March 6, 2018

Marketing, HR & PR under one roof: A plea for the brand newsroom

Brand Newsroom

The sales person or IT person shares their insights on the company blog. The blog post is posted on LinkedIn by a social media manager, accompanied by a Slideshare presentation. The PR department then gets annoyed because the content could have been offered exclusively to a trade magazine. The marketing employee reads the post and in turn realizes that the topic would have been very exciting for the trade show documents. But these are now already on their way. The HR department is pleased because the article has attracted new applicants to the company. The CEO just shrugs indifferently because the content of the article is miles away from the strategic priorities that have just been defined.

This scenario is becoming increasingly likely in many companies. The boundaries between marketing, PR, employer branding, etc. are increasingly disappearing thanks to storytelling and content strategy. However, thinking in terms of classic departments continues to keep the walls up. Either there is too little communication among each other; or too much, and everyone wants to have a say in every Facebook post, no matter how small.

My plea is therefore that companies should break away from the classic domains and install a central editorial department instead. To explain what this might look like, I bring in Steve Wiens, Managing Editor of Microsoft Stories, as a sparring partner. I had the privilege of discussing exactly this approach at Microsoft with him in an in-depth interview two years ago for my book “Storytelling für Unternehmen” The following quotes are taken from it.

The newsroom and new roles

Synergie - Marketing, HR & PR under one roof: A plea for the brand newsroomSteve Wiens: „Our daily work actually looks very similar to a newspaper editorial office, except that we have the luxury of being able to create our stories under less time pressure. We have news meetings and our editorial processes also remind me a lot of my early days as a journalist. Like newspaper reporters, we walk the campus, always looking for people and moments that define Microsoft, its vision and values. In our still quite manageable editorial team, it’s not the number of stories we publish that matters, but the quality. On the other hand, however, there is a lot of creative thinking involved that I tend to associate with advertising. For example, we often brainstorm what visual potential a story has and how we can prepare this accordingly. For certain stories, we also talk a lot with designers to find the best presentation.“

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Instead of sabers being sharpened internally between Marketing, PR & Co., in a brand newsroom, as in a traditional newsroom, the editor-in-chief maintains a strategic overview of topic planning and the associated goals. Depending on the size of the company, he or she delegates stories to individual editors; or an editorial meeting plans them together. Specialization of team members – depending on the topic and structure of the company – could take place at the following levels:

  • Format: While one employee specializes in writing blogposts and knows all the corresponding WordPress and SEO aspects, another editor is focused on extensive whitepapers, including graphics and layout. Or it differentiates into technical topics and personal employee stories.
  • Process: Editing is subdivided into individual production stages, from research, writing, graphics, video, to proofreading, SEO, etc.
  • Department: Editors work on different topics.

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The cross-media editorial team

Steve Wiens: “When it comes to getting the stories out there, we naturally benefit from the many channels Microsoft has already built up, from Facebook to Twitter to YouTube. However, we’re very careful to make sure the content fits the audience. A story about Xbox or about Windows is primarily directed to the respective, specialized channels and their target audiences. Instead of aggressively building the widest possible reach, we want to stay humble and attract audiences through the quality of the content.

Meanwhile, journalists, but also social influencers, YouTube stars, games blogs, designers, job candidates and many more follow our stories on their own. Our goal, therefore, is to provide highlights to each of these audiences with individually tailored articles. However, we make sure that each story is structured in such a way that it is both understandable for the general public and remains exciting through additional content for those interested in tech who want to delve deeper into the subject matter.”

When planning topics, the editorial team creates synergies above all when all content is thought of in cross- and transmedia terms right from the start. This is not about simply adapting the same content to the conditions of the respective platforms and transferring it one-to-one. Instead, the content should complement each other in order to spin a holistic web of different story elements.

Storytelling is not just marketing

HR Marketing - Marketing, HR & PR under one roof: A plea for the brand newsroom

Steve Wiens: “Our stories are also an important source of inspiration for other internal communications departments. For example, some of our employee stories are also used at career fairs and universities on our booths and in our brochures. One product I particularly enjoyed was a high-quality coffee table book we compiled from the best stories of the first year, which was displayed as a poster in Microsoft’s reception areas. Storytelling has also become firmly entrenched internally at Microsoft. We regularly shine the spotlight on individual employees and their exceptional projects, which naturally makes them feel very valued. Since ‘Microsoft Stories’ is also used a lot by our own employees, we can also, with all modesty, play an important part in ensuring that they constantly have Microsoft’s values and vision in mind through our stories. The fact that they never lose this orientation contributes a significant part to motivation and collaboration.”

Therefore, a brand newsroom should not only consist of subject matter experts or former marketing employees. The topics of personnel development, employee motivation, internal communications, recruiting, employer branding and value communication also play a crucial part in editorial planning.

Whether Microsoft, airbnb, or General Electrics – more and more companies are setting up a so-called “Chief Brand Storyteller”.  This is the first step away from siloed departmental thinking. But for a self-contained story universe, more courage is needed to rethink old roles.

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Miriam Rupp on EmailMiriam Rupp on Linkedin
Miriam Rupp
Miriam nimmt die Rolle des Kapitäns der Agentur ein und führt diese visionär, aber auch gut geplant und strukturiert, durch die Zeiten des Medienwandels. Sie manövriert bekannte wie auch neue Gewässer mit Begeisterung. Wer sich darauf einlässt, kann eine turbulente, mitreißende Fahrt erleben.
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