Inside 3 big brands’ lean newsrooms

A brand newsroom will never be mistaken for a media company’s newsroom, where breaking news keeps large editorial teams swarming. In brand newsrooms, there are no armies of reporters, no bay of hard-bitten copy editors cursing on the regular, no high-wattage columnists.

Brand newsrooms, unburdened by the headcount of legacy institutions, are learning that a small, nimble team with the right tools can create timely content without the pressure of a hell-bent editor.

“I reject the notion that you need a million dollars and a hundred people to get [branded content] done,” said 20-year marketing vet Michael Brenner, who heads up SAP’s content strategy. “It’s just shifting existing resources to the right process to map content to [our] audiences.”

Here’s how three brand newsrooms are working smarter, not bigger, when it comes to running their newsrooms.

MasterCard

MasterCard may be best known for its “priceless” purchasing power, but the corporation wants to be known for more than just plastic. Its newsroom, located in Purchase, N.Y., is dedicated to earning the company credit as a leader in the cashless economy.

While the newsroom pumps out six original stories per week and curates countless others, MasterCard’s core team is small: Three full-time editors oversee two content sites, The Engagement Bureau and Cashless Pioneers.

“You definitely need dedicated resources,” said Jennifer Stalzer, MasterCard’s vice president of corporate communications and newsroom editor. “This is a newsroom. You need to be relevant, as real-time as you can be, and you need to keep things fresh and updated. It’s not something someone can do on the side.”

Original content is created with the help of MasterCard’s 60-person communications team, all of whom follow a style guide created by Stalzer. The first rule: No press releases.

Instead, writers find stories of business owners, governments, and entrepreneurs from around the globe who have embraced technology over cash transactions.

While the team publishes daily via WordPress, it has a “stock-and-flow” system in place to ensure they always have something to publish. Employed by media newsrooms for generations, “stock” stories, also called “evergreen articles,” can be used anytime, like this one about a Costa Rican jewelry maker accepting credit for the first time.

“Flow” stories are created for same- or next-day publication and link to outlets like NFCWorld. Here, the team uses curation services to find articles relevant to its mission of promoting a cashless economy.

SAP

Where MasterCard has just two sites for content, SAP takes a more varied approach. The software giant publishes more than 20 articles daily on a wide variety of channels, including its own tech-focused The Business Innovation Blog, its business-to-business publication Business Trends, its corporate public relations site and publisher sites.

“We’re trying to hit all formats our audience might consume at any given point of the day,” said SAP’s vice president of marketing and content strategy Michael Brenner.

To do this, SAP employs two newsrooms. The first is a 10-person public relations team that writes press releases, product announcements and “thought leadership” content, like this piece about DNA sequencing for Forbes BrandVoice.

The second newsroom employs seven “story hunters,” three at SAPs headquarters in Newtown Square, Pa., and four others in offices around the United States. Together they write reports based on the day’s news with commentary from SAP experts, as in this piece about Amazon’s drones.

Finally, rather than curate, SAP syndicates, asking permission to run content from established outlets. “On paper, it always looks like it’ll take more money to do this,” Brenner said. “But by reaching out to external experts, it allows us to reach more people with better content without increasing our budget.”

Intel

To publish more than 100 pieces of content per week to its sites, including IntellQ and Creators Project, a partnership with Vice magazine, Intel, not surprisingly, uses a combination of man and machine.

On the human side, it enlists three dedicated editors, as well as a network of a few dozen employees and outside ad agencies to help. Intel’s manager of global social communities, Jennifer Lashua, said the team starts by examining trending topics in news and social media, then tosses ideas around before writing and editing the day’s content. The team’s output includes tweets, YouTube videos and longer articles on niche sites like KillScreen and PSFK.

For a machine-enabled boost, IntelIQ’s newsroom relies on a proprietary algorithm to scrape the first 500 characters of content its employees are sharing. Then, based on audience interests, the system posts Intel-created content it deems of interest. In addition, the company leans on curation services to provide articles like this trend piece.

“We’re always adapting to come up with better ways to be efficient and quicker and more creative,” said Bryan Rhoads, global content lead at Intel. “It’s always in flux.”

Image via Shutterstock

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