Recently, there has been an increase in journalists pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities. Some have gone in full-force and found ways to build their ideas, while others have hesitated, questioning whether their media background makes them suitable entrepreneurs.
While being a journalist doesn’t increase the odds of creating a successful startup, those with a media background bring more to the table than they may realize. Here are seven ways your journalism background can serve you when starting a company.
Journalists become experts in the beats they cover
Understanding a market and knowing key people in it is important to any business’ success. Most journalists have the advantage of having developed expertise on a topic or field by reporting on it. The “write what you know” adage can just as easily apply to founders who build a business based on what they know about.
But even those who start businesses in markets outside of their beat can benefit from their experience in journalism. Good reporters who have changed beats know how to move from novice to expert. They’re already in the habit of constantly learning, and observing trends.
Journalists are good researchers and connectors
Most reporters are resourceful when uncovering hard-to-find facts. They also have a knack for finding people who can answer specific questions or offer solutions to a challenge.
Entrepreneurship is a group effort, and finding people with skills and experience different from your own is an important part of building a balanced team. Many journalists talk to people they have never met on a daily basis. This is a useful skill when building a business, as spreading awareness of your product to reach potential customers is crucial.
Founders also benefit from participating in entrepreneurial communities. It’s impossible to predict which connection might lead to an unforeseeable opportunity. Entrepreneurs benefit from growing their network by finding ways to be helpful to others. Being a journalist with an understanding of the media landscape is one way to be helpful to others in the tech community.
Journalists know other journalists
Many entrepreneurs have little experience with the media and struggle to get coverage for a launch and in general. While there are significant differences between journalism and public relations, having journalists in your network who you can ask for advice or introductions is a great entrepreneurial asset.
As with any kind of networking, building relationships with journalists takes time, and doing so organically through having been one yourself is helpful; you’ve already made connections and you have an insider’s understanding of how news topics are selected.
Journalists are good writers, editors
Much of starting a company involves writing. Entrepreneurs need writing and editing skills — (or they need to hire others with these skills) — to produce and edit blog posts, press releases, marketing pieces, tweets and even everyday emails. Because entrepreneurs communicate with many people online, writing style and ability play a colossal role in branding and perception. Well-worded text helps make even the smallest startup look credible.
Journalists know how to ask open-ended questions
Yes or no questions are useful for finding specific answers, but they don’t provide much insight into a person’s motivations, opinions or the reasoning behind their answer. These factors play a significant role in any type of decision, including whether or not to use your product.
Just as asking open-ended questions can lead to more interesting quotes and story leads in journalism, asking them when talking to potential customers can lead to a better understanding of the customers’ needs and motivations. The kinds of questions that are most effective in customer development are natural to journalists: open-ended and inviting of conversation.
Journalists are resourceful
Entrepreneurs always need something, and they learn to be clever about finding it. Journalists’ experience seeking out sources comes in handy when someone with a specific skill set or knowledge is needed. Journalists might not know the right person directly, but they know how to work their network to reach them.
Journalists are used to negative feedback
Startup founders hear “no” often, especially from customers who are not interested in the product and from investors who aren’t convinced by the company’s potential. Journalists often receive negative feedback from editors or insulting comments from readers but nevertheless persevere in their craft.
Journalists are also seasoned in learning from constructive feedback. And if they’ve had good editors along the way, they can likely discern relevant feedback from mere suggestions that could distract them from achieving their end goal. Correcting course when you discover you were wrong is important, but when taking customer feedback into account, it’s also important to differentiate between useful suggestions and distracting ones. Just as good editors are important to journalists, good mentors can help guide an entrepreneur’s venture to success.
Startups aren’t easy, but a writer’s toolbox can come in handy when building a new venture.