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Former TV reporter Christine Clayburg tells news of corporate clients

Christine Clayburg has been a familiar face on Twin Cities TV newcasts over the last decade. But the next time you see her on-camera, she'll be giving you the news as viewed through the eyes of her corporate clients.

Clayburg, a former meteorologist, reporter and program host for WCCO and KMSP, doesn't expect to ever work in a newsroom again. She's devoting full time to her corporate communications business, Clayburg Creative.

It's an indication of the growing movement toward companies communicating directly with consumers, a trend I've written about a number of times for MinnPost (here and here.)

As traditional media wither and new communication channels are created, corporations don't need to find someone at a newspaper or TV station to do a story about them. They can tell their stories to consumers through their websites, through Facebook and Twitter, and through online videos. It's that last area where Clayburg is putting her skills — honed in traditional broadcasting — to work.


"This is the wave of the future," she said. "There is a demand for production of news-style content on a corporate level."

Christine Clayburg
Christine Clayburg

Clayburg approaches her corporate assignments like a reporter. She researches topics and grills her subjects in hopes of eliciting emotional responses that connect with the viewer. The difference is, her videos will never be seen unless the client approves.

"We come in like a news team and cover what's fresh and interesting about a company," she said. "Every company has amazing people with passion. Every entrepreneur has an inspiring story. But they don't know how to tell their story.

"To me, what we do is well-told good news."

Clayburg arrived at this juncture in an unorthodox manner. In covering natural disasters as a weather broadcaster, she developed an admiration for the National Guard soldiers she met and the relief duties they performed.

Joined Air National Guard
So, two days before her 35th birthday — the deadline for joining the Guard — she left the news business and joined the Air National Guard to train as a loadmaster for C-130 cargo planes. She loves the Guard and says the timing was right for her to leave the often-shallow world of TV news.

"In TV, they own you. They own your whole life. I'm not going down the Botox highway — I beat them to the punch!" she said with a laugh.

She's actually able to devote more time now to developing good stories, she said. With all the staff cutbacks in newsrooms over the last few years, time is a luxury that's rarely available to reporters any more.

"What we're selling is compelling content," Clayburg said. "A camera is a loaded thing. You need to know that you're in control of the bullets so you make sure you're not hit by one."

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Comments (16)

The head spins. Let's count all of the uncomfortable assertions in this report: corporations are not getting their message out clearly enough as it is through TV news, reporting for corporations is less inhibiting than reporting for TV news -- you're "in control of the bullets," the camera is a gun, emotional responses that connect with the viewer are an effective way to tackle complex material, it's a small step and a easy transition from reporting TV news to reporting corporate news.

I wish she had just stated that she was going to be able to make a better living, which she surely deserves.

I'm a little slow to catch on....is she talking about doing infomercials? 'news-style content on a corporate level'...hah? Why would I, the typical wealthy consumer, feel compelled to seek out let alone watch her creations?

The journalism part of her work invites truth-telling. Will she be able to back away from the cloaking devices her clients demand? I hope she asks the difficult questions that help her readers sort truth from pr.

Imagine you're the news director at a local station. It's an hour before air time and suddenly you have 4 minutes of space in the 5 o'clock news when a breaking story didn't break.

Solution: Call Christine.

She can give you a 4 minute story in 10 seconds that looks like you produced it.

Granted, its a puff piece on how a leaky chemical manufacturing plant has painted its facility green, but hey, 4 minutes filled.

What's next, News anchors with Coke cans on the anchor desk as they're reading the news?

I can honestly say I don't recall ever seeing person on television. I wish her well but like Groucho would probably have said: "corporate communications is a contradiction in terms".

Sad that it seems so long ago when Walter Cronkite turned down multiple million dollar offers to shill for products and companies because he didn't want to trade on his reputation as a newsman.

@#6
That's because he was a newsman when there was still news. He actually had something to lose.

Honestly, I think this looks like a simple PR firm. I don't see how it's a sell-out of "news" to big corporations. PR firms have been doing exactly this for a long time. And, it's not like the "news" has any credibility anymore, besides.

Quite frankly, if she's got a good thing going, good for her. But...I fail to see how a former newsperson becoming a PR person is news in and of itself. It happens. It's not all that special. Or is this story simply a matter of bragging about the hometown kid?

I was actually rather fascinated to hear Ms. Clayburg speak of the importance of appealing directly to individuals rather than try to go through the traditional, old-school media outlets. These days I actually glean very little useful information from those traditional, old-school media outlets, and find it ever-more impossible to share information to my own constituencies through those same media outlets. We are all being encouraged to work directly through "new media" as a more effective way to get our message out these days, and it appears that Clayburg is simply using her skills and expertise to help people learn how to work in this new world.

