Career Crossroads: 4 Reasons Journalists Make Excellent Brand Communicators

Career Crossroads Monina Wagner

Join us on the third Wednesday of every month for Career Crossroads, a look at how journalists, bloggers, and freelancers are adapting to the changes in their media careers. Catch up on previous installments at and access job opportunities and other free media tools on PR Newswire for Journalists.

There comes a time in everyone’s career when they question whether the path they’re on still inspires them. It’s a realization that can overwhelm and swallow someone whole.

After a career spanning broadcast news, blogging, social media, and brand communications, Monina Wagner (@moninaw) understands how it feels. She also knows it’s possible to come out on the other side.

Wagner is currently the community manager at the Content Marketing Institute, where she leads the organization’s social media efforts. However, long before her days working on award-winning social media and media relations campaigns for companies like the Cleveland Clinic, Disney, Nestlé and Sherwin Williams, Wagner was bitten by the broadcast news bug.

“I knew from a young age I wanted to go into tv, but I didn’t know what that meant,” she said. “Fortunately, I went to a high school that had a studio in it, which fostered my love for television and introduced me to broadcast news.”

High school was followed by undergrad at Loyola University and college internships in Chicago newsrooms. After graduation, Wagner moved to Ohio and quickly built a successful career at a Cleveland television station.

She explored on-air reporting, but discovered that she really enjoyed working on the assignment desk and field producing on the side. Overseeing newsroom staff and daily news operations “really led me to love the news, while associate producing allowed me to continue writing – something that is really important to me.”

Wagner also started blogging at that time. She was a new mom and working a late schedule in television meant she wasn’t meeting a lot of moms with similar experiences. “If I couldn’t talk with people in real life about this, blogging gave me an opportunity to connect with others,” she explained.

This was happening during the early days of social media, so when Wagner’s newsroom began to tweet and publish more stories online, she pitched in. “Blogging was my hobby and no one else wanted to do that at the job.”

However, as time went by, Wagner realized her career aspirations were stalling. She had reached a point where she was happy, but wasn’t in the position to move markets and didn’t strive to be a news director.

When an opportunity came along to join the Cleveland Clinic’s media relations and social media team, Wagner didn’t know why she hadn’t thought of moving into brand communications before. “It was a huge eye opener for me,” she recalled.

Of course, the transition from journalism to an organization’s communications department had its challenges. Beyond a change in wardrobe, the newsroom offered a different type of freedom and creativity than a company’s communications department. She explained: “In news, there’s an approval process, but you also have your voice. In the corporate world, you have a brand you’re representing.”

It’s essential for communications professionals to understand what brand identity and brand voice mean, and Wagner’s broadcast and blogging experiences came in handy in several ways.

“Journalism gave me an appreciation for a diverse knowledge base and showed me how to become an expert in the field,” she said. Journalists are frequently tasked with researching and learning about a topic under deadline, which taught Wagner how to get up to speed on things quickly and work with an assortment of clients.

This experience also helped her cultivate her ability to tell a story. “I used to write in 30 second soundbites, now I have to write in 140 characters.” Writing for broadcast and her blog taught her how to be compelling, bring value to her audience, and most importantly be authentic — something that many brands struggle with.

If you’re thinking about making the move to brand communications, Wagner highlighted four things journalists know how to do that set them apart from the competition:

Find a story’s hook: While this skill is an obvious one, it’s also an incredibly important differentiator. Journalists and bloggers are always working to grab their audience’s attention. They know the nuances of storytelling. Similarly, brand communicators need to know how to tell their organization’s story in a way that resonates with potential customers.

Select and work with sources:  The ability to interview and get insight from sources is something that can be very helpful in a brand environment where you’re often working with your company’s subject matter experts. “I know that I can’t have knowledge in everything,” said Wagner. “Going to an outside expert really helps me and strengthens my writing.”

Look for fresh angles: “Journalists tend to think outside of the box and look for different and new angles. With content marketing, that’s something we’re always looking at. You need to be able to tell stories in a refreshing way with new insight,” she explained.

Leave your ego at the door: Although a broadcast segment or news article is told in the writer’s unique voice, an excellent journalist knows how to let her research and sources tell the story. “Journalists showcase the people in their story. Egos don’t get in the way of a good story,” said Wagner. Again, this is an incredibly important skill when it’s your brand’s story that needs to be front and center.

Wagner shared one final piece of advice. “One lesson that it’s taken me a very long time to get to is to not underestimate your worth,” she said. “A lot of times, people say ‘All I’m doing is pitching stories or writing a tweet,’ but you’re providing value to your brand. A lot of times we have skills that other people may not be as strong in. Yes, you have weaknesses, but your unique strengths make you an asset.”

Have an interesting story to share about your media career?  PR Newswire’s Career Crossroads series features stories and job advice for journalists from journalists. Tell us your story by emailing [email protected]. Members of the media can also connect with job opportunities and other free media tools by registering for PR Newswire for Journalists.

Amanda Hicken is an audience relations manager with PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter @ADHicken for tweets about the media, Cleveland, and comic books.

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