Add marketing gloss to your editorial substance


In the world of marketing, you have suits. People like me.

Suits from the world of ad agencies and traditional marketing organisations, who are trained to develop critical and strategic thinking skills, to handle challenging business and creative issues, to negotiate and win deals and debates, and to present persuasively in front of audiences with PowerPoint or keynote cued up and ready to roll.

When it comes to the world of news media, those suits might be good for presentations to trade and industry partners or for handling PR issues. But when it comes to readers, no one wants to hear from a suit.

They want to hear from the editorial experts: the investigative reporters, the editors-in-chief, the award-winning journalists who are close to the action, those who have a clear view of what’s going on and what makes interesting news.

They want to hear from the news gurus.

And in the changing world of news, where we have to build greater community engagement through closer contact with our editorial personalities and develop revenue-generating or brand-enhancing events that leverage our editorial staff skills and expertise, we find the two worlds of gloss and substance collide.

How many of us news marketers out there continually face the dubious challenge of finding out our prolific and hugely popular columnist — who usually can’t be kept quiet about his pet topic — turns out to be bookish, cerebral, stage-shy, and somewhat tongue-tied when forced into public speaking?

Oh, where is that dynamic, audience-engaging, witty, and super-smart chat show host we had envisaged for our event?

As newspaper Web sites begin to include more video and v-blogs, we find the same issue cropping up again — columnists, while great on paper, get 20% of their message across on video, yet somehow cloud it with another 80% of non-verbal discomfort with this alien medium.

It’s true some people are natural-born showmen and women. It’s rare to have one who is also a great journalist. But it’s not just about showmanship either. Often, these events are about building the brand, and we hope the hosts will be living embodiments of who we are. We must be dreaming.

Well, we have to start somewhere. We can help train our talent to bridge the gap between gloss and substance.

As marketing experts, we need our editorial experts to help us with the substance for our events and videos. In return, we have to provide them with the tips and tools needed to help ease the transformation from backroom to front stage.

We can offer them specific techniques for handling interviews, for moderating, for participating in panels, and for presenting news videos. Creating a savvy public face requires a great degree of self-awareness, and it’s rare anyone gets it right first time. So expect to need a long, slow training period to nurture your stars of the future — your brand spokespersons.

Here are 10 key tips that will apply to most public speaking engagements that our editorial staff will find themselves in.

  1. Confident body language. Adopt a relaxed and non-threatening posture, avoiding repetitive involuntary bad habits like constantly flicking hair or pointing and chopping hands to make a point. Smart grooming is important here, as it allows the person — not the paisley purple shirt or bad hair — to make the statement.

  2. Know your audience. Win them with charm, openness, and a willingness to engage.

  3. Listen hard and reiterate questions to reaffirm your understanding. Outline your key points and address each one succinctly without preamble or fluff.

  4. Tell stories. Supporting a message with engaging examples will make you more interesting.

  5. Use specifics to reinforce your message. Quote figures and statistics, cases and anecdotes to show your insights and expertise.

  6. Correct false statements immediately, politely, and with confidence.

  7. Beware of “off the record.” Never say what you would not want to see in print, because nothing is ever really off-the-record in media.

  8. Never lose your cool. Always be courteous and polite — a smiling or neutral face is less defensive and aggressive than a furrowed or frowning one and will endear you to the audience.

  9. Stick to what you know. Bridge the dialogue back to what you are 100% confident about. Never wing it with your answers.

  10. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Keep to your objectives and stick to the message points of what you want to achieve.

Marketing our own people is probably one of the hardest challenges we face, as it’s one we can’t absolutely control and often takes place in an unfamiliar battleground with unknown obstacles and an uncertain outcome.

Yet, if we are to become social, visual, and a part of the conversations held in the new world of news, we need our experts to speak for us as a brand, while retaining the essence of who they are as people.

This means a series of workshops and one-on-one media training sessions between editorial and marketing to help put into practice some of the tools mentioned above.

It’s not an easy road, but one that will ultimately help to deepen that bond between the newsroom and the marketing department that is so critical to our future, in addition to expanding our talent base for reader engagement initiatives and valuable event revenue.


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