The mark of a good journalist is that you’re drawn into the story, rather than the way it is presented. If your focus is taken away from the story by structure or embellishment, the journalist isn’t doing their job properly.
It can be a fairly unrewarding profession in the creativity sense, but their readers will ultimately be happier if the writer is prepared to take a backseat to their topic.
In content marketing, we are afforded a bit more creative freedom, but there are times when we’d benefit from taking heed of journalism techniques and apply them to our endeavours.
Entrepreneur contributor Brian Hughes has identified three ways we can take the lead from journalism in order to improve our content:
1. Look to the news for inspiration
Whatever your industry, there are stories in the news that relate to what you do. For those operating in niche markets, those stories may be a little harder to find, but you’ll benefit by having a readership that will probably be unaware of the latest news in that industry. The trick is to ensure the stories you are lifting from the news are interesting, relevant and open to discussion. It’s not enough just to pull from the headlines, you’ve got to find a smart new angle and present the story in a way that is engaging.
You don’t have to just restrict yourself to just your industry, either. If a popular news story can be adapted accordingly for your target audience, then run with it. Take the Volkswagen Emissions Scandal from earlier in the year, for example. It wasn’t just the motoring industry that covered the story – all manner of different sectors picked it up and proceeded to write “Lessons we can learn” pieces around the topic.
2. Get to the heart of the matter
“Don’t bury the lead” is a popular saying in journalism which means to not force the reader to read several paragraphs of writing before they get to the main point of the article. This is especially important in today’s times of shortening attention spans. No one sits down with a newspaper with the intention of reading every single word – people just don’t have the time.
If you consider that time may be of the essence for your target audience, too, you will be well served. We all like to think that prospects are landing on our blogs, startled by the quality of the writing, consuming every word, but they’re not. Many will only scan your blog content in-between other tasks, or having a spot of lunch. That’s fine, though, as long as your content is structured in a way that emphasises the main points i.e. in bullets or list form.
3. Find a human angle
The best journalists are able to identify a human angle for their stories. Bringing in real-life examples really helps the issue hit home and is instantly more relatable for your readers. We’re forever being told to embrace storytelling as content marketers – this means sharing your customers’ stories (with their permission, of course), letting them explain in their own words how they overcame their pain points.
If you are going to go down this route, however, remember that content must still support your business’ long-term marketing and branding goals. Your target audience should be able to see a story arc, with each piece of content building on what came before it, thus painting a picture of your business.
Alongside finding a new angle, quickly making your point and adding a human side to your content, what else do you think we can learn from the world of journalism?Ben Hollom
December 15, 2015