I’ve had the good fortune of working in many parts of what I’ll call the “communications industry” over the years.
The first 12 were in broadcast news, a direct extension of my Journalism degree from the largest (by acreage anyway) college campus on the West Coast…and also the one with the longest name:
California. Polytechnic. State. University. San. Luis. Obispo. Class of ’84.
It’s where I got my broadcasting industry break, indirectly, from someone, well, really weird.
You see a kid named Al Yankovic had been let go from the campus radio station, KCPR, just as I’d arrived at Cal Poly’s Yosemite dorm.
After reading about the exploits of ‘Weird Al” in the Mustang Daily (a pretty crafty little college newspaper) I figured, “hey, there must be an opening.”
I was right. And I was on the air that Saturday as “Public Affairs Director,” a title I’m pretty sure I didn’t even understand at the time.
The rest, as they say, is history. Or, at least the story of a curious kid who grew up admiring Journalists and the indispensable truth-to-power, social justice role they play in our democracy.
I parlayed that experience into News Director, then into internships at the local news talk radio station, then, by the time graduation rolled around, into a news reporter and anchor job for the local CBS affiliate and beyond.
To this day, I consider Journalism my first love. And I have many friends and former colleagues who’ve risen to prominent roles. The SoCal CBS bureau chief. A globe-trotting CNN reporter. Senior Writer for the Chris Cuomo Show. Correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning.
I’m telling you all of this because, after deciding to leave the news business, I’d be lying if I didn’t feel like a bit of a sell out by pursuing a career in just that…Sales.
My newsroom pals were probably much kinder to me than I’d imagined in my head at the time because, as those of you who’ve worked in Journalism know, there’s a pretty thick wall between those who generate stories and those who generate revenue.
But you know what? All these years later, I see a lot of parallels between generating news as a reporter and generating revenue in media sales.
It’s why I like to say that, to succeed in media sales, you should “Sell Like A Reporter.”
First, let’s talk about some fundamental similarities:
- Reporters work on assignments. Media Sellers, too.
- Reporters work on crafting excellent stories. Media Sellers, too.
- Reporters work on deadline. Media Sellers, too.
But I also think there are some things Media Sellers could improve on by examining the DNA of the best reporters:
- Great reporters are tenacious about getting to the bottom of a core truth and aren’t afraid to challenge their sources. I think Media Sellers could do a better job of being “challenger sellers,” which happens to be the subject of my favorite book on sales.
- Great reporters know they’re in for a crap ton of “No” and “No Comment” but that never deters them from picking up the phone or knocking on that door ONE MORE TIME. I think Media Sellers could be more fearless like that.
- Reporters know it takes loads of follow up to deliver on their assignment. So they have no reservations about calling their sources back again and again to nail down the story. I think Media Sellers could do a better job of calling back prospects to nail down their CNA findings.
- Reporters are hugely curious about the world around them and spend a considerable amount of their days, nights and weekends educating themselves and staying current. I think Media Sellers could do a way better job of doing the same.
If you’re still not convinced of just how closely these fields align, let me point out that two of the the biggest trends in marketing and media these days are Native Advertising and Branded Content.
And they’re based on this:
Having the courage and the skill to find the story…and tell it well.