Why changing media is making your news everyone’s content

By Melissa Kitson @mnkitson

The speed and scope of digital communication has transformed the way the news is consumed and distributed.

We no longer have an orderly assembly line that delivers information from top to bottom. Instead, we have an anarchic system that is interconnected, global and readily accessible.

This has dramatically changed journalism and the media, creating an industry that is:

More mobile

Mobile phones are the new newspapers. Where before we looked to the paperboy for our daily news, today we increasingly look to apps, online sources and social media for information. This has given us unprecedented access to both global and local news. Not only is news more accessible, it is more frequently updated. The disruption to traditional news cycles has created a new currency of immediacy, prompting publishers to respond with nimbleness and speed.

More interactive

Today, readers don’t wait for news to ‘hit the press’. They are not passive. They engage, hit back and create the news.

Not only can readers connect with media broadcasters and publishers – they can speak directly to journalists. This has given rise to a new culture of journalism, one where journalists are sought not for their affiliation with a network but for their personal views and perspective.

With greater tools to build their profile and engage the public and publishers, journalists have more control over where and how they share their stories.

More diverse

Journalism has diversified both in content and in format.

On the one hand, digital has invited a greater variety of perspectives, allowing new voices to share their views on news and social issues.

On the other hand, multimedia content has inspired new forms of storytelling. This has refreshed traditional approaches to media, creating innovative podcast, online collaborations and cross-platform packages. 
This change has given journalists greater power to create their own digital entities, shaped by their voice and hosted on their platform.

Great content – Why quality beats quantity

By Melissa Kitson @mnkitson

We are in the midst of a content frenzy.

Every minute, Facebook users share nearly 2.5 million pieces of content; 27,778 blogs are posted on tumblr, and over 48 hours of new video are uploaded to YouTube.

In this flurry to produce content, quality is often compromised. This can have dire side effects on a brand, hurting consumer confidence and trust.  

To avoid this occurring, it important to take a stand against mediocrity and ensure all content produced is of consistently high quality.

When it comes to content, less is often more.

Here are a few reasons why:

Quality engages

Rather than swamp your audience, it is much more effective to create targeted content that speaks to them directly. One finely crafted article is far more likely to hit the mark, than an onslaught of poorly aimed mishmash pieces.

Quality is not just about the final writing; it is about the research that goes into understanding the interests of your readers. By reflecting these interests, your content will have greater reach and impact.

Quality content is shareable

Quality content stands out and prompts engagement. While a lot of online content is overlooked or ignored, engaging and relevant content produces the opposite effect – it is shared, it goes viral, it sparks conversation.

By investing time in creating quality content, you safeguard your content from being lost in a cyber vacuum.

Quality builds your reputation

More is not the same as better.  Just as low quality content can hurt your reputation, high quality content can strengthen it. Quality content showcases your expertise, thought leadership and values. This improves trust and inspires greater consumer respect.

Developing a strategy for all stages of content creation, from initial research to the final editing, is one safeguard against content inferior.  

How to bring your brand’s story to life

By Melissa Kitson @mnkitson

Most of us do not have the luxury of ready-made blockbuster stories. Our stories are likely to be quieter ones, without pirates, femme fatales or epic adventures. But this does not mean they have to be boring. It just means we have to work a little harder.

While not all stories are interesting, there are always interesting ways to tell them. Calling upon the techniques of a good storyteller will transform even the drabbest of narratives into a moving and engaging tale of intrigue.

Here are some points to remember.

Drama is in the details

Details bring a story to life. They give it texture and vitality. When writing a story, sink into each seemingly dull moment and find the points that make it real, relatable and unique to your perspective. Is it the arctic air-conditioning at a press conference? The flaking bits of glitter on corporate Christmas card? The raucous chortle of a manager? Paying attention to such details will stop a story from becoming generic and make it a real human experience.

Great characters make great stories

Well-developed characters give colour and momentum to a story. If you can successfully create a character that engages the reader, it will not matter that your story lacks Hollywood action. A compelling character will draw the reader in on their journey, be it to the supermarket or to Middle Earth. Remember too that great characters do not have to be big characters. What’s important is that you invest time in creating real characters – characters that are complex, compelling and three-dimensional.

Interesting voice = interesting story  

A captivating narrator, be it first-person or omniscient, hooks the reader in. They lift a story from the mundane to the moving, bringing insight, humour and personality. Just think of famous narrators like Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye), Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Sal Paradise (On the Road). These narrators transformed (albeit interesting stories) into staples of the literary canon. In bringing a story to life, think first about who is telling your story and how this voice could add greater nuance.

Corporate storytelling: Why brands need to tell stories

By Melissa Kitson @mnkitson

Since the days of the caveman, stories have played a crucial role in helping us connect and understand one another.

