How My Journalism Degree Supports My Marketing Career

I posted this on LinkedIn, and I’m proud of the writing, so I’m posting it here, too.

I’m sure degrees in content management and digital marketing exist. However, way back in 1992 when I graduated from college, the internet was barely a thing.

My BA is in *print* journalism, and while that may sound quaint in this digital age, journalism is the foundation on which I’ve built my current career track.

Journalism taught me how to write short, relevant copy, backed up with supporting facts, and delivered with clean text (with one space after a period!). It taught me that proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation are all important, and that fact-checking is not optional.

1. Style

My journalism professor Clark Edwards, God rest his soul, taught an entire semester-long class on the AP Stylebook. I had had a good grasp of grammar and punctuation rules upon entering college; English was my favorite subject in high school, and I already knew I wanted to be a writer. But AP style addressed the very specific needs of the newspaper publishing industry, answering questions about spelling, punctuation, and capitalization, as well as issues regarding libel and media law.

The AP Stylebook is published each year with updates and clarifications. Above all, AP style strives for consistency, clarity, and professionalism. With the exception of the Oxford comma (in which I default to the Chicago Manual of Style), the AP Stylebook is my source for writing standards.

2. Research

Any good news story starts with the right question(s), and then uses supporting facts to answer the questions. It’s important to know how to find the right answers. Journalism taught me about how to decide if a source is reliable, and how to report on facts. Digital marketing, like journalistic reporting, is less about selling or sensationalism. It’s about being a trusted source for information – and telling good stories.

3. Make it interesting

Blog posts are meant to be short and informative. The most important information goes into the first paragraph. Especially now, the way people take in information online, the lede has to immediately prove to be relevant. News writing taught me the reverse pyramid structure: Put the most relevant information (who, why, where, what, how) in the opening paragraph. The following paragraphs should contain important details to support the lede. Ideally, a blog post will be short and to the point, using subheads and numbered or bulleted lists instead of blocks of text, but the delivery structure is the same.

4. Meeting deadlines

Most of the deadlines in digital marketing are self-imposed. We have a social media and blog posting schedule that we have created as a department. But even a self-imposed deadline is a deadline, and as someone who has worked on actual print newspapers, I find deadlines compelling and helpful.

Digital Is Different

All that being said, digital marketing does expand on the basics of journalism and good writing in different ways than contributing to a news site would. The biggest challenge for me as a marketer who uses social media is making the goal to write for people, not for bots. Yes, SEO is important in digital marketing. But if you fill your article with lots of keywords to show up on Google, and make the headline read like clickbait, you aren’t doing your readers a service. [My work blog] isn’t purely meant as a sales tool. It’s about bringing news to our customers, and making them aware that we know and care about the issues that affect them.

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