Newsrooms aren’t for every brand

February 28, 2013 9:51 am

There has been a lot of hype about brand newsrooms.

These are not newsrooms in the old PR sense – where you go to find assets if you’re a journalist, sometimes really good assets like videos, product backgrounders and so on. (And sometimes turgid press releases.)

Rather this is about agile marketing, being able to react fast – through content on corporate websites, blogs and third-party social media.

In fact ‘real-time’ or ‘continuous’ are things we think distinguish modern content marketing from some of the custom programmes of past years. It’s online, never stops and a dialogue when at its best.

Harvard Business Review spells out why brands should care to have a newsroom, including rising expectations by customers and what the competition is doing.

NewsroomThen there are those brands who want to build a devoted following (everyone wants to be Red Bull!) and rank highly in search engine results pages (SERPs). Only some lack the SEO nous, says Brafton, even if they’re all newsed up.

And no sooner had Digiday – which we love, don’t get us wrong – seemed to tell us brands would do well to have a newsroom mentality (even if the article hed only asks the question – Should Brands Have Newsrooms?) than they told us Brands Need a New Type of Newsroom. So soon?

In fact, in that first Digiday piece Saya Weismann sensibly warns:

Any publisher will tell you that operating a newsroom is an expensive, arduous task. It’s also incredibly difficult to do well, especially if it’s not your business.

She’s right. We recently heard about one well-known brand newsroom – often held up as a model operation – where every piece of content gets vetted by a neighbouring PR department.

Forget whether that makes sense or not for a moment – it sounds like the biggest drag on agility we’ve heard about.

Most content marketing programmes won’t contain a news component. We find that’s a much more workable set up. But some big brands – as per this year’s Super Bowl lights out – want to be able to react, beyond a tweet or two, very fast. (As an aside that’s why there are lists these days of brands’ hyper-responsive social media centres, resembling military bunkers in some cases.)

In all honesty, we agree with those who wonder if some companies know what they’re getting themselves into. It’s not that they can’t afford the outlay – and heaven knows there are enough good ex-editors and reporters out there to man the pumps.

It’s that they won’t have the mindset.

Even if they master ‘the sign-off’, they must be agile, as HBR noted. Otherwise it’s hardly news.

In a survey of the top 100 brand newsrooms – by mynewsdesk, called What’s the story? The 2013 newsroom report – it was found that over a third “struggle to keep news up to date”.

Newsrooms in the media are among the most dynamic, exciting places to work. Every hour, let alone every day, is different and there can be a tremendous buzz.

Most importantly, those running them, in 99.9 per cent of cases, get to call how and when to run a story.

Mess with that and it ain’t a newsroom. Don’t mess with that and 99.9 per cent of brands are uncomfortable.

* photo credit: Steve Bowbrick via photopin cc

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