Why Journalists Like Me Thank God For Content Marketing

A few years ago, when I was still a digital financial-news manager, it wasn’t uncommon for me to edit 15 pieces in one day. And write two myself. And manage the homepage. And work on SEO. And edit the day’s headlines. And put out the various fires that were bound to spring up no matter how well we’d planned our coverage.

When I first made the leap into corporate editing, I couldn’t believe how much slower-paced it was. It made me twitchy.

I needed to type — type fast and type long. For those of us who grew up in a newsroom, the manpower-to-output ratio in today’s marketing departments defies reason. It shouldn’t take a whole week to write a banner headline. It shouldn’t take a whole month to create a landing page.

Thankfully, as this year-old-but-still-relevant piece from The Guardian points out, copywriting has evolved to require quite a bit of typing. Nowadays, copywriters get to create blog posts, video scripts, emails,  banner ads, social media posts and more. And what more companies are starting to discover is that a journalist can do all of this in a day — and still have time for more creative work.

What a glorious turn of events for journalists like me.

Content marketing has brought new talent into the advertising industry, but these are different beasts to the traditional copywriter

Source: Copywriting is dead? Don’t tell the journalists | Media Network | The Guardian


How To Change A Facebook Post Title

When I had to write my first correction as a young newspaper copy editor, my friend Ted tried to comfort me. “It happens to all of us at some point,” he said. Then he played “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M. on his computer for us all to enjoy.

Those were the old days of print, when mistakes were indelible. Today, thanks to the wonders of digital technology, we can correct our errors quickly. Sometimes, though, they linger in a page’s meta tags, including the ones Facebook uses to display titles and descriptions. How many times have you pasted a URL to share and seen misspellings or errant characters appear in the headline?

The good news: Facebook has made those fields editable! So, if you want to fix a typo in your headline or deck, you can. And you should.

Sweat the details. Social media is more forgiving of sloppiness than other media, but it’s better to look professional in all settings. Headlines and teasers pulled from a story’s metadata are editable on Facebook, so if the original publisher made an error, go ahead and correct it.

edit title

Here’s how:

1. After you’ve pasted in the URL of a story but before you’ve hit publish, click on the title or description you want to change.

Change title1

2. Click again, and you’ll see that you can now type in the field.

Change title 2

3. Edit to your heart’s content.

Change title 3

4. To save the changes, click anywhere outside of the space you’ve been editing (but within the post area itself).

change title 4

5. Your brilliant revision is complete. Add whatever comment you want at the top of you post (and please delete the pasted URL string), and hit publish.


Of course, if you don’t have time to spend doing all this, you can hire a professional to handle your social media for you. We’d be happy to help.


Always Send A Journalist To Do A Marketer’s Job

Outside of the media industry, journalists get a bad rap. We’re unduly nosy. We’re contrary. We’re know-it-alls. We have unfathomably messy desks. Speaking as an insider, I can attest that all of these things are true.

But you might not know that some of the traits found in successful journalists are uncannily useful in the business world — particularly in marketing and advertising.

Here’s why you should always hire a journalist to do a marketer’s job:

  • We speak plain English, not marketing-ese.
  • We thoroughly research our subjects before writing about them.
  • We ask good questions.
  • Writing fantastic headlines is all in a day’s work.
  • We abhor typos and bloated language.
  • We type really, really fast.
  • We thrive on deadlines.
  • We’re always grateful for work.
  • We have a nose for what makes a subject unique — we can always find an angle.

The best journalists are adept not only at gathering information but weaving it into a story that captures their readers’ interest. Most reporters know that every story should answer the basic questions — Who? What? When? Where? — but the great ones also answer a fifth: “Why should this matter to me?”

Guess what? That’s marketing: discovering and exploiting what makes a brand unique and why the customer should care. Great marketers anticipate questions and convey the facts clearly. They know that to serve their clients they must first serve the customer. They’re not so different from great journalists.

Every business has a compelling story. We’ll help you tell yours. Email us today.



Gutsy Broads Publishes First Contributor Story

GBSToday I had the pleasure of sharing my first contributor’s story on Gutsy Broads.

I know Lauren because of a gutsy decision she made several years ago: leaving an “Established News Organization” for the smaller, scrappier

Lauren was fierce from the get go. It was 2008, and all hell was breaking loose on Wall Street. If she had any doubts about her ability to report on the complicated, messy news of the day, you wouldn’t know it. She fearlessly tackled her beat, developing sources and breaking news with the confidence you’d expect in someone many years her senior. I and the other editors were impressed with this young woman. She had her act together, and she was going places.

I’ve followed Lauren and her career in the years since, and she’s even more of a powerhouse now. I hope that her story will inspire other women, as it has me.

