I remember the day that Animal Planet greenlit 50 episodes of a television series I pitched called “Judge Wapner’s Animal Court”. This was many years ago, when People’s Court was a huge ratings success and I was a television development executive. My job was to create ideas for Television Series and then pitch them to television networks and cable outlets. If they were picked up (or greenlit), I then produced the series and delivered it to the buyer. Receiving an order for 50 episodes at one time was pretty exciting and I have to say rather intimidating. Normally orders were much smaller, closer to 13 episodes, especially for a series we had never piloted or produced before.
I remember the budget being small (it was a cable show afterall). The only way we could afford to produce the series was to literally record (tape) ten episodes in one day. I hired a staff of about fifty people, with two very strong, accomplished producers working under me and we set to work. Each thirty-minute episode profiled two cases where one or two very disgruntled people were involved in an animal dispute. The cases involved every kind of animal you can imagine, from the usual suspects of dogs and cats, to horses, pigs, birds and reptiles. We filmed in a large warehouse which we transformed into our courtroom. We built a court room set and filmed using six 6 cameras. Because we had animals in the courtroom, legally we had to make special arrangements to safeguard the animals (horse pens, hay for feed, special padding for their hooves, etc.)
Now, if you can imagine trying to film twenty of these cases (2×10) in one day – including moving all of the people and animals in and out of the studio, managing a rather cranky Judge Wapner, the technical aspects of producing and directing a 6 camera television show, staying on schedule and on budget, feeding 100 people, etc…it was crazy. Once we got the content back from the shoot, we then had to edit the shows together so that they not only logically made sense, but were entertaining, fun, interesting and motivated the viewer to come back next week to watch again.
Here is a clip of the show which gives you a sense of just how insane this series was.
Over the past year, I have read a multitude of articles about the convergence of content marketing and brand journalism and the role that print journalists play. What no one has mentioned are #broadcastjournalists and the skillsets they bring to the table. Let’s clarify first, what a broadcast journalist is. A broadcast journalist in my mind is a television producer who works in the non-fiction medium. They are the folks who are producing the documentaries you see on Discovery Channel and National Geographic Channel. They are storytellers, journalists and content creators who work in broadcast.
Here are the 8 reasons why Broadcast Journalists make great content marketers:
#1 Broadcast journalists are experts at repurposing content
Broadcast Journalists are some of the most organized, Type A people I know. They have to be. In order to pull off productions like the one I described above, they need to be meticulous and strategic, yet creative at the same time.
Similarly, in order for content marketing to succeed, one needs to create a content machine where ideas come in, are repurposed for different platforms and then delegated to graphic designers, videographers, editors and writers for execution. After all, we have many social media platforms to feed. One needs to be able to take an idea for an ebook, have it researched, written and graphics created. Those same images and the research included can now be repurposed into a slideshare; a video created from the slideshare, then a audio podcast and of course blogs cut down from the ebook. Let’s not forget to send out a multimedia press release, images uploaded to instagram…you get the idea. This ability to repurpose content efficiently and creatively is a specialized skillset that broadcast journalists possess. After all broadcast journalists are trained to use both the right and left sides of their brain. They can manage multi-million dollar budgets and keep you on schedule and on budget, but also manage the creation of the beautiful content you see on television (and the web) today. If you need to create a lot of content, that looks good, find a broadcast journalist and hire them.
#2 Broadcast journalists are storytellers at heart
Broadcast journalists have a keen ability to create content that touches people, elicits emotion and pulls at people’s heart strings. I would suggest that broadcast journalists know how to do this better than anyone. Video is projected to take up to 90% of the online content pie (according to studies done by the likes of Wistia, YouTube and Ooyala on videoengagement). Dynamic visuals are a great way to break through the noise and engage your audience, which is why more marketers are turning toward video to share information.
#3 Broadcast journalists are work horses
Broadcast journalists are used to working long hours. There is no such thing as 9-5 in the world of television. You work until the work is done. TV producers love creating content and they don’t care how long it takes to make it look great. They are perfectionists and love their art. If you want more out of them, fill the fridge with good beer and leave them alone.
#4 Broadcast journalists love people
In order to create enough content in a company, it requires more than just a marketing department. It requires going out into the company and discovering who has good stories to tell and then gently pulling those stories out to create more content. Knowing who to ask and what questions will elicit the content you need is not easy.
If you grew up in a broadcast TV newsroom like I did, where I was raised interviewing everyone from serial killers to celebrities and politicians to corrupt televangelists, you can talk to almost anyone, and you learn how to read people and their vibe. This makes TV people good “people people”.
#5 Broadcast journalists are content junkies
Broadcast journalists love to create. They are creative by nature and whether it’s for television, slideshare or vine, they are driven by producing content that is engaging, entertaining, interesting and inherently sharable. The best stories are usually people stories, but really good content junkies can make just about anything come to life.
So, how does a content junkie fit into the world of content marketing? Content junkies not only love to create, they love to create ALOT of content. In the world of content marketing, where not only do we need to be able to create enough content to feed the beasts of the multitude of social media platforms, but we need to create compelling content that is shareable and engaging. Content junkies don’t come from the world of agencies where it takes 3 months to make a decision on what to create. Content junkies create a video (and a really good one) in 3 hours and have it uploaded that afternoon.
#6 Broadcast journalists are used to using calendars to create content
There are so many details involved in producing a television series that it’s next to impossible to achieve success without using some type of production calendar. One of the first things that broadcast journalists do is map out their content creation in a calendar format. This includes creating graphics, doing research (which is called pre-production), shooting different elements of the show (production itself), editing the show, which can often then be broken out into audio editing and finishing (post-production). Broadcast journalists use the calendar initially when they are budgeting the series, so they know how long to hire researchers or associate producers. They continually use the calendar to ensure they stay on schedule and budget.
To bring this back to content marketing, creating Calendars (both Editorial and Content) for a broadcast journalist is a piece of cake. It’s very natural and honestly, I don’t know how I would do my job without them.
#7 Broadcast Journalists know how to work under pressure
If you have ever seen that old movie Broadcast News (I’m dating myself here), or for that matter, any of the movies about the television industry, than you probably have a sense of the kind of pressure that broadcast journalists works under. They are given very tight deadlines to research often very complicated topics, go out with a crew (which often involves jumping on and off planes travelling around the country) shoot their interviews and footage, come home, watch 50-60 hours of footage, write a script and then edit a great television show. You can always depend on some technical glitch or another, and it’s critical not to lose your cool. Broadcast journalists know how to stay calm, work under pressure and get the job done.
#8 Broadcast Journalists are collaborators by nature
It’s not possible to produce a television show by oneself. It takes a team of dedicated professionals working together. Because the pressure is so intense, egos are left at the door and assuming there is a strong leader at the helm, everyone is unified behind the same cause. Everyone has to rely on each other in order to succeed. It’s like a domino effect. When one fails, everyone fails.
Collaboration is the key to content marketing. A company with siloed departments will fail miserably. I have personal experience with this one. There needs to be a clearly defined strategy and purpose which is translated throughout the entire company. Content marketing requires input from every department in the company. It is driven and lead by Marketing, but requires strong cross-departmental relationships in order to succeed.
To wrap it up
The worlds of broadcast networks and cable outlets have not changed as dramatically as those of the print world, forcing journalists to seek other work. It might be harder to find a strong broadcast journalist willing to leave their job. If you do stumble across someone and can convince them to join your team, or even better to lead it, by all means, hire them. You’ll be happy you did.
(Oh, by the way, “Judge Wapner’s Animal Court” became Animal Planet’s highest rated television show for the network for that time).