8 Content Marketing Tips Only Journalists Know
Good stories. You want to tell them. We want to hear them. Who already knows how to find, craft, and deliver them? Journalists.
Long before the advent of search engines, journalists were perfecting the craft of dynamic, interesting, and informative content that could capture wide audiences. It’s hardly surprising then that as content marketing developed, many people began referring to this dynamic, informative content as “branded journalism.”
Of course, we’re not saying that journalists and content writers are the same thing (although if you’re lucky, you may be able to get a journalist to write your content). However, there are important similarities. Journalists can offer content marketers tips to help their content stand out, tactics for gaining new audiences, and insights on boosting reader loyalty.
Here, the editors at Prose Media have compiled eight of our favorite tools and concepts from the journalism trade that can help you improve your content writing.
1. Remember the five Ws
Who? What? Where? When? Why?
These are the first questions they teach cub reporters to ask — and for good reason. These questions never go out of style. And they’re just as important for content marketers as they are for journalists. They help you hit your main points:
- Who is your audience?
- What are their pain points, and what do they care about?
- Where ( on what platforms) are you going to reach them?
- When (how often) are you going to post?
- Why should they bother to read your content? What’s in it for them?
Whatever platform you’re writing for, the five Ws are the backbone of any good narrative. Keeping them in mind is a good way to stay focused.
2. Be ready and resourceful
News can happen any time, so keep your ears open and your eyes peeled. That’s what good journalists do. They might be “off the clock,” but they’re never completely off duty.
Just as journalists are always ready to jump on a story, whenever and wherever it happens, so should content marketers. Are you at an industry conference where the keynote speaker just announced a new discovery? Or chatting at a networking event, where you met the new account manager for that region? Did you stumble across something interesting while browsing in the shops, or online? Wherever you are, seize the opportunity to come up with ideas for great content.
Of course, even content marketers can have what journalists call a “slow news day.” When that happens, look for inspiration from the news desk, and consider doing “filler stories”:
- Follow-ups on previous stories, such as a round-up of reviews on the new product that everyone was talking about 6 months ago
- Deep dives on previous posts, offering a new angle or previously under-reported details
- Human-interest stories, such as a profile of an employee running a marathon for charity
- Exciting posts repurposing other content, such as e-books, white papers, or articles
You’ll always have something new to publish and have fresh content on tap if you remember two things every journalist knows: a) News waits for no one, and b) News doesn't have to be “breaking” news.
3. Think of a good headline
A powerful headline gets attention (just look at the New York Post). A powerful headline on your blog post — tagged properly as a header or a keyword — is like a red flag screaming “Extra! Extra!” to the entire Web. When Google’s search engine sifts through your site, not all words are created equal. Like any human pair of eyes scanning the newsstand, Google scans your titles, keywords, tags, and headings. Those are what leap out and carry the most currency — often making the difference between the customer picking up your paper or the one next to it.
4. Lead with the lede
There’s an expression in journalism “Don’t bury the lede.” In other words, present the essential part of the story right away; don’t make readers scroll through secondary details to get there. Good journalism grabs the audience’s attention with the central points of the story, then fleshes those points out.
Effective content marketing does the same. Your target audience is scanning more than they’re reading, and they’re quite likely in a bit of a hurry, so get to the point and you'll get their attention. A headline may get them to click through, but if your introductory sentences aren’t immediately informative, engaging, and on topic, they’ll be gone as quickly as they arrived. Lead with the lede, and entice readers to stay with you a while.
5. Get good quotes
Quotes can make or break your content.
Believe us, unusual and specific quotes are out there. Pound the pavement. Talk to experts and reach out to leaders in the field. Solicit a quote or opinion that hasn’t already been stamped on a t-shirt. There are hundreds of authors, academic figures, thought leaders, and even seasoned pros in your field who would love to talk with you. Use quotes to add nuance and authenticity to your story.
6. Forget “just the facts, ma’am”
Facts are important, but just listing facts without a compelling narrative will have your readers nodding off. Quick. This is especially the case when you’re dealing with complex fields — like big data analytics, medicine, or cutting-edge tech.
Scientific studies don’t come with beginnings, middles, and ends. You’re the writer. That’s your job. There isn’t a lot of popular science writing out there, because it’s hard to translate scientific research into a story while also delivering the goods. Raw data is just that: raw. You need to make it readable for everybody, not just trivia hounds.
7. Source everything
Sourcing is a practical journalistic consideration and a good writing practice. But it’s also a vital technique for improving your site’s visibility in search engine results. When you link to your sources on other websites, you build your credibility by creating a map of your own reporting. Cross-linking also boosts your search engine rating by marking your site as an important stop for people searching the web.
8. Edit, edit, edit
Fact check every number. Edit every comma. Double-check the spelling of every name. In the past, going to the presses was the end of the line. As a result, journalists and their dogged editors put in the time to make everything “fit to print.” In contrast, the Web has made people sloppy. Just because you can make a correction later, doesn’t mean you should. Remember, nothing on the Internet ever really disappears.
Any of these tips seem daunting? Overwhelming? At Prose Media, we're here to help with any and all of the numbers on this list. Need someone to craft flashy content? We’re here. Need a copy editor? We’ve got it. Whatever your needs, when you sign up for free access to our platform, we instantly become a part of your team.