When we suggest that marketers should think like journalists, we don’t mean you should start hacking phone calls and selling kidneys to get the next big scoop.
Trust me, having worked as a journalist in some capacity for more than six years, I can tell you that not all journalists are like that (and besides, I no longer have the technology for that line of work. Or any kidneys, for that matter).
What we mean is that marketers should adopt the same practices that great magazine journalists do in order to produce engaging and sharable content. This involves preparing your content well in advance, building relationships with your audience and telling valuable stories that people want to read.
Think of your customers as subscribers. Great magazines have loyal readers who come back time and time again, due to the relevancy and quality of the content produced by their journalists.
In order for your brand to have the same impact online, here are four reasons why you should start thinking like a journalist when it comes to your content marketing.
Journalists know their audiences
Knowing your audience is certainly not new advice for marketers. You’ve obviously got to have amazing knowledge of your product or service, as this is needed to find clever and effective ways to market it.
Knowing it too well, however, can be both a blessing and a curse, as you may find yourself so close to it that you struggle to look at it from a new and refreshing angle.
A journalist, on the other hand, will have spent large chunks of their career focusing on and switching between specialist subjects and niche markets, discovering which tones of voice or specific topics are most likely to resonate with each audience.
It’s this quality which marketers strive to replicate, no matter how niche an industry they work within.
Each magazine has its own style and identity; it’s what makes a reader choose one particular publication over another. This is the goal for all companies!
Marketers should adopt a magazine mindset for their brand, then figure out both who it is that they want as readers and what specific content is likely to get that person’s juices flowing. Thinking like a journalist lets you do this.
Journalists produce editorial plans
If you’re struggling to come up with new ideas for content that isn’t just rehashing things you’ve done before, have a flick through your favourite magazine, either in print or online.
You’ll notice how journalists can find new angles for even the driest subjects and put an entertaining spin on them.
This isn’t just done on the fly, though. Those feature article titles and interviews have been arranged weeks in advance – maybe even months – and all have been laid out in a strict editorial plan.
Far too often marketers will only produce content when they have a spare hour or two. Don’t get me wrong, being topical is fantastic and is often more likely to be shared, but setting time aside for topical pieces into an editorial plan will give your content marketing structure and purpose.
A ‘start-stop’ approach simply won’t deliver the results you want. If a print magazine only wrote one article every two months, it would take a few years before they could put together a decent issue!
Content marketing is an ongoing practice, which is exactly why you need an editorial plan.
Journalists develop different types of content
Again, think of your favourite magazine. You’re almost never bombarded by lengthy feature after lengthy feature, all text and no images.
That’s not to say you would stop reading it if it was (after all, you’re a fan of that magazine and the articles they produce), but readers are far more receptive when content is broken into different types.
News, discussion pieces, columns, feature articles, advice pieces, reviews, Q&As, interview pieces – you’ll find all of these in a magazine, and you should find them all in your content plan too.
Online news stories, for example, can really cement your business as a thought leader within your industry, while interview content with respected individuals strengthens the reader’s trust with your brand.
Online, there’s plenty of opportunity to create shareable content like infographics and blogs, which often prove popular on social media.
See also: David Moth’s blog post, Eight free content calendar templates to help you plan your output.
Journalists think commercially
A common misstep from marketers is producing content for content’s sake. Everyone else is doing it, so you probably feel like you should too, but do you have an end result in mind?
There’s no reason why the feature articles on your website shouldn’t be high-quality and glossy like those in your favourite magazine.
For both journalists and marketers the end goal is really the same: to produce quality work which also demands a return.
Great articles in a magazine help sell copies and increase subscriptions, while great content for your brand can build your customer base and help boost ROI.
Thinking like a journalist, or better still, hiring a team of journalists to produce content for you, is becoming more and more important in successful marketing strategies.
Plus, no industry is too niche for valuable and engaging content. As a journalist who has also worked as a marketer, joining a content marketing agency as a brand journalist was a natural step to take.
Content is only going to improve as more journalists make the lucrative transition over to content marketing.
For one, it’s better for your well-being. I’ve got the scars and convictions to prove it!