• July 13th, 2020

Opinion - Why your company should have a journalist on board

The noble profession of journalism is under threat, as reporters continue to lose their jobs en masse. Many people who carved out professional careers in journalism have lost their means of survival and many more will follow. Traditional media companies are laying off the editorial staff to stay afloat due to dwindling advertising revenues. Compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, the future of many journalists remains uncertain. 

For many women and men, telling stories is the only career they have known. Few jobs are now available to journalists as newspapers and magazines are operating on skeleton staff. In Namibia, unemployed reporters and editors are scrambling for the few available opportunities, mostly as freelancers. In conversation with several former journalists, many are willing to transition into other fields. They are yearning for the chance to craft stories like they once did in the newsrooms. And they’re willing to even write for corporate brands including public entities. But they are not certain if employers in those fields are willing to absorb them. However, what many employers do not realise is that the large pool of unemployed journalists are to their advantage. Other than being a bit impatient and highly opinionated – traditional journalists have unique skills that both private and public entities desperately need. They have distinctive skills that every organisation cannot do without. 
Businesses across all sectors of the economy – from large to small and medium, as well ministries, public enterprises and non-profit organisations need to have people with journalism experience in their structures. As a former newspaper editor, too many mind-numbing press releases have passed through my desk. Many of them are beyond bad, including poorly researched speeches from politicians, senior public officials and business leaders. Many of the press statements came laden with industry jargons and unheard-of acronyms. Hiring former journalists presents many benefits. 

As someone that has spent seven years overseeing editorial operations and mentoring young journalists, I know what value these professionals can bring to any organisation. They are good at creating reliable, relevant, informative and engaging content. They are not only good writers, but they’re also formally trained with university qualifications, are inquisitive and great storytellers with good interviewing as well as researching skills. Journalists are natural investigators and can easily identify newsworthy stories within the organisation, which often go unreported by the media. They are good at researching various topics, and able to translate complex subjects into plain language, that can be easily grasped by the audience. Especially, journalists with experience in print media are used to cover a wide range of topics. Unlike their colleagues in marketing and corporate communications, journalists are accustomed to switching gears at any given moment. 
Futuristic organisations are recruiting former journalists to help them create news-style content in their respective sectors. They are breaking their own news. Instead of waiting for traditional media to pick up bits about them – they have hired in-house journalists and editors to generate news stories. And those journalists are not recruited to churn out press statements but are writing original stories about their respective employers. 

Major brands like Red Bull, LinkedIn, Boeing, General Electric, Pepsi, Alibaba, American Express, Unilever and many others are now publishing their own news. They are publishing endless articles, videos, and photographs on their websites, social media platforms and in-house magazines. Many organisations in Namibia, both private and public enterprises, local authorities, and non-profit organisations are yet to get on the new mantra that ‘every organisation is a media company.’ Instead, they are still waiting for journalists to report about them, which oftentimes are negative reporting. Many local authorities, if not all, they have strained relations with their residents due to lack of communication. Non-profit organisations (NGOs) that ought to tell their success stories are dormant. In the time of greater demand for accountability, success stories provide proof of results on the ground and promote NGOs to the wider audience including international donors. We have public enterprises that are at the forefront of economic development, but their websites and social media platforms are devoid of news content, which is due to lack of internal capacity to generate content. 

It is the same in the corporate sector – companies are not telling their own stories. I can probably single out Ohlthaver & List Group that I can say is living up to the mantra of “every company is a media company”. The company has hired a former journalist, as its in-house journalist and creative writer. In all honesty, this contribution is not meant to disparage our colleagues in marketing and corporate communications. However, having a journalist in their midst will go a long way to complement the organisations’ marketing and public relations efforts. 
As rightly summed up by Marialetizia Mele, the founder of Your Brand Journalist, having a journalist onboard “helps the company to show itself to the audience as an authoritative and trustworthy source of information.” Mele added that journalists have a nose for news, “often something that’s missing in corporate communication. Companies frequently think they do not have anything to say and this is why many blogs and social media channels are left to their own devices”. 

So, how about hiring a journalist to help your company write about itself, tell its own story? I am signing off with a quote by Gareth Harding, a former journalist, an academic and speechwriter that “the next time you see a headline about journalists getting laid off, don’t feel too sorry for them. Instead, make them a job offer they can’t refuse”. 

*Andreas Thomas spent his journalism career at The Southern Times and Windhoek Observer. He is currently providing a range of writing services to SMEs and individuals. 

Staff Reporter
2020-06-05 09:20:11 | 1 months ago

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