READ: Being Gutsy Means Knowing When To Walk Away


Do You Use Yoast’s SEO Plugin? Don’t Let This Happen To You

Every day I shake my head in wonder that publishers don’t use all of the SEO tools at their disposal. Imagine my horror when I realized the title tags for every page and post on my own site were all the same:

Digital publishing news, commentary and advice | Sam Shaddock

And I was all:


This website is young enough that I don’t expect to have much search traffic yet, but I did install Yoast’s fantastic SEO plugin to increase my odds of ranking well. It’s an easy tool to set up and use. Just tell it how you want your title tags to render (the default pulls from the headline), and if you want to overwrite it, do so below the post. I’ve been using it to create search-friendly title tags while striving to maintain more conversational headlines. Or so I thought.

Yoast SEO plugin screen shot

La, la, la. I’m so very clever. … Oh, wait.

In the past, that’s all I’ve had to do. Evidently, though, with some WordPress themes you have to take an extra step: checking the “force rewrite titles” box on the first tab in your SEO settings. (If that doesn’t work, try some of the suggestions in this WordPress forum.)

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 8.52.33 AM

Now I’m back in business, but man, that was embarrassing.



We Have Reached Peak Photo Tweet

Maybe I’m just feeling grumpy because it’s Monday, but this morning I snapped:

Photo tweets are a great tool for publishers. When Twitter first started showing expanded photos in people’s streams, I couldn’t wait to spread the word to my compadres at The Dallas Morning News. After all, images are known for their magic retweetability powers. That said, a photo tweet is not appropriate in all cases. Everything we know about social media says a mix of post types is best for achieving the Twitter goal trifecta: awareness, engagement and clicks back to your domain.

The worst thing about the recent glut of image tweets in my newsfeed: Many of the stories don’t merit the extra visual emphasis. Here are a few examples of when to use a photo in your tweet and when to let your words alone do the talking:

Good Photos Tweets

This clever tease:


Nothing sexy, but the extra info this image conveys is useful:

Just enough to make me want to see more:

Not So Good Photo Tweets

Not necessary:



Maybe a chart would work here. This? Not so much:

Stop cluttering my feed, VentureBeat:

I’m pretty sure we all know what Clinton looks like, kids:

This guy, too:


Remember: Just because you can add a photo to your tweet doesn’t mean you should. Make sure you’re serving all of your goals with a mix of tweet types.


No Guts, No Glory

Gutsy BroadsI’ve resurrected the Gutsy Broads project. To kick things off, here’s a little first-person ditty I wrote about gutsiness.

More details to come!


Puzzlingly Dumb Social Sharing Tool Setting Of The Week

Nearly every day I come across something infuriating about a publisher’s sharing tools (my own included).

Case in point:

Same story (correction: same AWESOME story), two comments settings. The only difference here is the browser.

Viewed in Firefox

Viewed in Chrome
Why is it even an option to vary comments settings by browser, Gigya? WHY?



Tweet Of The Day: ‘Senior US Official Source’

HAHA. Truth to power.


Another Way To Engage With Readers Is Hiding In Plain Sight



“Best of Twitter” and other social-media reaction pieces continue to be popular among local-news providers. I think they’re fine — often amusing, occasionally enlightening — no real harm in doing them. I’ve dabbled (here and here).

But what about the great story reactions that occur within a newspaper’s own domain? That’s right, I’m talking about THE COMMENTS, a phrase that causes many journalists, and unfortunately the occasional digital communities manager, to roll their eyes and groan with disgust. Or worse, mock their readers. Descriptions I’ve heard journalists apply to commenters (also known as customers):

  • “Morons”
  • “Lunatics”
  • “Nut jobs”
  • “Racists”

Do readers sometimes spout ugly and hurtful words? Yes. Can they also provide valuable insight and context? Yes.

The last couple of years, it’s been trendy for engagement editors (or their marketing counterparts) to say, “Let’s not be limited to the site. We’ll go where the conversation is already happening! On social media!!” I think that’s a fine idea, but ignoring the comments section is not.

I’m proud to have worked at a company that early on decided to make engaging with readers in the comments not just a goal, but a job requirement. News sites that do this can be richly rewarded, in measurable terms (e.g. return visitors and time on site), and also in less measurable ways (increased credibility for journalists, greater rapport with customers, fodder for future stories). Not to get too marketing-speaky, but the comments are an opportunity to build a relationship with an audience, and newspapers are squandering it by hiding these sections, neglecting them or doing away with them altogether.

I’d love to see news sites make comments more visible on their article pages, not less so. Pull them up higher, give them some eye-catching graphical treatment. Not only could this add value to stories, but it would provide readers incentive to contribute more thoughtful remarks. And, frankly, showing a meaningful conversation between a reporter and a reader right there on the page would make the news organization look good.

My advice to community managers: Go forth into new territories, find and convert new readers there, but don’t abandon the customers who are already in your store.