Before I became part of Spiralytics, I was first a news writer. Having graduated with a degree in Print Journalism, writing about current events and actually going to political-related events in the country like demonstrations and rallies, was the only career option that I had in mind back then. Fast forward to 2014, I’m now in content marketing, and to be honest, I like more what I’m doing now than what I did in my news writing days. But, I wouldn’t be right where I am today without the lessons I learned from journalism.
As a matter of fact, a lot of journalists are considering shifting to content marketing, because the skills they have go perfectly well with the industry. Though the basics of journalism will not cover every aspect of content marketing, the skills and qualities of journalists are pretty much the essential elements of what makes a good content marketing writer.
Here are a few lessons that content marketing writers can learn from journalists:
1. Journalists write about newsworthy stories
When it comes to news writing, the only stories that matter are those that are timely and significant. That’s why it’s called news, things that are new (if you didn’t know that before you read this, congrats!).
The same thing applies to content marketing, it’s important that what you’re writing are dated and are relevant to your reader. Why write about issues that have long been forgotten when there’s a hot new issue in the industry? Why write about 2013 trends when it’s already 2014? You don't want to piss off Regina George.
The content marketing industry is like a developing country that goes through changes in the system every now and then. Keep that in mind when coming up with your content marketing strategy.
2. Journalists are masters of KISS
No, I’m not talking about the physical act of touching your lips to another person’s. If journalism was all about that then everybody would be journalists! I'm not talking about the band too.
KISS in journalism is an abbreviation for Keep it Short and Simple. People want to be updated with current events but they don’t have all day to read a novel. The morning news, for example, is read over breakfast and a cup of coffee before going to work.
In content marketing, you’re dealing with impatient readers. That’s why there are a number of ways on how you can make them read your article from start to finish, or maybe just the most important bits. Be concise, write in lists or bullet points, but make sure that your content is complete in thought and in information.
3. Journalists don't settle with mediocre writing
Writing an accurate and informative article also includes writing content that has no spelling and grammatical errors. Having such elementary mistakes has a negative impact in the credibility of the writer and the publication.
Think about it, why should your reader believe every word you say when your article reflects writing skills of a grade schooler (no offense to grade schoolers who have perfect grammar and know their spelling)? Remember, there are grammar nazis everywhere and they're lurking the Internet to put to shame every writer who doesn't know the difference between your and you're.
4. Journalists know their audience
Before journalists even start typing away, they identify first who they're writing for. The main objective of journalism is not just to report news, but to make sure that their reader understands every single word to get the whole picture. That means journalists are careful with their choice of words, they only use words that are appropriate for what they're trying to say and words that do not require having a dictionary beside the reader at all times.
Journalists also give a brief description for every person or entity mentioned in their article. They lay down the vital information needed for the reader to have a complete understanding of what they're writing, which includes the who, what, when, where, why and how.
In content marketing, if you're always talking in industry jargon, you'll have little to none readers. Not only will that kind of writing turn off a wider audience, your own readers will also find you too serious and boring — the main reason why some blogs have no readers.
5. Journalists write captivating headlines
Headlines in journalism make or break the success of an article, in fact, sometimes it's the front page headline that makes the sale. Remember that when buyers of newspapers go to news stands, they see a number of newspapers displayed. Though most of the time they all only talk about the same news, the one with the more interesting headline (and photo) gets the reader.
In content marketing, there's more room for creativity when thinking of titles. But this gives rise to a tougher competition in grabbing the attention of a reader. As we've said before, a title that will entice your reader into clicking "Read More" is one that is informative (without giving too much away), catchy, and lets your reader instantly understand what the article is all about before even reading the content.
The legendary frontpage headline on the first day of freedom from the dictatorship of former Pres. Marcos in the Philippines. I would have bought a dozen copies of this newspaper if I was already born back then.
6. Journalists write the truth
Journalism involves reporting about political and national issues, the same issues that get people killed. It's important for journalists to check their facts and do their research, or else they'll be faced with libel charges. That's why in publications, they do a libel check first before running the papers for printing. Plagiarism is also a serious offense for news writers. Journalists only write original content.
The same thing goes with content marketing, creating original content with accurate facts will not only be beneficial for you in terms of getting more pageviews, it will also be a great opportunity for you to create your own branding and voice.
7. Journalists like deadlines
To give you an idea of what missing a deadline feels like to journalists: When another one of your favorite Game of Thrones character is killed off.
Missing a lot of deadlines: Having to watch the Red Wedding over and over again.
That's why journalists like deadlines, because it's like stopping George R.R. Martin from killing any more characters.
In a more reality-based explanation, journalists like deadlines because that's what pressures them to finish an article. (If I explained it like this earlier, It wouldn't have been fun)
Don't be lazy when it comes to publishing content for your blog. Make an editorial calendar and stick to it. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but if you keep on doing it for quite some time, it will become a habit.
P.S. Want to know why I like this kind of writing more than news writing? Well you can't really write like this and put all those 9GAG-worthy images when you're news writing, right? :)