Christoph Moss, founder and managing director of the Dortmund-based newsroom agency, has completed over 50 newsroom projects. Mediamosshas already been implemented for companies. In an interview with B2IMPACT, Moss explains what a newsroom is good for, what sometimes causes communication to fail in companies and how the roles in communication departments need to be redistributed.
B2IMPACT: In the past, companies have managed quite well without a newsroom. Why should they suddenly need one now?
Christoph Moss: Because people's communication habits are changing noticeably. Virtual communities are springing up like mushrooms. Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter are only the best-known communities. Communication has become mobile, the smartphone determines the success of a marketing campaign. Journalists used to be an eminently important target group, today it's influencers. Companies have to be very quick to deal with this.
B2IMPACT: Which target idea should companies define first so that it makes sense to start establishing a newsroom?
Moss: Every company has its own idea. In our consulting practice, we have come across a number of recurring goals that motivate companies to introduce a newsroom. Personally, I think it is important that a newsroom helps to listen to the market and to promote dialogue with the target groups. We often hear that the newsroom is supposed to make life easier for the specialist departments. That would be too short-sighted for me.
In March last year, we conducted a study on the expectations and problems in content marketing of B2B companies. Two things came out very clearly: firstly, while more than a third of the B2B marketing managers surveyed are dissatisfied with the commitment of other departments to content marketing, secondly, the relevance of this commitment to success is not rated very highly. How does this fit together?
In a newsroom structure, a topic manager would pick up the stories from the departments - like a reporter. This removes the contradiction. The newsroom takes care of the strategically important stories and actively drives them forward.
What has to be there first? An idea of content marketing or the newsroom?
It's a chicken-and-egg problem: the two are mutually dependent. The newsroom is a means to implement good content marketing.
How can a newsroom specifically contribute to the success of content marketing?
A functioning newsroom implements the content strategy. It is crucial that we also bring the ideas to life. The newsroom organises this. Transparent topic planning, campaigns, a functioning conference system, good timing, precision - all this leaves room for creative and spontaneous work in the end.
A newsroom project is quite complex. Nevertheless, let's try to break it down to three crucial steps: what would they be for companies to be successful with a newsroom?
We speak of preparation, concept and implementation phases. At all times, managers must radiate absolute security. Employees need enough space for their concerns and worries. Emphatic moderation is important here. The newsroom is not a finished product. It is the start of a permanent process of change. Because in the future, topics will change, new channels and platforms will be added and others will no longer be relevant. This change is happening ever faster and more dynamically. We have to prepare our employees for this. And this cannot be done within a few days.
How are the roles distributed in a newsroom and what is the biggest difference to the usual organisation of a communications department?
The decisive factor is the separation between topics and channels. It is primarily about reaching defined target groups with content where they are perceived and accepted - and no longer about filling a newsletter or a magazine on date X or Y. The aim is to create a new channel. In addition, a coordination unit is needed to balance the two sides. This task is taken on by the chief of staff. This position is the decisive success factor for a functioning newsroom - especially if marketing tasks are also to be integrated.
Could you give an example of what the daily routine in a newsroom looks like compared to the daily routine in a communications department that is not yet organised in a newsroom?
Two things are crucial: We talk to each other. And we plan together. This changes the entire daily routine. It starts in the morning with a joint morning session. As a rule, the staff stand together and talk through the day. The boss on duty is the moderator. Such meetings can be called spontaneously at any time. In addition, one-on-one conversations are constantly taking place over coffee: theme and media managers talk about a story, podcasters talk with colleagues about ideas for topics. There is a lot of spontaneity and shouting out. Usually there is another joint planning session in the afternoon, depending on demand.
What is the significance of the structural change that often accompanies a newsroom?
The effect should not be underestimated because a real newsroom literally makes dynamic communication tangible. It's fun to work in a fresh, open, modern environment. You behave differently in an individual office than when you sit together with your colleagues. Companies should set clear design rules for a newsroom. The concerns of employees should not be underestimated. But we think of a newsroom primarily in terms of open spaces, brightness, permeability and transparency. However, it is important for me to emphasise that the newsroom idea can also be implemented without structural changes.
When do you realise that a newsroom is not working?
If the dynamic is missing, you will quickly notice it. A newsroom has a pulse. People like to work together there. If the opposite is the case, you will feel it. Then the mood is bad, the processes don't work, the basic attitude is destructive. Under no circumstances should this become chronic.
What are the most common reasons why the newsroom does not work?
The human factor is always decisive. When companies introduce a newsroom, not everyone will be immediately enthusiastic. There are many fears that we should take seriously: I may have to give up my office and with it a piece of independence. I may feel that I am getting into new dependencies. Maybe I will have to accept cutbacks. Not every employee realises the huge potential. If a company does not think about this when introducing a newsroom, the machine can quickly run into problems.
Does the size of the company influence the success of a newsroom? Are there also smaller companies that have successfully implemented newsrooms?
Newsroom is not a question of size. It is a mindset that is independent of the number of people. We have implemented a number of newsrooms that had significantly fewer than 20 employees. The mindset also works for very small companies. We have implemented this several times.
Newsrooms are associated with considerable investments, if only because of the sometimes necessary structural measures. So what kind of support do marketing departments need in order to cope with this and what kind of argument do they need vis-à-vis the management in order to be able to establish a newsroom?
The costs are mainly incurred in conversion and modern technical equipment. But: Especially in expensive office locations, there is also an enormous reduction in space, which enables considerable savings. Moreover, transparent planning also means transparent dealings with service providers and their prices. There is a great potential for savings hidden in old silo structures.
Why do you think an external consultant is needed to set up newsroom communication models? What is the main role of this external consultant?
The consultant is the one who represents the idea. With all its flexibility and empathy, such a project needs a clear plan. An experienced advisor radiates calm and conveys the justified feeling that the project will lead to success in the end. He can practise and train with the staff. Above all, he will help to avoid mistakes. He is the architect and the construction manager. He makes sure that the newsroom develops well.
Thank you very much for the interview!
Interview: Martin Schwarz