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Journalists as Brand Storytellers

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

As seen in APeeling in November 2020 by Bill Gerretson

The economic decline being experienced by the news industry may precipitate one of the biggest marketing shifts of the next ten years. Here’s why.

The Free Fall of Journalism:

Journalist jobs are in free fall. In the 10 years ending with 2018, newsroom jobs declined 25%. But in 2019 and 2020, the bloodletting has been horrific for journalists. This is happening not just at newspapers, but also magazines and digital media. There is no longer a safe haven in the news business and journalists are desperate to figure out their next move. The traditional news business is not coming back and they know it.

The Return of Storytelling:

At the same time, the world of marketing is returning to its roots. Storytelling. Mankind has always passed along important information through the telling of stories. It’s how the human brain works best. The rise of the internet took us away from that for a season, but now that information has become abundant and functionally free, people are no longer enamored or interested in information. They seek relevance and authority. That is best accomplished through storytelling.

The Emergence of Social Media Fatigue:

While these above mentioned changes are active and visible, there’s a third and related trend impacting the world of marketing. People are getting weary of social media. They find themselves wasting too much time on senseless scrolling. They are increasingly frustrated by people’s increasingly unpleasant online behavior. They find themselves actively distrusting the social media platforms. As a a result, more people are either reducing their activity, disengaging for a period of emotional recovery, or deleting their accounts entirely. People are looking for better and more trustworthy ways to know what’s going on in the world around them.

Five Year Career Shifts:

Twenty years ago we saw the emergence of computer programmers as a force in business. They changed the world. Fifteen years ago we saw the emergence of graphic designers as computers allowed them to polish the look and feel of marketing materials. Ten years ago, we started seeing the emergence of website designers who combined programming skills and graphic skills to build amazing online marketing machines. Five years ago, we saw the rise of app developers who took their skills and insights to the world of marketing through phones and tablets. The realignment and redeployment of journalists is next!

Journalists Leave The Cocoon:

There’s a powerful marketing storm on the horizon that is creating a fresh opportunity for savvy marketers and journalists. Skilled journalists are trained to write and tell stories in a memorable way. Few programmers, graphic designers, or app developers have that skill. As the world of marketing embraces storytelling as the best way to get messages across, companies will need skilled storytellers. Larger companies will hire journalists (or teams of journalists) to become their corporate storytellers. Many more journalists will start creating fractional agencies where they split their “freelancer” services across multiple clients -- much like programmers, graphic designers, and app developers have done in the past.

Why It’s Smart to Hire A Journalist:

The era of interrupting potential customers with self-centered “marketing material” is ending. Companies wil l be forced to migrate towards creating and offering interesting stories and insights that intrigue people and causes them to seek out a deeper relationship. Having a journalist on your team who can do this will set you apart from the competition and give you a significant edge in the marketplace.

Journalists Think Differently:

Of course, a journalist thinks very differently than a marketer, so if you hire one, you need to be aware of the differences. First, they are accustomed to deadlines and often thrive with the associated adrenaline rush (even if they complain about it). Second, by virtue of their training and ethics, credible journalists can’t and won’t spew out corporate gobbledygook. Third, their natural ability to sift through information and opinions, weigh options, and then write clear stories means they will see opportunities that more traditional marketers might miss. You need to provide transparency and give them comparatively free reign!

The Bottom Line:

The storytelling shift is inevitable. Corporate journalism will become a significant new career path. Journalists who become corporate storytellers will become the best way to connect consumers to the people behind the products and services that will lead the way in the coming decade.


Gil Gerretson . a veteran marketing consultant, business builder, and turnaround specialist

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