- Brands are increasingly looking to hire editorial talent to staff their publications.
- There are some key skills that editors and reporters must have to excel in brand publishing roles compared with roles at traditional media organizations.
In an effort to launch, build and grow their own editorial publications, brands are on a hiring spree – hunting for writing, reporting and editing talent to create content for in-house publications.
Editorial roles are particularly prevalent in categories like financial services, consulting and ad agencies and technology companies. According to media recruiters we’ve partnered with, there is increased interest from brands in raiding the ranks of major journalism companies to find staff.
But while the skills veteran editors or reporters can bring to the table can be essential, even critical for brands to adopt as they embark on their publishing journeys there are some specific capabilities that are necessary to succeed in brand publishing. Here are some key capabilities that hiring managers should look for:
Writing, editing or creating any kind of content or strategy for a brand publication typically necessitates some level of specialist knowledge. For example, the National Kidney Foundation, which is looking for a content director, prefers someone with experience in healthcare content. Morgan Stanley, which is looking for an editorial director for its investment arm, needs familiarity with economics and finance, as well as comfort with economic data.
Domain knowledge is particularly important because staff who work for a brand publication often have to “translate” industry-speak into simple, interesting and valuable content. This means that in order to find stories, they have to report them out by talking to executives within the organization, or in the wider network. The learning curve can be steep, particularly for publications in more technical industries or areas.
It’s one reason why many brands do find success in recruiting from B2B publications – trade media that covers their industry – when hiring staff. Because these writers and editors already have a more-than-basic familiarity with the given field, it can be easier for them to ramp up quickly.
Business and strategic acumen
When hiring from traditional newsrooms, brands should look for candidates that can write, edit and tell stories, but also have a deeper understanding of business and business outcomes. They should test candidates to ensure that they are able to draw a line between the work they are doing how it’ll help the overall business.
This is particularly important because In most newsrooms, reporters and editors work relatively autonomously, cocooned in a self-sufficient sub-organization, largely removed from the wider workings of the business. The church-state divide is practically gospel in major newsrooms, and in some cases, reporters consider it a matter of pride to not really be in the know about revenue opportunities or ad sales.
That is changing quickly. Already, editors and editorial managers within journalism organizations are increasingly responsible for revenue. Particularly as subscriptions and reader-funded content rises in importance, these groups become closer to the business. And as we covered in a piece last week, editors are increasingly being asked to do more than simply make stories sound good – they are in charge of content and digital strategy.
At brands, this need becomes more important. Because content is not the product at these companies and is invariably linked to driving business for the brand at large, content creators inside brand publishing operations naturally need to have a sense of what broader business outcomes their work is driving and how successful they are at it.
Relatedly, content teams inside brands may operate relatively independently but are still extremely dependent on other groups. Most content teams work within a marketing or communications function, and therefore will need to work with those groups to create and maintain editorial processes, calendars and standards.
Often, brand publishing teams also have a “second shift” in that they are called upon to act as a review partner or provide expertise on other content efforts by the company. While this isn’t the main part of the role, being an “expert” in telling stories can often mean being pulled into brand marketing efforts, for example.
In services businesses, such as ad agencies, this may also mean taking on some amount of billable client work – acting as an expert voice on client communications and content, for example. This requires successful staffers to be able to work with people with vastly different backgrounds and crucially – KPIs for success – than their own. Hiring managers should look for candidates who are able to converse fluently with different departments and audiences.
Ability to be the “lone voice” in the room
In many cases, editors and writers may have vastly different ideas of what constitutes “good” content, and crucially, how to present work in an interesting and valuable way. For brands new to publishing, this isn’t a muscle they’re used to using. Many that have been reared on a steady diet of marketing copy may be used to writing or speaking in a certain way. Others may be unwilling, or even concerned about taking perceived risks with content in case it offends key stakeholders.
Brand publishing staffers must be comfortable pushing teams to do what does not come naturally to them, and be able to present their choices and strategy in a way that can win over other parts of the company and bring them along. A lot of this work involves internal evangelizing, which can be a new skill to develop for journalists making the switch from traditional media.
Ability to think beyond stories
“Trying to figure out how to become more efficient, looking at different revenue streams like e-commerce and experiential,” is how Michelle Lee, former EIC of Allure and now global VP of editorial and publishing at Netflix describes the new responsibilities she took on at Allure, ones that eventually enabled her to transition into a new industry.
While this is true at traditional media organizations as well, brands require publishing staffers who can think beyond the 800-word story and create content in other mediums, including but not limited to conferences, reports or guides or multimedia and graphic approaches. Because so much of brand publishing is starting from scratch, successful staffers must be able to work across mediums and understand how to create content that is ultimately valuable to the core audiences, and present it through the appropriate channels.