Industry Focus: Telling Stories for Brands


Amanda Dooley explores why writers make great content marketers

 The ability to share content through social media channels has put a renewed emphasis on valuable and compelling content that serves to attract and engage audiences. But with savvier content consumers who are increasingly better at blocking out noise, the real question is how do companies produce content that people notice, that they come back to, and that they share with their friends? According to a number of professionals, the answer is by acting more like publishers.

In an article for, Greg Satell (2014) explains, “Brands need to become publishers and that entails not only new activity, but new skills and a new perspective. He goes on to say, “We need content skills, not content strategy. We need to build positive, meaningful experiences, not clever taglines. That means putting the mission before the metrics and delivering value instead of thinly concealed sale pitches”.

Another contributor, Jake Sorofman, says that brands not only have to act like publishers, but that they also have to be storytellers. He says, “Brand storytellers look to the simple architecture of literature to organize how they convert their value propositions into storylines. Here, exposition, rising action, climax and resolution become the structure of a storyline and the catalyst for deeper brand engagement”.

With so many brands heeding the content mandate, there is an upwelling of opportunity for people who produce content for a living. Talented writers are in especially high demand. John Hall (2014), cofounder and CEO of Influence & Co and contributor, says, “There is a huge opening for writers in the content marketing space. Storytelling and educating an audience are vital to a successful content marketing strategy. Who better to help with that than writers?”

Former TechCrunch reporter, Rip Empson (2014), says, “Everyone’s looking for writers, or people who actually have experience producing content in whatever form, be they journalists or TV producers. That’s why we’ve been seeing a lot of veteran journalists get scooped up by big tech companies to run their content strategies-content production is becoming a premium, and everyone’s looking to get into it”.

For people interested in writing content, there are a few ways to find work. The first is freelancing. Though it helps to live in a place where lots of companies are located, online marketplaces, like oDesk and Elance, are connecting people around the world. A company called Contently is making big waves in the content marketing scene; it’s also attracting lots of venture capital. Contently acts like an online marketplace, but it vets the journalists and companies that use its service. Contently ensures a high caliber of work and guarantees journalists attractive, or at least fair pay. Mr. Ellwanger (2014), says:

“For writers, content marketing is a good opportunity because of the perilous state of magazines, newspapers, and the resulting job market. A writer can charge anywhere from $50 to $100 per hour to create content that will be ‘published’ in a variety of ways: as website content, via newsletters and white papers, webinars, case studies and such. Some former journalists have set themselves up as content marketing specialists particularly when they have deep knowledge in a certain industry, like advertising/media. Most companies lack the internal staff resources to come up with a coherent content marketing strategy, much less create content in line with the strategy. So a lot of this work is outsourced”.

For journalists and copywriters who want to crossover into the marketing or managing side of content marketing, the general consensus is that while writers and good communicators are in demand, they need to possess additional skills. When asked about the potential for people with careers in writing to move into positions like Chief Content Officer, Greg Satell (2014) responded:

“I think it is already happening. Ad agencies and marketers are starting to hire experienced editors. Yet still I think that there is an important gap. Editors are highly skilled at bringing life and vision to a clearly defined mission, but often lack the skills to define that vision in terms of business goals. Some surely do have those skills and others are capable of building them, but there is still much work to be done”.

Mr. Hall (2014) advises writers interested in making the leap “to learn everything they can about building an online presence and online marketing.” Mr. Brenner says, “One thing I always look for is a basic understanding of how content moves through the digital/social web”.

Since content marketing is so new there is a bit of a land-grab mentality, which is leading everyone from journalists to PR firms to add content marketing to their repertoire. As with any new trend, and especially one that lives mostly in cyberspace, an entrepreneurial spirit abounds. Writers who are willing to ride the wave and adjust their credentials to the market will certainly be able to profit from the demand for content.

According to Edelman Insights (2012) report, 80% of Millennials expect brands to entertain them through content marketing. As the bloggers have pointed out, when brands act like publishers they have the best chance of engaging their audiences, and engagement is what Millennials want.

Red Bull, for example, is known for launching one of the best content marketing campaigns. Red Bull’s media house churns out content that engages consumers with its narrative: life is a thrilling high-stake adventure. But the key to Red Bull’s success is that its narrative is not about its product. The product represents the narrative. Red Bull, and other successful content marketing campaigns, show that consumers do not really care about who produces the content; they care about the stories being told.

Mr. Sorofman (2014) keenly pointed out what writers have known for a long time, that human beings are wired for stories. And, as long as brands put resources into producing stories, there will be opportunities for writers to work their magic in the content marketing space.

Amanda Dooley studied on the MA in Professional Writing at Falmouth and is now is a Public Relations specialist at Weber Shandwick in Geneva, Switzerland where she works with clients to plan and execute communications strategies. Her day-to-day includes a range of activities such as developing and implementing consumer campaigns, managing corporate reputations, and activating internal employee engagement programs. She spends many hours managing client relationships and when she isn’t doing that she is writing everything from press releases to thought leadership pieces to social media copy. For a sample of Amanda's writing click here