Why content marketers need to think like journalists
Journalists are expected to tell stories from an unbiased observer’s perspective, while content marketers work for the people and companies that they’re writing about. But, as content marketing evolved, it began to adopt the tenets of journalism.
Now, as consumers we’ve always chosen which piece of content to trust, which ad to block and which piece of content to ignore. The only difference today is that the lines between journalism and content marketing are blurring. We experience an online world in which so much of content looks and feels the same even if it isn’t. In fact, the best content marketing is a skillful blend of news, promotion and audience engagement.
Content marketing includes any piece of content (a Facebook post, a feature-length documentary, a blog post, a native ad, etc.) created by or on behalf of a brand with the hope that it will attract readers on its own merits. This differs from traditional advertising where your readers are bombarded with ads about your product or service even if they’re not relevant to them. Journalism, on the other hand, holds a mirror to our society; sometimes it’s educational, sometimes it exposes wrongdoing, and sometimes it could be biased.
The boundaries between content marketing and editorial in newsrooms aren’t what they used to be. Many publishers today are pursuing branded content in some form. Remember, The New York Times explainer on women in prison created on behalf of Netflix to promote its show Orange is the New Black? It’s great storytelling about female prisoners in the U.S. with text being supported with charts, video and audio. It showcases how branded content can be as good as—if not better than—traditional journalism.
Similarities between content marketers and journalists
If you think about it, both journalists and your content marketing team are tasked with a common challenge of engaging readers. To do so, they both have to be fantastic storytellers. Content marketers have to tell stories that interest and entertain potential clients or customers while staying true to the brand and what the brand cares about. Journalists, on the other hand, tell stories of immense societal value.
Journalists and content marketers are either naturally inquisitive or are trained to be. Content marketers are expected to conduct in-depth research and interviews like journalists, even if they’re writing for brands and not for a news organization. Any brand or agency therefore stands to gain from hiring writers who’ve worked in the trenches of a deadline-driven newsroom.
Classic journalism techniques that’ll enhance your content marketing
In fact, there’s a lot content marketers can learn from journalists and their editorial approach to content creation. Let’s step out of the marketing silo to see how these classic journalism techniques can improve your content marketing:
- Research and read more than you write and shareBefore developing a piece of content take time to read and research. If you’ve seen the Oscar-winning movie Spotlight, you’ll know that the real work of a journalistic piece happens long before a story is written. Research is the backbone of great content. So make sure your content marketing team spends time honing their craft instead of simply churning out bland content.
- Put your audience at the heart of your contentBoth journalists and content marketers have this in common: their audience needs to be at the heart of every story they tell. It is the key to constructing compelling stories that evoke an emotion, and sometimes even urge people to take action. Content marketing isn’t about chasing vanity metrics; it’s about creating valuable content that inspires, engages and solves a problem for its readers.
- Dig deep and verify factsPeople aren’t forgiving of journalists who don’t check their facts or sources. Content marketers too can benefit from ensuring similar due diligence. If you’re not sure about a stat or a quote you plan to use in a piece of content, dig deeper.
- Tell an authentic storyReporters are always told to put a human face to their stories. Similarly, when content marketers are crafting a brand’s story, they should tap into the human side to make a story richer and more impactful.
Effective content marketing is a lot more than just a snappy, click-bait headline. It relies on powerful storytelling that sparks a human connection—something that befits both journalists and content marketers in conveying their message in the most impactful way.