Since the marketing folks at Oreos newsjacked the Super Bowl blackout a little over a month ago, there’s been big buzz around the concept of building “brand newsrooms” – fast moving teams that respond instantaneously to occurrences out there in the world with smart marketing efforts that draw attention.
It sounds absolutely awesome. But the naysayers are out. They say there’s no way brands can create newsrooms staffed with talented people who can deliver great creative at a moment’s notice. But at Contently, Joe Lazauskas writes that the naysayers are thinking about it wrong; that the newsroom of today can be staffed with freelancers rather than more costly full-timers.
And Lazauskas has a point. But of course freelancers are “free” – free to roam, free to choose and, most importantly, free to say no. And I’ve run newsrooms and had those freelancers say no, or tell me they just got busy. (Lazauskas writes about “trusted freelancers” and I’ve had some heroic ones on my team, but trust me – they are much easier described than found.) The newsroom manager has some leverage; screwed once, you never hire the person again. But that doesn’t help the brand newsroom deliver what is needed at a moment’s notice, and once that moment is gone, it’s gone. If you drop the ball more than once or twice, you begin to lose credibility. And when newsrooms lose credibility, they’re finished – no one will take them seriously.
So freelancers are far from a perfect solution. Very likely, a hybrid is needed, with a core of full-timers and “reliable” freelancers at the ready.
There is also the question of which marketing disciplines are “newsroomable.” I argue that most marketing disciplines – and their practitioners – simply do not have the built-in agility a newsroom demands. Despite the great Oreo success, that was a lightning-in-a-bottle moment; everyone who needed to be available to approve the creative was on hand because it was the Super Bowl. That’s just not going to happen day-in, day-out. On a daily basis, most creatives don’t move that fast, most lawyers don’t move that fast, and most management teams don’t move that fast. It simply isn’t in their DNA, and you could argue that it shouldn’t be.
Here’s who can move fast – social media practitioners, content marketers, and PR people (sometimes).
Here’s who can’t (or perhaps more accurately won’t; and in some cases shouldn’t) – graphic designers, media buyers, researchers, branding agencies, ad execs, SEO and SEM teams, legal and management.
If a brand can create a newsroom that responds, thinks beyond the end of the day, and consistently performs at a high level, it would certainly dominate its marketplace. But that will be very hard to accomplish.
As someone who has spent close to two decades working and running newsrooms, and who launched Scribewise to be an outsourced shot of adrenaline for marketing teams, trust me: Operating a newsroom is not something most organizations have the stomach for.