Out-of-Work Journos: PepsiCo Wants You!

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By: Brian Morrissey/Adweek

As the ranks of out-of-work journalists swell, PepsiCo is stepping in with an offer: cover Internet Week events, using many forms of digital media.

PepsiCo is calling the experiment of an “open newsroom” an effort to align the brand with the social media space. It is hiring nine people to use blogging, Twitter, Web video events from Internet Week, running June 1-8 in New York City. The program is open to journalists, students, social media gadflies and anyone with a hankering to report using new social media tools.

Their reports will appear on the PepsiCo Content Network (pepsicontentnetwork.com.) Participants will receive $750.

The “social communicators” will be outfitted with press passes and assigned to cover everything from panels to parties. They will create packages of content including photos, videos and blog posts. PepsiCo is providing tools like Flip video cameras. The company hired former Mediabistro editorial director Dorian Benkoil as editor in chief for the site.

“What we’re looking for storytellers or journalists or professionals that
are at work in this space,” said Bonin Bough, director of digital and social media at PepsiCo.

PepsiCo is opening its casting call to those with journalism experience,
students at journalism schools, and also bloggers and those adept in digital communications platforms. It will advertise for the positions on Craigslist and Mediabistro.

The brand hopes PCN will generate 100 pieces of content over the course of the week, which will be available for any site to take and repost.

PepsiCo theoretically has a deep pool of candidates. Newspapers, magazines and other news organizations have laid off thousands of reporters in recent months. In a sign of how bad things are for many in the profession, a charity auction for a paid internship at The Huffington Post got a $13,000 bid. Blogging provides infinitely more possibilities.

While the PCN is a new approach, Bough does not see this as a template for corporate-funded journalism.

“We’re not trying to take on the topic of journalism in the changing world,” he said.

PepsiCo has set up a selection committee, headed by Bough and Stephanie Agresta, a social media consultant to PepsiCo and blogger at
InterentGeekGirl.com. Applicants will be asked to submit a short essay on why they should be selected, links to their LinkedIn profile as resume, and a Twitter message pitching their qualifications in 140 characters.

PepsiCo has made a concerted push to align itself with social media. It was among the top sponsors at South by Southwest, a social media Woodstock held in April. Its efforts there included a Twitter visualizer that tracked sentiment from the event and a podcast area. It also hosted a “PepTrends” event, in which it moderated a conversation over Twitter about global trends.

“We see the benefits of creating these relationships,” Bough said. “We want to move from impressions to connections.”

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