Those who believe that the local and national TV news is still the unsullied, fact-based worlds that Walter Cronkite operated in either haven't seen what is put out as "news" these days and/or are simply naive.

Charming albeit utterly predictable knee-jerk reactions gentlemen. I would encourage you to spend a little time on our site: www.clayburgcreative.com.

Rich: You may want to check your sources as the 4 minute long TV news story went the way of the Dodo nearly a decade ago.

Clayburg Creative has been around since 2004 and we've primarily provided consulting for mid-sized companies, startups, non-profits and grassroots organizations. Most of these groups couldn't afford big PR firms but greatly benefited from advice from reporters on how their message might be heard.

We started doing video production in 2010 after we learned that local TV stations had drastically slashed resources and were running their news control rooms out of New York.

In this new economy TV stations have no choice but to cover whatever is cheapest and fastest (fires, accidents, crime) or whatever is viral on Facebook and Twitter. I-teams are gone...it's folks on the web who are finding the news..good bad and ugly.

All we do is help these organizations tell their own story ...based on their desired social media audience...by challenging them to think like reporters and storytellers.

This is no different than what the TV newsroom of today does. (Fox News caters to one audience, MSNBC caters to another...their content is dictated by their audience) It's just that we promise not to misrepresent the client for ratings or shock value. (as a reporter I've met so many companies who were unfairly represented to bump ratings that it's hard to even get them to talk to you about a positive story).

- "Substance sells better than sex, it's just much harder to produce."

We think it's only fair that non-profits, entrepreneurs and small businesses have the same shot at well produced coverage online that companies with the big PR firms do.

We tell our clients things they don't want to hear, ask them questions they don't want to answer, capture all of it on camera and then let them sit with the tape as long as they like to explore if they really want to be authentic with their audience...while also evaluating how one's words can be misused before going viral. No, we don't do infomercials (who watches those anyway?) And yes, we do turn some potential clients away. If you are a fraud we can't help you.

Clients don't get to censor the story we tell (just ask our photographer who we caught reacting to being called a Diva here: www.Clayburgcreative.com...we thought it was charming but he needed to sit with it for a week before he agreed...it made our story more personable and more fun...showed what it's really like to work with us).

Our video clients tell us what matters to them but they don't tell us what to shoot. They have the option of never publishing what is shot if they don't like what they see in their message. In the age of You Tube...that is only fair and priceless.

TV stations must cover the widest possible audience they can profit from. So how does a non-profit that provides dentures to homeless people so they have a hope of getting a job EVER get coverage on TV? Dentures are out of the demographic. They don't stand a chance.

But on the web? With a news quality story that shares, for example, what inspired some government employees to start a non-profit for dentures for the homeless and go the extra mile? A story that help us relate to that plight of the folks they help every day? YouBetcha.

And for those of you who think a camera isn't a loaded gun that can leaves wounds that last a lifetime...I'm willing to bet you haven't forgotten the name of "that woman" Bill Clinton "did not have sex with."

Because her image was captured on camera her life changed forever.

Best,

Christine

As the author of the piece, I'd say Rachel comes pretty close to the mark. There's no hidden agenda here -- it's a former TV journalist who is now making videos to help corporate clients tell their stories.

The reason I was interested in Christine's story is because it's just one more example of how people who used to be employed in the traditional media have had to find new ways of making a living as communicators. And how cutbacks in traditional media have made them more vulnerable to competition from a wide range of outlets and voices that had no platform a decade ago. (MinnPost, for example!)

I also think it's good for news consumers to be aware of all these changing dynamics so they can assess the sources and credibility of information that's presented to them. It was easier when there were a couple of newspapers in a town and three TV stations. The individual now has to take more responsibility for consuming a healthy news diet.

Thank you Elizabeth!

That is exactly what we work so hard to do! During my years in TV News I saw so many grassroots, non-profits, and small businesses getting aced out of coverage by companies with big PR firms who had a spokesperson, expert, angle or resource that could meet our day-turn deadlines. The little guy just didn't stand a chance unless lightning struck (sometimes literally!)

I love that social media levels the playing field. If you are the real deal on social media it shows...and vice-versa as well.

Best,

Christine

Some former TV news people go corporate, others opt for the "shilling for leftist psuedo-science \ thespian transvestite" route.

So it goes....

@Christine and John
Thanks for the additional information and insight. Perhaps the wording of the article was what fired up so many others.

