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Six Ways to Think Like a Journalist (When You’re Not)

Six Ways to Think Like a Journalist (When You’re Not)

Journalism and content marketing may seem like worlds apart, but there are some things the reporters and writers of the world have mastered that we could all benefit from adopting. A journalist doesn’t just pitch stories, interview sources and write articles—at his or her core, a journalist is a storyteller. Whether for magazines, newspapers or websites, journalists engage readers, build relationships, and if all goes according to plan, tell a story that stays in the readers’ memory.

While a j-school degree probably isn’t the logical next move, there’s still plenty you can pick up from this crowd. Here, we break it down.

1. Know your audience and adapt your voice accordingly

Your friends and coworkers know who you are when you speak, and the same identifier applies to content. If you’ve ever read more than one magazine or newspaper (which should be everybody, everywhere), you were probably drawn to the unique style of that publication. But what you might not have noticed is, beyond the articles and photos, each outlet has an even more powerful way of unmistakably defining its identity and building relationships with readers—its tone and voice. Spend some time carefully defining who you want to read your content and figuring out their interests and behaviors. Keep these descriptors in mind every time you pitch or write a new piece of content. Need some examples to get started? Check out a few magazine media kits to see how other publications describe their voice.

2. Understand these five determinants of “newsworthiness”:

  • Timing: why are you writing this story at this time?
  • Significance: what will the article mean to your readers? Will it help or inform them?
  • Proximity: is the topic close enough to readers for it to pique their attention?
  • Prominence: put simply, why should people care?
  • Human interest: does the article appeal to readers’ emotions?

While these may not make you eligible for a Pulitzer, they’ll certainly increase your readership.

3. There are lots of facts, but only one core story

No one is going to pick through piles of information to figure out your article’s purpose; you need to guide them there. Remember that, as a content marketer, the first goal is storytelling, not selling. From the introduction all the way through to the conclusion, it’s essential that your content flows like an article would. Draw readers in with text that entertains them, gives them answers and makes them want to learn more, then close everything out with a conclusion that ties it all together and reinforces what you’ve just said.

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4. Support your claims

No journalist would send his or her editor an article full of unsupported statements. While you may be striving to be a thought leader in your field and already know a great deal about a given topic, that doesn’t make you immune to citing stats, noting case studies and/or linking to relevant external content. Beyond a credibility boost, supplementing what you say can also help readers make sense of more complex subjects. And what reader doesn’t want to walk away having learned something new?

5. Package and Repackage Your Content

Quality content has potential beyond a single piece of text. When you’re brainstorming, try thinking about ideas in a broader sense. Can your article inspire an infographic? A slideshow? Maybe a sidebar that includes even more information about a chosen topic? Can you create a twitter chat inspired by the subject or have readers submit their own stories or photos for a chance to be featured in a follow-up post? You can even think of ideas that fall under a theme and create “special issues” that cover a single subject from many different angles.

6. If you haven’t done the necessary legwork, it’s going to show

In the end, when someone chooses to read your content, they’re dedicating part of their day to checking out what you have to say. Show them you value their time and they’ll respond by coming back for more. It’s easy to get caught up in the speed and accessibility of posting articles online, but just like a journalist wouldn’t turn in a half-written story and an editor wouldn’t hit “publish” without everything being copyedited and fact-checked, resist the urge to broadcast your work to the world until it’s something you’d be excited to read yourself. Journalists pitch tons of stories and only the very best are worthy of publication. If you adopt that same mindset with your content marketing, people will notice.

Embracing content in this way, especially for those coming from a more traditional marketing background, requires a shift in mindset. But working some of these approaches into your own content strategy could be the difference between creating content for the sake of content and writing stories that readers are eager to engage with and share.

Let’s keep the conversation going: have you used any of these approaches to improve your content marketing strategy? We want to hear about it! Leave us a comment below or send us a tweet @News360.