I didn’t always believe in content marketing. Not in an it-doesn’t-exist way, more of a why-would-anyone-care sort of way.
But that’s the journalist in me. For years I worked as a newspaper reporter and editor, which means I’m skeptical and questioning by nature. While skepticism and my ability to question just about everyone and everything can sometimes be a burden for those around me, it’s a quality that comes in quite handy when it comes to interviewing and writing.
My skepticism when it came to content marketing stemmed from the fact I was always questioning marketers and their objectives. Were they just using me to get their story in the paper? Was it a ploy for free advertising? How would it benefit the reader? I wasn’t having any of it.
Then I came around. Partly because now I work as a content marketing editor. But largely because I discovered content marketing can be beneficial for both sides — if done correctly. And when it’s done correctly, content marketing and journalism can be a match made in journalistic heaven.
When thinking about your content marketing campaign, use these five tips to think like a journalist and turn your content into something that has the ability to benefit all.
1. Think of content marketing as an act of public service.
Content marketing should be about providing quality and valuable content that readers not only enjoy reading, but can actually help them in some way. Journalists do this each day, whether it’s an investigative piece digging into how local government is overspending your tax dollars, or a health feature on a new treatment that saved someone’s life. Journalists know how to hook a reader to make them keep reading, thinking they will get something out of the piece.
Journalist tip: Think about what you are talking about at home, and what the people around you are talking about outside of work. It’s likely not your product specifically, but there are surely ways your product or service can be subtly tied to that discussion. Try to build around that idea.
2. Ask the right questions.
Keywords, schmewords. While researching keywords can help you determine your target market, an article fattened with keywords doesn’t mean you’re doing anything to help your readers.
Really think about your brand messaging and ask questions a journalist would ask. What does this really mean? What’s a unique example of how this product or service works? If your product or service is so great, why isn’t everyone already your customer?
Journalist tip: Be honest with yourself about your service or product. If your answers to questions are along the lines of, “well, it’s a long story,” you most likely have an interesting or helpful story to tell. Your readers will value your authenticity.
3. Don’t be scared to take risks.
Go beyond your first instinct and push for an angle you haven’t tried before, or something unique to your industry. Too many brands play it safe with their message, and as a result, offer generic content no one really wants to read. When it comes to content marketing, there must be a level of creative freedom and risk taking.
Do you have some interesting statistics to share? Try an infographic. Do you have a personal story attached to your brand? Write a compelling feature. Do you want to engage with your customers? Ask targeted questions to get the conversation going. Throw all the rules out the window.
Journalist tip: Brainstorm with your team regularly. Have those difficult discussions about what makes your brand stand out and how you can present that information in a new, memorable way. Find ways to offer solutions to your customers’ toughest issues.
4. Embrace the art of storytelling.
Of course every content marketer wants to create “quality content” and be a “thought leader,” but here’s the reality: the content marketing world is so full of noise, your message can easily get lost in the drivel. Plus, those terms are so overused and generic they’ve lost any true meaning.
You can, however, set yourself apart by creating quality content if you understand the art and process of storytelling. First, think about why you want to be a content marketer. Generating traffic, getting clicks and increasing shares is not a good reason. We can all write click-bait worthy headlines, but what will keep your customers reading?
Once you have a definitive answer to why, spend some serious time focusing on the how. How you do it can make a lasting impression and provide customers with something authentic.
Journalist tip: When it comes to good storytelling, try to take yourself and your brand out of the story. Is it still something you would be interested in reading? Congratulations, you have a good story.
5. Lose your ego.
Content marketers should take lessons in brutal honesty from journalists and learn to leave their bias at the door.
A good journalist has the ability to have their work influence without showing bias toward a particular product or service. Journalists do this by using facts from reliable sources, and weaving that information into an interesting story that offers some kind of benefit to the reader, or in this case, the customer. Using facts and reliable sources to support your message will help build trust with customers, something that should be a top priority when it comes to content marketing.
Journalist tip: Build trust by finding people who are authorities in your field both internally and externally. Use their research and skills to really dive into a topic. The ability to showcase sources outside of your company will elevate your piece, benefit your customers and help you build trust.