Before smartphones, before Facebook and before Twitter, I was a traditional print journalist at USA Today and The Washington Post. During my near 15 years as a journalist, the craft of reporting and storytelling underwent a tremendous revolution. We’ve transitioned from receiving our information via the printed page to reading it online, on our desktop or in the palm of our hands. Our information may be produced by the staff of media companies, but our must-reads are Twitter and Facebook.
The players and gatekeepers of storytelling and information have changed just as radically as the methods of delivery, with legacy journalists, corporations and brands engaging directly with consumers in the same space.
We are no longer living in a one-size-fits-all world of daily media and information consumption. The spaces available for engagement sometimes feel overwhelming, but categorically fall in one of the buckets of earned, social, paid and owned media space. Sometimes stories organically expand in more than one of these spaces, and sometimes they engage in all of them. This customized approach to media consumption is the way of the future and Edelman and our Creative Newsroom is bringing it to life.
In reporting, we used to only need to answer the who, what, where, when, why and how in our articles. Great storytelling today requires answering all of those questions, as well as developing a more intimate and personal relationship with our audience. Who are they and who do they trust? What are their news consumption habits? Where do they receive their information? When do they engage online? How do they engage? Why are we entering a conversation?
Once upon a time, the genesis of a great story was made with a judgment call – news judgment. Today, both in legacy and creative newsrooms, analytics are one of the key pillars of storytelling and seeing where a trend will go. This goes beyond research, to data that grounds our stories with supporting information, enhances its details and delivers our content to its preferred audience.
Great storytelling also needs a strategy – a plan for what the story is going to say today, and recommended rules of engagement that support strategic content pillars and drive an overarching brand narrative. This should advance the needs of our clients, but also surprise and delight those following along. The greatest crime is to be predictable, boring or to crash a content party that you weren’t invited to.
The goal of the Creative Newsroom is to get people to share the stories we’re telling and contribute to the ongoing plot line. I chose to lead this venture for Chicago because I will always be a journalist at heart. The Edelman approach to engagement is not only holistic and analytical in its approach, but also remembers that storytelling is still at the heart of our success.
April Umminger is vice president and director, Chicago Creative Newsroom. Previously, April was a journalist at USA Today and The Washington Post.