Be it a moral parable or an epic adventure, a story has the power to bring people closer together. Indeed when a person listens to a story their neural activity starts to mirror the storyteller’s. In other words, stories get people on the same ‘wavelength’.

For brands, corporate storytelling offers a unique way to create meaningful engagement.

This is why:

Stories make brands human

Storytelling moves a brand beyond the slogan and provides a context in which an audience can connect on an emotional level. Instead of understanding a brand by what it has to offer, an audience understands a brand by ‘who’ it is. This leads to stronger and longer-term relationships. If an audience gets ‘who’ the brand is they are likely to be more trusting, loyal and engaged.

Corporate storytelling gives brands a ‘voice’

Logos don’t speak. At least they rarely do. With a brand story, a brand has the opportunity to articulate its ‘voice’. Is it conversational, blokey, posh? In telling a story, brands have free reign to explore all the nuances of voice. This helps them better differentiate themselves from competitors and address target market with greater impact.

Stories are shareable

Corporate storytelling appeals to our natural tendency to share and tell stories. We crave stories. Whether it is our appetite for soap operas or compulsive Facebook activity, our daily lives are characterised by storytelling. These habits lend themselves to sharing corporate stories. A good brand – like any good story – is told again, and again, creating buzz and a strong word-of-mouth reputation.  

We remember more information in narrative-form

A brand with a story is a brand that is remembered. According to Jennifer Aaker, a professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, information that is woven into a story is remembered “up to 22 times more than facts alone”. This is vital for raising brand awareness and ensuring key messages are not lost.

5 reasons why journalists can solve problems that copywriters can’t

By Melissa Kitson @mnkitson

Journalists are talented writers and storytellers. Skilled in how to interview, research and spot what’s newsworthy, a journalist can create interesting, empathetic news stories. Marketers know this. They recognise that journalists can solve problems that copywriters cannot. As the demand for relevant, cliché-free content continues to grow, a journalist has never been more valuable.

After all, a journalist:

1. Understands the value of storytelling

Journalists have a special intuition for storytelling. They understand how to build a narrative arc and take the reader on a journey. These journeys involve the reader on an emotional level. What could be a simple sequence of events is transformed into a story of good versus evil, of David and Goliath, of loss and courage. Through this power of storytelling, a journalist makes a reader care.

2. Appreciates the details

A journalist spots the small stuff. They have a keen eye for the small details and how these details speak to the bigger picture. Whether it is stain on a shirt of a disgruntled businessman, the way a person pauses, the misspelled sign on a door, the smell of fried onion or the distant sounds of soul band Sade, a journalist drinks in a scene and links the micro to the macro. This not only adds colour to a story, it helps the reader to recognise broader issues in the minutiae of their everyday lives.  

3. Gives stories perspective and context

Journalists are news-savvy, socially-engaged creatures. They see beyond the brief. Unlike a copywriter, journalists look past brand’s messaging, sales objectives and the competition’s position. When approaching a story, a journalist considers how the topic taps into the current social zeitgeist. They make connections. Their stories show the reader how one issue relates to another. By providing this context, they allow a reader to see a story in its entirety, recognising both how it came about and what it means for the future.

4. Is a good listener

Journalists are skilled in the art of listening. They know what questions to ask and how to subtly steer a conversation to the topic at hand. They are genuinely interested in what people have to say and this encourages interviewees to open up and share. A journalist also has a special knack for hearing the quotable. They know what readers will tune into and when they will tune out, always ready to pounce on the throwaway comment or an awkward pause. This ability allows journalists to extract much more from their interviews, inevitably leading to more interesting stories.

5. Knows how to research

A journalist knows their facts. They know how to rummage, to forage, to collect bits and pieces of information that, while alone may not say much, together unravels – or builds – an entire story.  They are keen investigators who understand how to retrieve and read information. Whether they are researching a person’s lineage, statistics on market trends or a secret email trail, a journalist can sniff out a clue and follow it to its conclusion. Unlike copywriters, their stories are not based on conjecture or generalisation. They are meaningfully-written and supported by extensive research.

Get ahead of other travel writers

In an interview some years back, Mick Jagger was asked what career path he would have chosen had the rock star portal not opened up.  Was I the only one to raise the eyebrows when he responded “travel writer?”

 

Scouring the globe at the expense of a glossy magazine certainly reads as an exotic proposition. Problem is, seemingly half the world has the same thing in mind. It’s a competitive market out there. So how does a freelance writer pique the interest of an editor and snare those hotly contested commissions? Two tips I’ve found increasingly useful are:

(1) Keep abreast of destination trends. Hottest tip lists for the coming year begin appearing in publications on the cusp of the calendar year. That will invariably be a hook for an editor in your pitch.

