Understanding the difference between journalists and practitioners is critical to executing your brand-building content marketing strategy. One of the most important things to remember about journalists is that they are professional writers who write about people and topics that are newsworthy. A journalist’s attention is 100% earned. Your company can’t pay a journalist and have him or her report on your company, and journalists don’t work for you or write for outlets you own.
Practitioners are both paid and earned writers who are professionals in their industries and writers on the side. They can be paid to write pieces your company publishes, but they also must be earned in the sense that they have to feel like associating their name with your brand doesn’t damage their reputation among their peers.
What journalists care about
Remember, journalists don’t work for you. They work for their readers, and they have to satisfy their editors. Whether freelance or employed by a media outlet, journalists’ stories are accepted by editors if they are going to attract eyeballs for advertisers.
Journalist Meredith Rutland Bauer has outlined what makes a story pitch successful. Therefore, journalists want:
- A story that can be easily understood in 30 seconds.
- Something more than how your company can make untold wealth for yourself and your investors.
- Something timely that will appeal to the editor.
- Enough notice so they can get their editor’s approval to write the piece (or find an editor who will buy it).
What practitioners care about
Practitioners can be a quirky bunch. Their primary motivations include:
- Recognition. They want to share their knowledge so they are recognized by their peers for their knowledge.
- Passion. Practitioners care a lot about their subject domain—so much so that they will write something because they feel so strongly about it.
- Being right. Somewhat tied to recognition, practitioners are eager to share their perspective to prove that they are right. Their way is the way. However, you can’t be right in a vacuum, so the writing requires the airing and defending of technically grounded opinions and approaches.
- Being first. Again, tied to recognition, the lure of having pointed something out is as seductive as the fear of missing out (FOMO) and being left behind practitioner peers. Perfect match.
Who reads articles by journalists?
When determining what should be pitched to a journalist vs. a practitioner, consider the audience you want. Does the story have broader appeal to a wider sector that includes your customer? Then by all means, pitch to a journalist—particularly if you are positioning your company to become a known subject matter expert and thought leader in a new area, or for a new business model, or something else that should be a well-recognized part of your brand identity. In these cases, a journalist can best tell a story that has wide appeal.
When to pitch to journalists
Stories that might appeal to journalists can demonstrate that your company is leading an industry trend, a product trend, or even an investment trend, and can highlight your company’s strengths and associate your brand with these strengths. Creating controversy in an area where your company could be a disrupting force can serve to highlight your company’s stance or philosophy if it is newsworthy and important to your brand.
Who reads articles by practitioners?
Your customers read articles by practitioners. Pure and simple. These are the people who care deeply about technical controversies, issues, and approaches. They want the technical details that can only come from people like them.
When to pitch to practitioners
If your product’s adoption relies on persuading an audience of experts, you need the persuasive power of a practitioner that sits outside your organization. Practitioners lend credibility to your brand. They can take a technical stand that is shared by your brand, giving it authenticity. Even taking a philosophical stand on a technical issue can help position your brand and your product with your target audience.
You need both journalists and practitioners to succeed at creating brand identity and recognition. When trying to appeal to a broader audience than your target market, pitch a story idea to a journalist. But to seal the deal on your company’s thought leadership with a group of experts you wish to become your customers, the devil is in the details. For that, you need the expertise and the convictions of the practitioner that sits outside your organization.