1) Tell a Story
If anyone knows how important telling a good story is, it’s journalists. When you write like a journalist, you'll be taking what’s happening in the world around you and converting it into clear and concise writing that puts the story above all else. This is a powerful skill to have as a content marketing writer, 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 offering, 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 content marketing writers produce content, it's vital that they know who that content is for. When you understand your buyer personas, research the problems they face and the solutions they’re in need of, and craft your content around that, you'll be about to tell relevant stories that will attract the right kinds of customers at the right time.
2) Craft a Killer Lead
When you write like a journalist, you should 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 farther down the page 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 first paragraph. Let your reader know exactly what they’re going to be reading about and then make sure whatever follows remains committed to the expectations your lead established.
Strong leads will 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.
3) Ask 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 should be a staple good content marketing writers adopt 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. Content marketing writers need to know what questions their audience has, but they also need to know what questions that 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 content marketing writers 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 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.
Content marketing writers want their audience to know that their content—more than anyone else’s—is accurate and trustworthy. Those aren’t qualities found via a cursory Google search; those are qualities found by doing the work no one else is doing. That’s what you should do when you write like a journalist.
4) Look 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 other content marketing writers are 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.
5) Produce Trustworthy Writing
One of the areas where content marketing writers and journalists more obviously overlap is in regard to their aims of becoming trustworthy sources of information for their audience. If you want to write like a journalist, then you need to guarantee that your facts are factual, your claims researched and validated, and your 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 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 the job of content marketing writers 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 information they already have, surprise them with something they don’t. If you write like a journalist, you need to prioritize an unbiased and neutral opinion. The better you can integrate that into your marketing content, the easier it’ll be for buyers to trust you with their attention, and eventually, with their business.
6) Show, Don’t Tell
Showing, not telling, is the first lesson you’ll learn in just about any writing class. A writer who 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. When you write like a journalist, you 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. Content marketing writers should put themselves in the buyer’s shoes, just like journalists put themselves in their reader’s shoes, and write the kind of content those people would find valuable.
The more you can embrace a the tools and strategies that define what it means to write like a journalist, the more you’ll be able to empathize and engage with your target audience, which will ultimately better your company’s success.
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