“Lonely Planet has labelled post Escobar Colombia as the next big thing in South American travel”. There’s an opening line for your pitch on a piece on “La Ciudad Perdida” (The Lost City), Colombia’s answer to Machu Picchu.

Keep abreast of travel trends and stats then pitch with this data in mind.

(2) In days gone by, images and written pieces were provided by two separate specialists in their fields.

 

Though contemporary times seem to demand a level of competence in both. Even with an earth moving story in the vault, it may be the quality images in your pitch that can seal a deal with an editor.

Yes it’s possible to access imagery from sources such as iStockphoto if you are not of the photographic ilk. However, commissions regularly require the provision of photos in the brief and if you need to scavenge those externally, then a chunk of your fee will go up in an “I Dream of Genie” puff of smoke.

 

Still dreaming of being a travel writer? Pitch away and enjoy the ride. The money can be crap but the life experience trade-offs are an alluring counter balance.

Stay tuned to Modonews for one of Gary’s excellent travel stories about one of the worlds little known sports.

 

Gary Yeates is a former English Teacher who eventually morphed into a French and Spanish teacher. With that now a distant memory, he has spread his wings and regularly traverses the planet, chronicling and photographing the events. Back in his home town in Sydney, he is also attempting to cross the thin journalistic line into more feature based writing. Photography and stories at www.thegreyglobe.com.

 

Covering the loss of Mandela: A journalist’s story

Phindiwe Nkosi on her coverage of Nelson Mandela’s passing

Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father. Although we knew this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss… This is the moment of our deepest sorrow. Our nation has lost its greatest son… This is indeed the moment of our deepest sorrow.

Those were the words from the address to the nation by South African President, Jacob Zuma, concerning the departure of South Africa’s first black democratically elected President, Nelson Mandela on national television during the early hours of the night on December 5, 2013.

Mourners gather outside Mandela’s Johannesburg residence while international media work in the background.
Mourners gather outside Mandela’s Johannesburg residence while international media work in the background.
Phindiwe takes a well earned break.
Phindiwe takes a well earned break.

As a South African writer, I feel I was born to tell stories. It is not just a job, but a higher innate calling entrenched inside of me. Just like the African people who mourn in songs and danced with tears in their eyes outside the former president’s home in Houghton, Johannesburg for the entire ten day mourning period; I shared in not just the nations grief but with the world’s because I knew that Mandela did not just belong to South Africans, but the entire global village.

Newsmodo provided an ideal opportunity make the most of my stance as a professional freelance writer at the scene, by reporting to the masses. Within minutes of hearing about the loss of our former president, I was driving to his home in Houghton. Newsmodo was quick and professional over our series of telephone calls and emails.

The week was filled with interviews at unusual hours to make up for the time difference between South Africa and Australia. Newsmodo managed to use my writing, arrange for live phone interviews from the former president’s home as well as a studio recording from Johannesburg with Australia’s premier 24 hour news network.

My week as an freelance international correspondent involved a lot of sleepless nights, asking questions, taking photos, writing articles and interacting with several local and international media contacts at the scene to stay abreast.

Mandela’s Neighbour, Muziw Tanti, remembers meeting Mandela.
Mandela’s Neighbour, Muziw Tanti, remembers meeting Mandela.

I told an African story. A story about Africans singing and dancing in the rain, considered to be a good omen. People wept while dancing and held multi-denominational street prayer meetings. As I wrote, something inside of me healed.

There was constant reassurance, encouragement and professionalism from the Newsmodo team which understood that it was not just a business transaction, but a period of utter grief. I felt privileged to be afforded the chance to tell the story of a South African legend. In the end, it was not just another loss, but a celebration of the modest, Nobel Peace Prize winner who spent almost 27 years in jail for his pursuit of democratic freedom for my country.

 

Phindiwe Nkosi has a decade of writing experience coupled by post graduate studies from the University of Pretoria. Her experience ranges from working as a local and international freelance writer, journalist (newspapers, broadcast and magazines), travel writer, speech writer, marketing and communications manager, blogger and ghost writer.

Educating the future of Myanmar

Photos and Words by Natalie Peart

Myaing sits opposite me nursing a steaming cup of Burmese tea. She stares into her cup timidly as I gather my notes together.

I was in Myanmar, or Burma as it is often known, for some government’s refusal to recognise the name change. I had been invited to the country to design a website and develop a marketing plan for a tiny non-governmental school in Mandalay. Here I was, finally getting the chance to sit down with the woman who asserts that “education is a fundamental right”.

She is right of course; everyone deserves the right to an education yet in Myanmar, it is reserved for the privileged few.

The current budget for education stands at just 1.2% annually, which is low even compared to its Asian neighbours.

Myaing is the head teacher of a pre-school in Mandalay. She isn’t much older than me, yet her story is much longer than mine will ever be.

