What corporate communicators can learn from newsrooms

Good newsrooms measure everything, embrace new technology and discover the right tools, among other things. Corporate communicators should follow suit.

Communicators of all kinds develop content, and most are keenly aware they do so in a changing media landscape.

Whether you are a journalist, public relations executive or news consumer, you know you live in a world of constant change, and that the end of the media revolution is nowhere in sight.

Sadly, the victim of all this change seems to be the public’s faith in news media. A recent Gallup poll found that the public’s trust in newspapers, television and the Internet as accurate sources of information is at an all-time low.

But as traditional media fights to discover a workable business model and the still-forming Internet media seeks to find its way, today’s corporate communicators realize they bear a greater responsibility to tell their company stories.

Many are delivering shining results. Today, many companies develop in-depth, creative content that rivals award-winning journalism.

But as corporate communications expands to deliver compelling content, it is important to reflect back on the best traditional newsrooms to see what we can learn from the professionals who spent years refining their editorial and production systems.

1. Remember that content is king, simplicity is queen and consistency is forever.

Corporate communications is flush with buzzwords like “content marketing” and “brand storytelling.” Often, these words help define what content we should create, but have little to do with the quality of that content.

Strive for quality over quantity. Producing reams of average content will only bore your audience, and a bored audience will disengage.

A disengaged audience can have far-reaching implications. Google’s Hummingbird algorithm determined search ranking based (in part) on the strength of your content and the engagement of your audience. You will not significantly raise your search ranking by producing an abundance of average content.

This doesn’t mean you won’t be handcuffed by deadlines and resources. You should strive to make the most of your resources and set the bar high. This is a winning approach for most newsrooms whose editors hope to build strong audiences.

When it comes to content, style will never win over substance. A clean, simple presentation of quality content will win out over dressed-up pieces of average content. Embrace simplicity and consider it a driving factor when you produce content.

Most of all, strive for consistency. A great piece of content followed up by months of average content will cause your audience to lose trust in your ability to deliver. Build your communication team and process so it can consistently produce quality content over time. Remember, if you only succeed once, you will ultimately fail.

2. Find the right tools.

Software developers and news organizations like the Associated Press have designed content management systems that help journalists take their content from the creative process, through an editorial review system and then into production. Some allow a reporter to create a news story on a mobile device and easily turn it into a social media post or Web story.

In the corporate communications world, a one-size-fits-all content production solution doesn’t exist. But many new and exciting software products work with corporate intranets to accomplish many of the same goals.

3. Measure everything.

Journalism is a bottom-line business. It parses down TV ratings, circulation and Web figures to the lowest common denominator. It identifies patterns and develops content to maximize audiences.

But corporate communicators often forget measurement. They spend so much time trying to develop content that they often forget to build in a measurement process.

In today’s world you cannot develop quality content without defining your target audience and determining its engagement with your content. There are two reasons for this:

  • Measurement helps set boundaries around the type of content you need to develop.
  • Measurement helps define your success and return on investment-a must in today’s corporate world.

Start with Google Analytics and the data provided by the most common social networks, but don’t hesitate to develop unique solutions like employee surveys and responses to sales inquiries. Also seek out new technology solutions that allow you to measure employee engagement.

Once you’ve compiled your data, the hard part will be analyzing it. While your results will probably be open to interpretation, there is one certainty in corporate communication today: Don’t develop content if you can’t measure it.

4. Strive for engagement.

In recent years, the television ratings and circulation data advertisers receive has come into question; media companies have been accused of manipulating or misrepresenting the numbers.

This is one reason why advertisers are starting to put greater weight on content engagement.

What is engagement and how do you measure it?

In a Forbes article, Kevin Kruse compared measuring engagement to measuring love. That’s impossible, right?

Not necessarily. You can measure the level at which people love your content in several ways.

Avinash Kaushik, author of the bestseller “Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity,” says the best engagement metrics measure conversation, amplification, applause and economic value. You can draw some of this data from Web and social media analytics. Direct surveys will also yield results.

When measuring how much your stakeholders love your company or product, don’t hesitate to take an “all-of-the-above” approach. Try a variety of ways to measure your success, but recognize you will only get usable data if you combine content consumption statistics (unique pages views and length on a page) and develop data that measures emotions. This is the only way to discover how much your stakeholders truly love your company.

5. Become a technology evangelist.

While covering news can be exciting, producing news content all day, every day can drive even the best journalists into a rut. Good journalists develop a routine, but throw new software or job requirements into the mix and newsrooms become an ideal environment to witness the disruptive effects of technology.

Newsrooms are not unique in this regard, but they are often the first adopters of new communications technology. Corporate communicators can learn from their successes and failures.

Today, successful newsrooms often designate a technology evangelist—typically a manager who can train new employees while also educating upper management on the value of new technology.

The best evangelists often do not work in IT. They are (hopefully) strong communicators who understand the journalism workflow and embrace technology. They are also capable managers who can maneuver internal politics and drive change.

Having someone like this on your staff used to be a luxury. Today it’s a necessity.

Mark Roberts is principal of ViewMARK Communications. A version of this article originally appeared on ElevatePoint.


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