Bonfire of the marketeers

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by Brian Clarey

In 20 years of journalism I’ve learned one thing: Stay away from marketers.

I’ve learned a lot of things, actually. But this is one that was drilled into me from the early days of my career. Marketers, any editor will tell you, will do or say anything to get you to cover their events/products/clients, preferably on the front page of the paper, if that can be arranged.

Editors get hundreds of press releases a week extolling the virtues of self-help books, snack foods, experts willing to go on the record, film premieres halfway across the country. Often there are follow-up calls, because they know it’s harder to turn them down after you hear their voices.

To make matters worse, every newspaper I’ve worked at has had a whole staff of them willing to make pitches on behalf of their advertising clients, to which I have been known to reply: “‘Man owns business’ is not a compelling headline.” I use finger quotes and everything. In journalism circles, these folks are sometimes referred to as the “dark side.”

A good editor learns to filter the noise down to a trickle, every so often culling from the river a few prize fish.

To say I’m predisposed against marketers — which I years ago dubbed “marketeers” in a very snide way — is an understatement.

So imagine my surprise when I realized I was one of them.

I suppose every business owner is a marketer. Someone’s got to sell the thing, be it a sandwich or a T-shirt or a yoga studio. Might as well be the person who came up with the plan in the first place.

From the beginning I have had to sell Triad City Beat, first to investors and then to partners and then to employees who took the leap in joining a brand new company — a newspaper, no less! — run by someone who is clearly a madman.

It was only a matter of time before I tucked a sales kit under my arm and started making calls.

In two years of marketing I’ve learned a thousand things. One of them is that at most newspapers, the sales side is just as dedicated and driven as my compatriots at the editorial desk, every bit as concerned with the ethics of the business, equally consumed with dedication to the readers.

A good editor learns to filter the noise down to a trickle

Another is that marketing is everything, from where we put the racks to the image on the cover to the way we amplify the message with social media.

Even the journalism itself is a kind of marketing, in the sense that we work to craft a message and then figure out the best way to get it across.

And that, friends, is what I was afraid of. I’m becoming more and more comfortable on the dark side.

In the meantime, anybody wanna buy an ad?