Being solely responsible for the future of 36 young children in one of the most corrupt and unequal countries in the world is an arduous task, even for those who have help.

Myaing doesn’t have help.

She relies on international volunteers, but with constant media coverage of ethnic violence, the number of volunteers is dwindling. She needs more volunteers and funding. But, she is worried that the school will be closed if she advertises or asks around.

Although it is reported in international media that the military led government is changing under new President Thein Sein, (2011) there are still reportedly 176 political prisoners.

Myaing has experienced prison life in Myanmar.

Just six years ago she was running a much bigger and more appropriately funded school with a foreign national, until it was shut down and demolished by the government because foreign volunteers were teaching the children, which at the time was not permitted.  

The foreign national was deported; she and her native teachers were thrown in jail. She was then banned from finishing her law degree. Disheartened, she retreated to two years of meditation in a local monastery, and the children are something she cannot speak of easily.

“Every child deserves to have a childhood, and we let them play as well as learn. At home they mostly work because parents need money. They have to grow up too fast. I do not know what happened to all those children, but [I] don’t want the same to happen to my new students”

I assure her I will not report anything that will jeopardise the school; and I won’t. The risk is too high.

Myanmar seems to finally be opening its doors to the outside world, but the current education system favours those from affluent backgrounds who can afford extra tuition or private schools. Sadly, the others, the majority, fall through the cracks.

I visited numerous schools in Myanmar, and each time I found the same problems; overworked teachers, under resourced classes and class sizes exceeding 50. One school in rural Kalaw didn’t have enough desks to seat the 60 students, more than a quarter of the class had no notebook or pen and the teacher had run out of chalk. I watched from the back of the class, there were no flashcards or books, no paper or craft materials and no creative way for the students to learn.

The teacher recited words from a book , just over half of the students scribbled in their tattered notebooks, about 10 of them sat cross legged on the floor with no desk to lean on. The rest; the ones with no notebook listened or lay their heads on the desk.

This leaves students falling behind; unable to keep up. Those who can’t afford extra tuition give up or drop out.

People were happy to open up in Myanmar, something I didn’t expect. Many are relying on the youth to move their country forward; they feel that education is central to their future goals.

In the conversations I had the word ‘hope’ came up many times, they hope for a better nation, a better future and people like Myaing are playing a central role in that. She wants to break down the boundaries between rich and poor, male and female and the fighting ethnic groups. She wants to educate the future of Myanmar.

*Names, locations and dates in this article have been changed to protect the school.

To read more on this story see:http://nataliepeart.com/portfolio/educating-the-future-of-myanmar/

 

There are over 7 billion people in this world, each one with a story of their own. Natalie Peart is a nomadic journalist and photographer trying to uncover the stories that the mainstream media often ignores. She is from Scotland but currently lives a works in Sydney, and frequently travels internationally to work on research and communications projects for NGO’s.

 


5 tips to be a successful blogger

One of Australia’s ‘Most Clickable Women’, Alicia Vrajlal, shares her hot tips for a successful blog.

Alicia with Home and Away starlets Terri Haddy (left) and David Jones Roberts (right)
Alicia with Home and Away starlets Terri Haddy (left) and David Jones Roberts (right)

Find an interest

In order to be a successful and unique blogger, you should be passionate about the subject of your blog. Identifying a niche is a good idea. I started my own blog I Am Starstruck in January 2011. It is an entertainment site with a focus on Australian pop culture content. I noticed a gap in the Australian media market for local entertainment content so I decided to start up my own blog as the ultimate online destination for news and photos of Aussie celebrities.

Understand your audience

Think about what your audience wants to read and identify how you can remain competitive in the blogosphere. Be the number one blog for your target market.

Social Media

Reaching an audience has never been easier, as almost everyone uses social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Not only does extensive social media utilisation facilitate immediacy in delivering information, it is also an excellent networking tool. Twitter has particularly allowed me to build my follower base.  Many Australian celebrities including Firass Dirani, Jesinta Campbell, Nikki Phillips, Didier Cohen, Dan Ewing and Timomatic show their support for the blog by retweeting links.

Be original

Having your own style and differentiating your blog is key. Let your posts reflect your own personality. What differentiates I Am Starstruck from other entertainment blogs is its extensive coverage of local content from the perspective of both a media insider when I attend industry events, and a fan when I review shows and music. This means that followers get the hottest celebrity scoop whilst still relating to the voice behind the blog.  

Choose a good domain

Keeping it simple and distinguishable is key.  Choose a name that is memorable and stay away from too many numbers and abbreviations that may confuse readers.

Alicia Vrajlal is a postgraduate Masters journalism student based in Sydney, Australia.  She also has an undergraduate degree in business and accounting.  She was nominated in the 2013 Mamamia Most Clickable Women Awards and has written for various magazines and websites whilst interning.