Career Crossroads: Finding the Narrative Beyond the Newsroom
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There’s a small satisfaction that comes with publishing a story.
For journalists, it’s fleeting, and they’re on to the next item that must be covered.
Admittedly, Matt Swibel misses those 10 minutes of instant gratification. But the Lockheed Martin director of corporate sustainability has found a way to keep burning that fire of perpetual curiosity.
“A part of me misses the news cycle, but I’ve found a way to retain my reporting skills in my current job,” Swibel says. “Well-run corporations still reward those with an ability to collect data, translate it into useful information and connect with the audience. This practice helps purpose-minded executives earn trust and brands earn loyalty.”
Swibel began his journalism career in April 1999, and he suspended it Oct. 2008.
In that time, he’d carved out a solid career as a business journalist, covering marketing, media, real estate, personal finance, structured finance, retail, international business, healthcare, strategy, government contracting, and economic development.
He served a couple of years with the Washington Business Journal, covering marketing and media. His last newsroom was the Forbes Washington bureau, which produced content for Forbes and Forbes Asia magazines and the Forbes.com site. He also co-edited the Forbes Billionaires issue. In total, Swibel spent a total of eight years with Forbes.
After this time, he started to feel as if he’d maxed out on his ability to expand what he was reporting. By 2008, he decided to change things up.
“Two major factors influenced my decision,” Swibel says. “I earned an MBA in mid-2005 and wanted to diversify my work experience. I also spent part of 2008 traveling with the State Department press pool and was discouraged by the pack mentality.”
Enter Lockheed Martin.
There, Swibel began with supporting the chief financial officer and then the president and chief operating officer, performing a variety of duties from speechwriting to employee communications to media outreach.
It presented a diverse portfolio. Swibel leaned on his journalism skills and quickly learned the company.
“I think a journalist is well prepared for that environment because you have to rely on your curiosity and getting people to trust you,” he says. “If you think about the last decade with corporate social responsibility and sustainability, it’s really a field of practice where we try to integrate our business strategies with our brand positioning and demonstrate what we’re doing to help address common challenges related to environmental, social and governance issues.”
Swibel directs sustainability strategy, reporting, and stakeholder engagement at Lockheed Martin, the top-ranked aerospace and defense prime contractor named to CR Magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens list.
He led Lockheed Martin’s inaugural report in 2012, and its first issues assessment, formal stakeholder meetings and Global Reporting Initiative-based report in 2013, according his bio with Cornerstone Capital Group, of which Swibel is a member of the board of directors.
A graduate of the American University School of Communication, Swibel double-majored in journalism and sociology. He says he strongly benefited from broadening his course content with his sociology studies.
“At the end of the day, it’s important to learn writing and communications, but you also have to learn about the world,” he says. “Because that’s what you’ll be covering. It helped me understand the makeup of our economy.”
For new journalists starting out, Swibel has some advice: “Master the nut graf, muster a contrarian view and stay aware of how your reportage fits with the agendas of your interview subject and employer brand.”
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