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September 2008

Marketers: Are You a Newscaster or a Reporter?

Newscaster_2 About 15 years ago, I learned a valuable lesson:  Marketers are either Newscasters or Reporters.   I hate to think in black and white terms, but this theory has held up for the past decade and a half, without exceptions.   To clarify,  a Newscaster is most comfortable reading from a telepromter, comes across as incredibly savvy, but has difficulty coming up with their own material.   A Reporter is most comfortable in the field, collecting information and putting it to work.  But they have to clean up for the camera.  Both roles have their strengths and weaknesses, but understanding them well has helped me make better hiring decisions, and challenge myself as well.

The incident that formed this theory was recruiting a well-respected marketer in my organization, whom I admired greatly,  for a product launch.  To be honest, I was a bit intimidated by her, and wanted to make sure she had ownership in the project.  So I walked through the key ideas and asked her to prepare the slide deck for the launch (I had witnessed this marketer deliver dozens of presentations, flawlessly).   

Two days later, I checked in, and the PowerPoint had not been started.  I inquired whether there was a problem using the program (not everyone knew how to use it in 1993...).   But the problem was, according to this superstar marketer, as follows:  "I know how to use PowerPoint, but I don't know what to put in it!".   I was shocked that a fellow marketer with 10+ years more seniority and experience couldn't tell a story.   But she was a Newscaster -- and a darn good one, at that.    So in the end,  I wrote the story, and she delivered it -- together, we hit a home run. 

Reporter I am, by nature, a reporter (and I do clean up good..),  but I'm uncomfortable reading canned speeches unless I make them my own, with anecdotes and stories.   And when I do need to present someone else's work,   I need to practice extra hard to get it right.   That said, I get involved in the work I'm doing that I have no trouble presenting "on-the-fly", because I know the material so well.   

I strive to be a better Newscaster, so I won't have to spend endless hours memorizing someone else's Power Point deck, and worrying less about the lighting of the stage and the position of the podium than I have to!    And I'm still in touch with the Newscaster I mentioned in the story.  Last time I checked in, she had taken on more "Reporter" challenges, and had earned my admiration once again.