Your content marketing strategy is one of the strongest tools in your company's repertoire. It drives clicks, generates leads, and establishes your brand as a valuable, trustworthy resource for your target audience. Since the content you produce is so important, you want to make sure that it’s the best it can be, and the first step towards doing that is making sure you have good writers. With these journalistic writing tips, you can ensure that each and every one of your content marketers can write like a journalist, produce the best content for your audience, and maximize your company’s success rates.
Good writing is the pillar that supports all of your content marketing efforts. Without consistently strong writing, your content will likely lack the energy it needs to drive your lead generations and conversions. As content becomes increasingly vital in marketing, so too does your need for persuasive writing talent.
By hiring a marketing agency that exemplifies the professional writing and quality content of the journalism industry, you’ll equip your brand with the tools it’ll need to go above and beyond the expectations of your target audience and be better prepared to meet their needs.
There’s a lot to learn from the journalism industry. To help you and your content marketing achieve maximum success, take a look at the following features of journalistic writing that your content writers can learn from.
Telling a Story
If anyone knows how important telling a good story is, it’s journalists. A journalists’ entire goal is to take what’s happening in the world around them and convert it into clear and concise writing that puts the story above all else. This is a powerful skill to have as a content marketer, as it creates engaging content that convinces your audience to not only keep reading but to keep coming back to you for all their needs.
Just because the content you produce isn’t journalistic in nature doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fueled by a story. Part of your job as a company is to highlight your story and the story of your customers. When you find the story in a situation or service, you find the emotional throughline that ties you and your target audience together. Without it, you run the risk of lacking the authenticity and trustworthiness potential buyers look for.
When you’re writing content, you need to know who that content is for. Understand your buyer personas, research the problems they face and the solutions they’re in need of, and craft your content around that. The better you understand your target audience, the better equipped you’ll be to tell their stories in ways that feel genuine.
A Killer Lead
Take inspiration from journalists and focus on crafting a killer lead, which takes the form of an opening statement that summarizes what the content is about and why it’s important. The longer your lead is, the longer it’ll take for your audience to understand what your content is about and why they should care about.
Instead of burying your lead several paragraphs—or even sentences—down the page, slap it right in the front of the first paragraph. Let your reader know exactly what they’re going to be reading about and then make sure that whatever content follows remains absolutely committed to fulfilling the expectations your lead established.
Strong leads guide your reader into the story of your content, and the story of your content will lead them farther down the sales funnel. People are engaged in stories, and if you can frame your content around a central story or conflict, your readers will be more likely to stick around.
Asking the Right Questions
Journalism is built around asking questions. Not just any questions either, but the kinds of pointed, precise questions that peel back the layers of a situation and delve into the relevant truths hidden within. This has been a staple of good journalism since its inception, and it should be a staple of good content marketing as well.
When you approach a piece of content, don’t settle for a cursory survey or explanation of its outer shell. Instead, ask questions that get into the heart of what it is you’re trying to say and what your audience is hoping you’ll say. You need to know what questions your audience has, but you also need to know what questions your audience will have. A good journalist doesn’t stop at asking the right kinds of questions; they go ahead and answer them too.
To offer good answers to your target audience’s questions, you need to do more than run a quick Google search. Journalists conduct interviews, make phone calls, send emails, and do whatever they can to expose every angle of a question they can find. This doesn’t mean your content marketers should become interrogators, but it does mean that you should go the extra mile if it means finding the answers your audience wants.
Another angle to address is asking questions about people, not just products. For example, not a lot of people are going to care about how your new vacuum works. What they will care about, however, is how the vacuum is going to work for them. What makes it better than other vacuums? How will buying this vacuum improve their way of life?
Tie every topic you write about back to a person. People care about people more than they care about products, and the better aligned your content can be—even if it’s about a product—with the people who can make use of it, the more effective it’ll be.
As a content marketer, you want your audience to know that your content—more than anyone else’s—is accurate and trustworthy. Those aren’t qualities you find via a cursory Google search; those are qualities you find by doing the work no one else is doing. That’s what journalists do, and if you want your content marketing to truly stand out from the crowd, that’s what you’ll do too.
Looking at the Headlines
Headlines are everywhere, and as misleading as many of them can be, they are still helpful markers for new and relevant topics. If the same kind of headline is repeated across multiple platforms and outlets, then it’s probably a topic audiences care about, and you’d be wise to make note of that. Journalists may prioritize asking their own questions, but they also know how important the questions of others are as well.
Your content marketing should follow the same trend. Prioritize the creation and circulation of the kinds of content no one else is producing, but don’t ignore a subject just because everyone else is already talking about it. You want your brand to be the one people come to before all the others, and if you’re not addressing the industry’s hottest topics and trends, then you’re going to lose part of your audience.
Just because something’s popular doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. Don’t become so fixated on being unique that you forget to be accessible as well.
Producing Trustworthy Writing
One of the areas where marketers and journalists more obviously overlap is in regard to their mutual aims of being trustworthy sources of information for their audience. Journalists need to guarantee that their facts are factual, their claims clearly researched and validated, and their stories grounded in real, provable events.
Marketers, in a similar way, strive to ensure that the content they produce is grounded in the betterment of their audience. Good marketing is honest, upfront with the facts, and responsive to concerns. Neither journalists nor marketers should be keeping their work in the shadows.
Buyers have been conditioned to be suspicious of the brands who want their business, and it’s your job as a content marketer to push back against that. You can do this by asking, and then answering, the kinds of questions your buyers have, or you can do it by presenting content that’s not explicitly about the products or services you’re selling.
Your audience knows that you want their business, so rather than inundating them with the information they already have, surprise them with something they don’t. Writing like a journalist means keeping an unbiased and neutral opinion. The better you can integrate that in your marketing content, the easier it’ll be for buyers to trust you with their attention, and eventually, with their business.
Show, Don’t Tell
Showing, not telling, is the first lesson you’ll learn in just about any writing class. A writer who just tells their reader everything is probably a writer without an invested audience. Very few people are captivated by a fact sheet, but when you take those facts and show someone why they should care, your odds of capturing their attention will skyrocket.
This is why writers tell stories; telling a story is one of the best ways to show someone why they should care about something. Journalists don’t publish news articles that consist solely of bullet points outlining basic facts. Journalists take the facts and find the humanity in them.
As a content marketer, you should follow this example. Don’t just tell an audience why they should care about your product. Show them how your product will change the way they live. Like the vacuum example from earlier, people want to see how something affects them personally, so show them that.
Marketing, like journalism, is all about understanding your audience and providing them with the content they want, even if they don’t know that that’s what they want yet. Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes, just like journalists put themselves in their reader’s shoes, and write the kind of content that that person would find valuable.
The more you can embrace a journalistic state-of-mind, the more you’ll be able to empathize and engage with your target audience, which will ultimately better your company’s success.