusted source of quality information. As such, one of IBM’s content arms, the website, recently became a Google News provider. That means it’s a recognized news entity, not an advertorial or promotional site — an important distinction that journalists are beginning to recognize.

Companies and corporations of all sizes are using similar strategies to engage, entertain, and capture an audience. Slaughter said he attributes this rise in content marketing budgets to the fact that banner ads and SEO-driven content are less effective, especially as Google continues to tweak its algorithm in favor of stories with substance and shareability.

Slayter agreed, which is why she used her background in traditional journalism as a foundation to create her company, Reputation Capital Media, which creates premium B2B content for companies. “There’s a move away from buying other people’s audiences,” she said. Many of her clients are small to mid-sized businesses, so it’s not just the Coca-Colas of the world that are employing content marketing strategies, she noted.

Also trying to gain a competitive advantage are the journalists who are aiming to bring on content marketing clients as a key part of their business mix, such as was the case for many of those attending the ASJA session.

If you’re an aspiring content writer, here are some of the tips that were shared to keep in mind when exploring this area of the writing business:

Think outside of your media comfort zone.

Writers who are used to pitching editors for work should go to industry conferences and make connections with directors of marketing, said Slayter. “That’s your client,” she said. You can do this virtually by joining industry discussions and groups on LinkedIn, too, she suggested.

Be an influencer.

Do this and you’ll get noticed, said Reiser. Those who blog on their own, have a specific expertise, and have a good social media following are highly coveted by her team. If you are more of a generalist, however, don’t fret. It’s really the journalistic skills of accurate reporting and writing talent that are most in demand.

Forget the myth about going to “the dark side.”

The traditional separation between journalism and PR or advertising should not scare writers away from work, the panelists agreed. The lines have been blurred between traditional publishers and brands. As long as you disclose any affiliations that might pose a conflict of interest at the onset of a writing project, taking on content marketing work will not mean the end of your journalism career.

On the contrary, content marketing is providing a glimmer of hope to journalists who have been battered by a tough publishing industry.

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