The “standard” photo-op (that’s me in the middle, standing) on my last day.
(Original is published from Medium).
It has been more than a month since I assumed a new role in a new organization. It was a bittersweet ending to a long stint in an company that I have once called home. For four years and four months, I have grown and learned a lot. I also made new friends who were sad to see me go.
Being in an organization that moved fast, there were high and low times. What kept me going were people who stuck with me during the good and not so good times. Now, I’m starting all over and assuming a different new role with an organization that has bet on me.
Build, build, build
Over the years, I have been accidentally moving from one role to another. I am a journalist by education and training. I was molded to work and think fast, and to deliver under a tight deadline. I was expected to get things out as quickly as possible. It was a mindset of “First-in, First-out.” It was a world of get-your-facts-straight- quick-and-publish!
From traditional journalism, I later found myself working for one of the first online news organizations, where I further honed my journalistic chops. I got to experience technology and the growth of the Internet, first-hand. I was among the few journalists who had access to mobile devices enabled with the Internet (remember the Blackberry and the Palm devices?) Those tools helped push me to write and create content at the speed of thought.
My exposure and love for technology soon landed me another job. I was hired to build and lead a news organization under a popular but aging Internet brand. I was tasked to put together a team who would man several websites aimed at generating different audiences online. The goal: drive and generate traffic to a website using a combination of original and aggregated content. My journalism training paid off, but I realized I had gaps in my skills. I learned that “content does not grow on trees.” I had to figure how to “connect the dots.” I decided to call it quits after several years.
Can you do product development?
We’re quick to blame technology, but it is really us who is at fault. (Meme taken on the Internet)
Let’s fast-forward to the day that I got a call from a former colleague. In this call, I was asked to consider joining a team of people that would lead innovations in a gargantuan organization. I didn’t hesitate. I signed up!
So, I took on a new job — a job that was way out of my league: product development. I was tasked to think about the future and understand how people behaved. It was my job to understand consumers to help design digital products and services that would allow this organization to sell hardware products. It sounded simple, but it was not. I was taught to think of tasks as projects. Each project had a start and a finish. Each had specific business objectives. Each had results that we had to measure. Everything that I was doing had a bottom-line: sales.
Learning by osmosis
I had to learn fast to survive my new job. I learned by doing. There was no TRAINING. There were no books, nor guides for me to follow. But I had great mentors and colleagues who showed me the ropes. I stumbled. I fumbled. I sucked. But with failure came wins. They were not quick ones, but they provided me good insights on what product development meant.
Product development apparently was just like journalism. You needed time to gather the information and validate them. And when you’re ready, you need to use those information to create a story. It was this STORY that had to be organized in a familiar or surprising way to convince a target audience that what they’re buying was something they wanted. While journalism was in the business of selling news and content, product development and marketing was in the business of selling products as stories that customers can engaged with.
Dilbert image (Sourced from: https://insightovation.com/new-product-development-2/)
Landing a marketing job
After my stint in product development, I was appointed to do digital marketing. This was where I learned to drop the journalistic mindset of “first-in, first-out” when churning content.
Marketers had to follow a process and a calendar of activities. Activities were driven by the need to either generate awareness or to convert people from spectators to loyal customers and fans. There were a lot of planning and meetings required (and alignment, to boot). In journalism, especially in the field, you just had to wing it, and hopefully gather as much information that you could turn into a story.
Marketers had to understand and establish their target audience; figure out a communication plan and develop content that would engage the target audience; and finally, execute the plan and measure the results.
In marketing, I learned that we needed to “start with the end in mind,” whereas journalists were trained to follow their journalistic instincts (thus, the term “nose for news)— unless they were chasing an investigative story that took a lot of planning, research and legwork.
Journalists generated stories at breakneck speeds. Marketers have to make sure stories reached the biggest audience or the “right audience.” Both were storytellers. Marketers, however, have bigger challenges of selling a product, a service, or an idea to a target audience.
Journalists, content marketers and communications specialists are all in the same boat. The skills required, and the mindset needed to be able to do fantastic work vary, however. But one that sticks out is the idea that we are all storytellers. The way we tell our stories depend on who we’re talking to — the audience that get hit with brand advertising and news.
We all need to figure things out — fast. Just like journalism, marketers are challenged with the fact that there’s just too much noise — and they need to find the right channel to send their message across. Today, it’s Facebook and Google. Tomorrow, it may be something else.
The biggest lesson that I learned over the years is that being able to clearly communicate, in whatever means, in this day and age, is perhaps the skill that is underestimated or not fully appreciated. This is the same lesson I shared to my communication arts and journalism students. Word.
Editor’s Note: The author is trying to write more than 140 characters a day. He is currently engaged in content for a new set of audiences. But he still forces himself to engage his audience with relevant stories.