Anyone who’s ever been through a university journalism or marketing program can attest to this: The news kids aren’t exactly best buddies with the marketing crew. The news folks think the marketers are truth-twisting manipulators, and the marketers say the newsies are self-righteous, didactic nerds.
Well I’m a little bit of both.
That gap-bridging contradiction took graduation, 4 years in newspapers, and a new job at Etna Interactive to cultivate. Don’t get me wrong — back in school, as a journalism student, I rolled my eyes with the best of ’em. I would get just close enough to those other guys to finish a group project and hurry back to the student newspaper to laughingly impart some tidbit to my sniggering cohorts.
Sometime between those days and the day I sent a job application to Etna, my perspective changed. I understand the bad blood. The worst marketers do exploit consumers, and the worst news jockeys do redefine “self-aggrandizement” on a daily basis. They’re natural enemies. But the best of us have so much in common.
When I left my job as a newspaper copy editor to come work as the editor for Etna Interactive’s copywriting team, it was a smooth transition. Sure, there was a ton to learn, and I’ve had my fair share of screw-ups. But much of the knowledge I had built and so many of the interests I was passionate about as a newswoman greased the skids for my marketing turn. Here’s what’s worked for me in both worlds:
- The skill set: My job back at the newspaper was to read all the articles we published and edit them, write headlines for them, and make sure they fit the limitations and goals of the task. I did a lot of fact-checking and research, I posted to the newspaper’s website, and I did all my work on a daily deadline. All those things have helped me incalculably in my work now at Etna. I still edit the work we publish and attempt to make sure each writing task achieves its goal and doesn’t exceed limitations, say on length, for example. I learned enough about keywords and search engine optimization while working on the newspaper’s website to hit the ground running at Etna on that front, which is a big part of my work. I can write a press release headline with a keyword in it in mere seconds (it’s a breeze without print journalism’s space limitations), I’m well versed at fact-checking, and I’ve spent years honing my personal time management skills. It turns out newspaper journalism was the perfect primer for the logistics of this marketing job.
- The constant shift: Working in news, I learned to anticipate constant change. Each day, I had different materials to put together into a comprehensible package called a newspaper. My job was to keep track of what was new in the world so I could decide what people needed to know about. And each day, it seemed, my co-workers and I were learning to do something new to help get our information out to readers who were increasingly less interested in buying a daily newspaper. Now I work in a completely digital world that focuses on something just as mutable as the news: medicine. I use the same tools as I once did to monitor that industry so my work stays up to date, accurate, and compelling. At Etna, we also know how to adapt to new technologies often, a critical skill in Web marketing. Journalists roll with the punches to stay on top, and so do marketers.
- The ideals: Here’s the strongest common thread between news journalists and marketing folks, and the one that’s also at the heart of their discord. Good marketing professionals strive to be representatives for their clients, communicating their messages clearly, precisely, and simply. News journalists do the same thing, but they think of their readers as their clients. I’d like to think I do both as a member of the copywriting team at Etna Interactive. Our clients are some of the best doctors in their fields, providing some of the best healthcare in the world. I want to write and edit work that represents them as such not just for their business benefit, but also for the benefit of their prospective patients. If a single patient out there reads something we’ve published about one of our clients, and then that person gets care from that client and feels a renewed sense of confidence, everyone at Etna has done their jobs well.
Good marketing and good journalism serve people by connecting them with what they need to know. So although many of my old college buddies may joke at my next reunion that I’ve crossed over to the “dark side,” I can tell them to rest easy because I’m doing work that helps people. I wonder which side of the room I should stand on at that reunion. Better just stick to the punch bowl.