Journalism Best Practices
While there are major differences between content marketers and journalists, the two groups do have one important thing in common: They want to make their writing the best that it can possibly be. This requires a whole lot more than just writing nice turns of phrase. It requires doing research, reading widely, and interacting with others. So with that in mind, we’ve outlined 5 things that content marketers can learn from journalists:
1.) Engage the Reader from the Start
In journalism, the first sentence of a story is called the “lede.” Journalists are taught to work on their ledes, then go back and work on them some more. This is because they need their stories to hook in the reader right away, instead of only engaging them when they’re halfway through the story (assuming they even made it that far).
In content creation, the same principle applies, but instead of the first sentence, the thing you need to focus on is the title. In a sense, this makes writing a blog article much more challenging. You have to constantly ask yourself, “How do I make an article seem engaging and useful within the span of 70 characters? If I saw this on Facebook or Twitter, would I click on the link?” Just as journalists tweak and fine-tune their ledes, so you should do with your titles.
2.) Do Your Research
Research is the heart of any good news story. This holds true, no matter whether the story is about a political scandal or a feature on the lady whose coin collection dates back to the 1850s. Unless you’re writing an op-ed, you really have no story without any data or quotes to make it real.
In the same vein, content creators need to back up their writing with solid research. No matter what sort of field you write for, it’s crucial to keep up with the latest developments so that you can keep your place as an industry expert. It’s fine to add in your own speculation in some content, but you can’t pass off all your musings on the future of Twitter as fact without some reference to facts first.
3.) Talk to People
Like researching, talking to people is also a key part of journalism. Interviewing is beneficial for two reasons. First and foremost, the insights from other people make reporters’ stories come alive. Secondly, talking to people can also help journalists expand their network and find sources for future stories, since their interview subjects know people who know people.
For content marketing, these same benefits apply when you connect with other companies and other bloggers. As in journalism, where talking to people makes your story richer and more varied, the same holds true for your blog. Recruiting new blogging voices can put a new spin on the same old topics. And of course, guest posting on other’s blogs can also spread the word about your company, which in turn expands your own network.
4.) Always Be on the Lookout For a Good Story
The best journalists never stop looking for a story. They take notice of flyers, billboards, and of course, the news. They’ll identify an angle that a reporter didn’t cover or think of a question that goes unanswered. Then they’ll investigate. They’re also always prepared to write down story ideas—whether that be on their smartphones or good ol’ pen and paper.
This never-ending search is also a good practice for content marketers. Staying on the lookout for unique story angles will put a fresh spin on your content and make it more likely that the content will be shareable. And having something to write down those ideas will make sure that no brilliant thought ever gets lost.
5.) Read Widely
Part of finding good stories, of course, is reading as much as possible. Journalists don’t just read about the beat they cover. They’ll read anything and everything they can get their hands on. This is beneficial because it makes them more knowledgeable, which helps them write better stories. Reading widely also helps them find ideas in unusual places, so they’re not covering a topic in a way that’s been done a hundred times before.
Content marketers will also gain the same benefits from reading widely. When you have a wide range of knowledge to draw from, be it literary or otherwise, then you can produce content with creative premises, such as articles discussing content creation lessons from The Count of Monte Cristo.
Of course, since content creation and journalism overlap, there are a few lessons marketing writers can teach journalists, too. Journalists can look to their content-writing cohorts and learn a thing or two about handling social media to attract a bigger readership. They can also copy our writing style, which often caters to the shorter attention span of an Internet user. But regardless of whether you’re writing for a website or a newspaper, learning from other writers is always a good idea.
What similarities have you noticed between content marketing and journalism?