Before making my debut in the world of content marketing and the media tech-world of Strossle, I was a journalist living out my days at online newspapers and magazines. The daily grind was exciting and I loved the prospect of breaking news and to touch my readers with the best story. My goal was to always deliver content that was engaging and when I switched to the world of content marketing I brought with me my way of working. I discovered that brands have a lot to learn from journalists and below are a few lessons that might give you an edge over your competitors.
1. Always put your audience first
Publishers are constantly on the lookout for interesting stories that appeal to their audience and so should you, as a marketer be.To be able to do this you need to understand your readers and their pain points. Deliver content that hits these problems and you will quickly cut through the noise and become an invaluable resource for your target audience.No matter whom the content is coming from, consumers expect the best content and they will only engage if it is relevant to them. Who are your readers? What keeps them up at night? What stories can help alleviate any frustration they are feeling? Whether you are in B2B, B2C or are a journalist – your readers are people who have busy lives and who are, at the same time, exposed to thousands of messages every day. Think deeply about their situations and how you can address them with your content. Only when you have done that you are ready to write.
2. Get to the point
One of the first things my teachers at Journalism School taught me was to get straight to the point as soon as possible in my texts. All journalists know the importance of always letting the most important details appear at the top of the story while less essential details appear in the subsequent paragraphs. This structure is very effective. Also remember that when crafting the lead, always start with answering the five W’s of journalism, better known as who, what, when, where and why. Also include quotes (more on this later), statistics, background information and other important details. But leave the least important information at the end.
3. Create greater depth
Depth is not the same as long, informative articles. With depth, I mean articles that are brought to life through, for example, quotes that add credibility and life.
Quotes could be made by:
– Experts in the industry who are considered authorities on a particular subject.
– Peers of the reader. If, for example, you want your text to be read by CEOs in tech companies, maybe it’s these people who shall do the commenting in your content marketing article.
– Established influencers can be useful. Both since they have influence in their field and since they might spread your text in their own channels.
Another way of infusing life into the story is to practise the old journalistic saying “Show – don’t tell”. This is a technique journalists use to describe rather than inform. I will write a blogpost about that later.
4. Fact-check like a pro
Misinformation can cause harm to your company’s reputation. And to your own, as a writer. These days, allt it takes is a couple of Google clicks for an irritated journalist to find out that you were lazy and didn’t fact check what you wrote in your text. There is so much misinformation spread around that audiences no longer know what to believe. Fake news is one of recent years biggest buzz words and the line between journalism and other content has blurred, making it more important than ever for all writers to verify their facts. That group includes content marketers.
Another reason to take this seriously is that errors often have a rather long life of their own and I don’t think you want to see your criticized article fly around social media on it’s own.
Therefore, always make sure all facts in your text are checked. Double-check everything. If you refer to what someone has said, check he has actually said that. Frankly, call him. Also ask him if his name is spelled right (there is nothing else people are so irritated about than finding their names misspelled). Check reports that are referred to and that you have found on the Internet. Doubt everything until you have proved it to be correct. If you can’t find a reliable source – rewrite the text.
5. Use an editorial calendar
Just like publishers, who use their editorial calendar to produce their content in a timely fashion, finish layouts, make sure ads are in, do final layouts, proofread and publish on time, content marketers benefit from using an editorial calendar for their content. It doesn’t only bring the feeling of control but makes it possible to ensure your content marketing is coordinated with other parts of your business. It also means you can do themes for your marketing, across multiple platforms.
The calendar also gives you a snapshot of how balanced your content is. Check that you don’t have too much or too little of one topic and that the format is varied.
And remember, it doesn’t have to be a year-long calendar. For myself, I have always preferred to work with a quarterly calendar where I evaluate the previous quarter before planning the next.
6. Establish deadlines
One important thing with the calendar are the deadlines. Honestly, deadlines are not only a way to get me and my team more focused but it also forces me to structure my work. Depending on what team you are working with you can create different types of mini deadlines. I don’t think I need to say a lot more about this here but I wanted to give it a paragraph of its own since I consider it super important. So should you!
7. Put effort into packaging
Now, that you have created high-quality content make sure you package it well. Don’t underestimate the importance of this. Use good photos or illustrations and add relevant links etc if your text is published online. And of course – have your texts proofread so that no irritating misspelling is there. Good luck with your content!
By Anna Holmquist, Country Manager Strossle Sweden, over 20 years experience working in journalism.