Why You Should Run Your Content Department Like a Newsroom

Katy Kostakis is an Account Executive and Marketing Writer and Editor for Costas Provisions Corp., a foodservice distribution firm in Boston, as well as a blogger and freelance writer. A graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Telecommunication (now Mass Communication) at Arizona State University, Katy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcasting with a Major Concentration in Broadcast Journalism and a Related Field of Theatre. Her distinctive voice and writing style, with its’ conversational and highly descriptive tone, helped her find her true calling in written media. Her vast body of work includes concepts for marketing and advertising campaigns, product descriptions, lifestyle and entertainment articles, film reviews, columns, and commentary. She launched her blog, The Lioness’ Den, in January 2017. Visit The Lioness’ Den at www.lionessden.tumblr.com.

It’s no secret that those with journalism credentials excel in copy and content writing for what may be obvious to those in the “inner circle.” They have a flair for storytelling. They know the ins and outs of many industries. They will give you different styles, moods and color in every piece constructed. Journalists who have transitioned to marketing, advertising, and public relations certainly have the advantage of knowing what their brethren want to create maximum media coverage and great publicity for clients. In talking with other writers, my own journalism degree pops up in debates about tactics and practices in content creation. Everything I learned in journalism school has been applied throughout my career in both freelance writing and in my current position in sales and marketing.   

The industry has changed over time with more and more non-traditional media being at the forefront. Established methods of reporting are being uprooted in favor of influencers who cater to society’s craving for the instantaneous sharing of thought and information. People who may have not had formal instruction in certain areas that journalists are well-versed in are now responsible for content that goes public. Constant technological advancements in web and social media place every writer under a microscope, regardless of training, forte, or educational level. With a litany of concerns and “what if” scenarios that could come into play at any time, those in content need to be just as responsible as journalists in maintaining certain standards. To do that, I recommend running your content department like a newsroom. While the majority of you may never see the office of a media organization, what is expected of a journalist? How can content writers and developers benefit from following journalistic protocol? More than you could imagine! Get ready for my tips to keep your content department functioning like a well-oiled machine!

Implement and use a style guide.

All news organizations and other entities follow a style guide. Associated Press style is the gold standard for American media, as well as Chicago. These stylebooks usually list acceptable word usage and spelling across the board in all types of media. It’s also a good idea to consult other style manuals for rules of grammar. Once a set style guide is implemented, there is a uniformity and clarity to all work, with no second guessing as to what the correct form is.

Take a course in Media Law.

As part of their educational curriculum, journalists are required to take a course in Media Law, which covers a multitude of legal matters that may arise in one’s career. As journalists and writers deal with information that gets reported as fact, such issues that are discussed include plagiarism, libel, slander, trademarks, copyright, and intellectual property, as well as the application of the First Amendment. It’s extremely important for any writer to be educated in those areas, as a violation not only sparks a public relations nightmare and loss of credibility, but can result in litigation. Most universities with a journalism or communications department will offer a Media Law class that you may be able to audit for the course fee.

Set up a standards and practices manual.

Obviously, you should have a legal representative keeping their eyes and ears open, handling tricky instances should something go towards the litigation route, but you must be your own self-governing body against those major infractions I mentioned above. This should also apply to obtaining and using outside copy and images. Along with a style guide, you should definitely fashion a Standards and Practices manual and put it on paper. This not only protects your organization, but also sets a precedent, as changes are made as needed for future editions.

Please do not sacrifice quality for quick publishing. It will come back to bite you.  

Countless media outfits are so focused on constantly churning out content at a rapid pace that they don’t take into consideration the basic rules of journalism and writing in general. I have encountered so many typos, spelling and grammatical errors by major news media. What I’ve also noticed is that these same organizations don’t always catch their mistakes, often not even correcting them or publishing a retraction. It’s a reasonable expectation that as a professional writer, you should absolutely make sure that you…

Check your facts!

Every single quote, name, and statistic needs to be verified, and don’t forget to attribute where you obtained this information. This may be a tad repetitive, but it is crucial that all your T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted. I remember that a major entertainment publication put out an article stating that a well-known town was in Rhode Island rather than in Massachusetts! Even if this particular city wasn’t familiar to everyone, all that had to be done was to consult the internet to find out what state the city was located in. That’s why major news organizations have copyeditors and fact checkers on staff: to ensure that these errors are avoided. Please don’t cut corners just to have content ready for publishing. Take those extra few minutes and go over your copy with a fine-toothed comb. While you’re at it…

Proofread and edit constantly!

In journalism school, I learned a lesson that I still use in my everyday life: edit and proofread as you go. While I usually have a dictionary, thesaurus, and AP Stylebook at my disposal, my eyes always glance over and over at the copy I’ve written. Once I’ve made my initial draft, I read it out loud, tweaking it as necessary. Make sure you are using the correct word and in the correct context and proofread and edit as many times as necessary. Have a colleague check it, then check it again. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Read anything you can get your hands on and keep your writing skills fresh!

Journalists don’t simply read just their own stuff. They check out the work of their colleagues, competition, and other important entities. Try to read as many trade periodicals and industry websites to stay abreast of what’s happening. When it comes to writing, get out of your comfort zone! If you work in technical writing, take a shot at penning some fiction for a peer group! This keeps your mind sharp and active!

If you don’t have a standing deadline, put yourself under one.

Just like journalists, content and copywriters have some sort of schedule and content calendar they have to follow. Imposing a deadline gives you leeway to proofread and correct what you have written. I try to set a soft deadline for myself to allow for wiggle room in my editing, rewrites, and corrections.

With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to guiding your content department to success!