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"Poking and prying with purpose”: why brand journalists need to be curious


Following the official adoption of ‘curiosity’ as one of our core values here at Speak – a decision made on a beautiful summer’s day during the eighth annual Values Walk – Managing Editor Laura Smith reflects on the importance and benefits of being a bunch of nosy parkers.

“Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” Proverb

We recently shared a video of John Humphrys, in which the veteran BBC broadcaster identified the most valuable attribute for any journalist: curiosity.

“If you want to be a journalist, you must have an insatiable curiosity for how the world works, why it works the way it does, what can be done…to make it better,” he said. “Above all, you want to know – you must be curious. That’s the secret.”

Humphrys (who, as confirmed in reactions to our tweet, is something of a controversial figure among those pressing for greater media diversity) is not the first writer to extol the virtues of the trait your parents may have warned you against. 

The celebrated American novelist Zora Neale Hurston described research as “formalised curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose”, while the 18th century English writer Samuel Johnson said: “Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.” My favourite is the 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who put it pithily: “Curiosity is the lust of the mind.”

Here at Speak Towers, we have this journalistic trait in abundance. It’s the kind of curiosity that, we think, sets take-it-or-leave-it stories apart from great stories (so much so that we’ve just added it to our company values – the first new addition in seven years).

As brand journalists, our job is to be curious on behalf of our clients. Yes, you know your business inside out, but that can sometimes be a drawback when it comes to creating compelling content – when you’re an expert, it can be hard to see what the outside world might find interesting about what you do. 

But in a world of seemingly endless – and, often, disappointingly average – brand content, being interesting is essential. Our curiosity will surface that longstanding colleague whose loyalty says so much about your company’s culture, find the story behind that new hire whose expertise is redefining your offer, and that compelling image from your archive that will have people clicking through to read more. 

If you’re struggling to rescue your news section from tumbleweed, or assert the importance of good stories in a business culture that finds it hard to see their value, or simply identify what you want to say and how you want to say it, we can help. 

 Find out more about how we build newsrooms for brands.

Laura Smith