I, personally, know of someone who would love to make a leap like you did, Christine. It's an expensive proposition, though, and it's not like people in the "news" make a ton of money. Especially if they're not the ones sitting behind the desk and in front of the camera. I appreciate, especially since this sort of thing requires so much investment to do professionally, that you've directed your focus and resources on helping smaller businesses and non-profits get their messages out. There may be little integrity left in the "news" but that doesn't mean that everyone who has been in news lacks integrity. I wish you success.

I don't know guys, you roll out of bed and haven't had any coffee and here is this story about this brave new world where a reporter is taking his or her skills into the glass towers in order to tell the untold story for corporate clients, who are no longer pitching overworked affiliates for coverage, but rather taking their news straight to the people, no filters, no sweep week nonsense, just connecting emotionally with their message about their mission, and you kind of want to pull your hair out.

To the extent that a corporation does or does not get its message told with fairness and skill does not really trouble me, to be honest, and I don't say that to be trouble, only to indicate how bad it has gotten. As I see it they are selling something and if it goes well they are rewarded and everyone is happy and if it doesn't tomorrow is another day. Who knows, maybe I am missing out on a lot of important stories about people's lives who happen to be in the business of turning a profit, and I readily concede as much. But Ms. Clayburg's story, which is really admirable in many ways, signing up for the Guard and all she has my respect, walks right into America in 2011 where corporations are already talking to us way too friggin much. They are like the guests who had too much punch. Can't they just put their products on the shelves?

So you see, this is our problem, not Ms. Clayburg's. And if I had known she was trying to do sort of visual anthropology for companies, mostly small and nonprofits, on a take it or leave it basis, I would have been much less of a snarky old cuss. Best of luck to you MS. Clayburg, in all sincerity.

@paul LOL and thank you...and To be fair...You really haven't seen "snarky old cuss" until you've seen me in the green room at 2am before hair, makeup, wardrobe and coffee. So thanks for listening. = )

@Rachel...Au contraire on the big money factor. The EXCITING thing about the technology innovations of the last few years is that the networks have lost their stranglehold on deciding what makes news precisely because the tools needed to tell a good story no longer cost nearly as much!!

If you've got heart, determination and a community of like-minded folks all you need is an inexpensive video camera, a mac, a lot of imagination, boatloads of elbow grease. We just provide the seasoned news crew to help shorten the learning curve. We added the ability to do news quality production in 2010 because the gear is SO MUCH MORE affordable now!

For very little money you can build a website that engages your audience (like the good folks responsible for our chat here on Minnpost), shoot your story on a $1000 camera, edit it on the free software included on a $900 mac..or even do it all on an ipad. For some of our lower budget projects we've captured a great story using a $1000 camera with a $20 microphone and...with the guidance of seasoned news crews...made it all look and sound amazing.

Sure, we can and do use much more expensive stuff for clients with bigger budgets or tight deadlines...but the point is, and the mission is...to make it possible for anyone to devote the time and a very small amount of money to tell their story on the web.

Here's why: the one thing you can't buy is a GREAT Story (just ask Hollywood...and watch for those pricey flops). The best stories are true...All my company does is help people tell theirs in a familiar format.

As for your friend. If she has a TV News background and a passion for helping people tell their stories...by all means put her in touch!

I'm a small business owner and a client of Clayburg Creative. I would just like to say that the interviews and videos they produce aren't "filler" for local newscasts. The problem with TV news is that it only tends to cover what IT wants to - great if you're the "flavor of the month" (and even then, you'll have no idea how the story will be spun). Unfortunately, there isn't enough time in a newscast to cover every individual or organization with a great story.

Clayburg Creative's clients use these videos on their own websites, on YouTube, and/or on social media sites. When businesses (even big ones) try to do their own serious interview/news-style videos, the result is often a disaster. Interviewing someone and drawing out the necessary detail to tell their story is a very rare talent. Getting a compelling interview also requires the person being interviewed to understand that (s)he is in a safe environment. Knowing that nothing will be used without permission, the clients can really be themselves and speak freely (instead of constantly being on the defensive and worrying about avoiding any soundbite that could result in the dreaded "gotcha" interview).

As people become less reliant on TV and mainstream media for their news, a paradigm shift is occurring. The Internet and social media are the new frontier, and TV news directors don't get to pick which stories are told here. Sure, anybody can post their own video nowadays, but will it look professional? Will it get people talking (in a GOOD way)? Now that everyone has a voice in the online world, your story will compete with scores of other messages. Knowing how to connect with your target audience is more important than ever. A boring or poor-quality video can reflect negatively on you and turn customers away. So, there is definitely a market for what Clayburg Creative is offering, and Christine is a pioneer in this field. I really believe that it's where forward-thinking companies are going. I think that some of the comments here were written without a full understanding of exactly what Clayburg Creative does...