Journalists’ skills are not just in demand in media and publishing, but in every business, says the social media director of a global PR firm.
In addition to their strong research, media analysis and critical judgment skills, trained journalists know how to communicate and that’s what makes them valuable, says Thomas Crampton, a former foreign correspondent for the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times who now heads the social media division at Ogilvy and Mather in Asia.
Crampton spoke to a packed room at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong on Friday, November 9th.
“If graduates ever decide to leave their careers in journalism, it is important that they don’t forget about the strengths that they bring with them”, Crampton said.
“For example, in the world of business, people have a very difficult time expressing themselves. It’s a place where people who express ideas quickly, who know how to think about something critically and convey their thoughts clearly – like journalists – are invaluable. Clear writing shows that there is clear thinking behind it”.
But Crampton emphasized that journalists who did not develop their own online identity for today’s information culture could get left behind.
“I urge everyone in the room to develop a digital identity”, he said. “It’s sad to see journalists who have built their self-identity around a specific news organization continue to do so. They limit themselves that way. Social media is about the empowered individual. You need to live that going forward”.
Crampton said that social media will only grow in importance in the future. It touches every aspect of business and industry and has an impact on almost everything a company does from design to marketing to customer care and the ability to relate to people in a way that will turn them into customers.
The world is moving toward consumers, he said, and recommended that journalism students look at how consumers are going to want to get the news in the future.
“They have to prove themselves valuable in an ecosystem where mobile communication devices are going to rule”, Crampton said. “Journalists should focus on making great content. It’s what journalists do. And then it’s up to a tycoon to figure out how to monetize it”.
Asked if he had any advice for crafting your own brand, Crampton said, “Live a fun life. Have a great time. And then don’t hide it if you’ve done it. Make sure it is reflected in your CV. Try to find ways to differentiate yourself. What makes you unique? The first thing I do when I get a resume is google the person’s name. Google yourself. And look at yourself from the point of view of an employer”.
A journalism student at Crampton’s career talk appreciated the emphasis on the wide applications of a journalism degree.
“Whether I get into corporate communications or something else, the courses here [at JMSC] provide a good grounding for me on which I can build my career”, said Talent Ngàndwe, a Master of Journalism candidate who expects to graduate this spring. “The school is setting a pace for me to make a difference in any field I choose to work in”.
Crampton was a feature writer on media and technology for the International Herald Tribune, where he launched the paper’s first blog. Among the stories Crampton has covered as a correspondent are the US Presidential Election in 2004, the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong, civil war in Sudan, and Taiwan’s largest earthquake.