For 20 years — hard to believe it was 20 years — I was a reporter and editor at four newspapers, most recently at the Austin Business Journal. It never dawned on me that I would ever not be working at a newspaper.
Yet here I am, 12 years after leaving the newspaper business, not working at a newspaper. It was a bittersweet departure from an industry I loved (and still respect) so much.
But I don’t wistfully look back at that time.
Why? I’m still a storyteller, just in a different context. Today, I promote myself and think of myself as a content marketer, and the skills I learned about in journalism school at the University of Kansas and the skills I honed in newspaper journalism remain the foundation of my career.
Say yes to quality, no to crap
You see, storytelling never goes out of style.
My friend Mary Alice Kaspar, a former colleague at the Austin Business Journal, now works in PR and she, too, considers herself a storyteller. And neither one of us has any regret or shame at all about the type of storytelling we now do.
I also like to think that Mary Alice and I are solid storytellers, thanks in large part to our grounding in journalistic practices. And that’s what sets us apart from so much of what you see online these days that passes for well-crafted stories.
Too much of what shows up on the internet today is poorly thought out, poorly written, poorly edited and poorly presented. Translation: It’s crap.
Rather than paying even one ounce of attention to crappy content, I’d like to highlight some content that serves as an example of top-tier storytelling. Here goes …
Goldman Sachs millennials infographic
Not long ago, I came across an infographic that blew me away. In my career as a content marketer (and as an infographic creator), I’ve rarely seen an infographic so clean, so well-organized, so easy to read, so compelling.
If you have anything to do with content marketing, I strongly urge you to check out this Goldman Sachs infographic about millennials — a tired topic given new life in this strong example of storytelling.
The SpareFoot Storage Beat blog
Let me be upfront: I worked at SpareFoot from 2013 to 2015. And I helped create this blog. Still, I think The SpareFoot Storage Beat blog, for which I continue to write, is a prime example of how a brand can carve out a niche in its industry.
Through this blog, SpareFoot, which operates an online marketplace for self-storage, delivers in-depth news and insights about the industry that it serves. Editor Al Harris (who I’m proud to say that I brought aboard) and a stable of talented freelancers stay on top of what’s happening in an industry that, quite frankly, is not the most exciting on the planet.
And if you think I’m self-servingly bragging about this blog, I’m not the only one who thinks it merits attention. In December 2017, The SpareFoot Storage Beat earned an honorable mention — for the second year in a row — in PR Daily’s Content Marketing Awards program. I’m honored to have helped establish this blog and honored to still be writing for this blog.
On the web: www.sparefoot.com/self-storage/news
Amazon’s Day One blog
If there’s only one bit of information you take away from this blog post, it’s this: Follow what Ashley Brown is accomplishing in content marketing.
Brown was pivotal in championing The Coca-Cola Co.’s fantastic Journey storytelling platform and has been pivotal in shepherding Amazon.com Inc.’s Day One blog.
The Day One blog is graphically appealing, well-assembled and a joy to peruse. Day One proves that a corporate blog need not to be stuffy, static or salesy.
Can you tell that I’m a fan of both Brown and the Amazon blogs?
On the web: blog.aboutamazon.com
Charity: Water Rachel Beckwith video
A few years back, I attended a PR Daily content marketing event at LinkedIn headquarters in Silicon Valley and was mesmerized by a video produced by Charity: Water, a nonprofit that strives to bring clean, safe drinking water to developing countries.
Jamie Pent shot the video during her first week of work at Charity: Water. Pent’s emotional story focuses on a visit by Samantha Paul, the mother of Rachel Beckwith (pictured at top), and Rachel’s grandparents.
For her ninth birthday in 2011, Rachel posted a wish on a donation page on the Charity: Water website — she wanted to collect $300 for clean, safe drinking water in Ethiopia. Her plea garnered $220.
Tragically, just a month after her birthday, Rachel died in a car crash near Seattle. Her birthday wish subsequently went viral, leading to more than $1.2 million in contributions for clean, safe drinking water in Ethiopia. Nearly 38,000 Ethiopians in more than 140 villages gained access to drinking water as a result of those gifts.
Pent’s video told Rachel’s tale by tracking her mom’s and grandparents’ trip to Ethiopia as they witnessed how the birthday donations had benefited people there.
It’s elegant, powerful storytelling at its best. Watch for yourself.
On the web: vimeo.com/46300983