Content Marketers Must Think Like Journalists

When it comes down to it, content marketing and traditional journalism have quite a bit in common. After all, journalists are known storytellers and their success greatly depends on their ability to package stories in a way that appeals to as wide a variety of readers as possible.

Now, let’s take a look at marketing. This discipline demands a similar technique, and the stakes can be just as high (if not more so). If a campaign lacks a certain confidence, you may face failure to engage with potential clients or customers.

This is why we as content marketers should step back to our roots for a moment and see what we can learn from journalists.


The Value of a Great Headline

There are times when the quality of your headline is equally important as the article itself. It’s also true that the success or failure of a marketing campaign depends on your ability to craft captivating headlines, just as it does in journalism.

So, how do you hook those wandering eyes? You want your headline to turn heads. Most of us are practically numb to information overload, so the best titles are not necessarily the ones that scream the loudest. There are times when a little bit of restraint goes a long way.

No matter how you grab a reader, remember that a good headline should not only provide a brief summary of the article, but also leave a little to the imagination to entice an individual to follow through and read it.


Get To Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is sound advice for almost any industry. But it’s particularly important in content marketing. Trained journalists spend a good portion of their careers immersing themselves in their particular niche or beat. While doing this they discover the types of stories that resonate with their target audience.

Here’s the good news: neither journalists nor marketers need to go undercover to understand their audience. A big thank you goes out to social media and community sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit that provide ample insight into the sorts of topics that interest any particular demographic.


Finding the “Hard News” and “Soft News” Balance

Another similarity between marketing and journalism is that both strike a balance between hard and soft news stories. Hard news stories have to do with ongoing, current events and social trends. Soft news stories are what we refer to as “evergreen” stories, meaning they can be published and re-published since they’re not time-sensitive.

It is important that marketers find this hard and soft balance. Remaining on the edge of current events is no more or less important than providing content that can be revisited again and again. Hard news stories give a sense of authority and relevance, while soft news stories are better for positioning your site or brand as a resource to visit on a regular basis.


Casting Your Content Net

Potential stories surface all the time across the Internet, and success in both marketing and journalism depends on staying up-to-date on the topics your audience cares about. This is why knowing where to look for content is going to make or break a campaign.

Now the question is, where do you find quality content? Everywhere! You don’t know where it will come from next so you need to monitor all that you can. Pay close attention to trending topics on Twitter and Facebook, browse the question and answer service Quora, or see what people are saving on read-it-later services like Evernote and Readability. Inspiration is everywhere, so keep your eyes peeled.


Journalists and Marketers Alike Make Mistakes

When it comes to marketing and journalism, you can expect a certain number of mistakes; nobody is foolproof, especially those working in industries that put them in the front lines of cultural events and social trends. It’s also important to maintain a certain transparency with your audience. If you do print something mistakenly, it’s best to come clean about the mistake quickly. You might even share a laugh or two with your readers and then everyone can move on.

We should note that this process demands a certain attention to detail when it comes to sources. Always cite your sources for everything you publish. You don’t want to leave your readers guessing as to where you found a certain fact or figure.


The Same End Goal

The story for success has been the same for years no matter if you’re a journalist or marketer: providing interesting and timely content to an audience that will come back and read again. We all want lifelong consumers—whether that person is a community reader or product purchaser.

Share your thoughts on how journalism and marketing parallel each other in the comments below.

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