We all agree content marketing is the creation and distribution of audience-focused content, right? Here at Scribewise, we’d add in that the best content marketing is journalistic, which raises the bar for quality. Putting all this together, developing and executing a content strategy requires an editorial sensibility – an understanding of how to create and distribute high quality, audience-focused content on an ongoing basis.

And not many marketers have that.

(Sorry, but it’s true.)

Most marketers have been trained to develop campaigns. They’re looking for the big impact – BOOM – and then they turn the page and start looking for the next big impact. That approach doesn’t work for content strategy, which requires time and continuing effort; with content marketing, you don’t get to end one campaign and launch into a new direction every few months. Rather, you have to bring an ongoing newsroom mentality to feeding the audience. You need to innately understand how best to give the audience what it is looking for and/or needs.

And this requires editorial sensibility – the instincts to create engaging content for the right audience at the right time and in the right way.

As Contently’s Joe Lazauskas says, “good editors have great instincts when it comes to content strategy.

Joe went on to point out that most heads of marketing don’t have any editorial experience. Which means it’s going to be difficult to suddenly develop this new muscle.

Let’s use Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule for developing a great skill. That means that a person is going to need to work five years in newsrooms [Quick math: 10,000 hours / (50 weeks a year X 40 hours a week)] to develop a strong editorial sensibility. It’s ludicrous to think that a veteran marketer will be able to develop this skill in a workshop, or over a weekend, or by … reading this blog post.

So, how does one develop an editorial sensibility?

You need to work in a newsroom. For five years.

You need to learn how to identify what’s a story and what isn’t a story, and how to take the idea that isn’t a story and add to it and sculpt it so that it can become a story.

You need to learn how a story comes together. You need to understand that great stories have layers, different voices, historical context and, ideally, an idea of possible future ramifications.

You need to develop the ability to differentiate between fact and fiction, and to find the balance between fact and emotion.You need to be able to understand the audience and deliver information in a way that they can consume it effortlessly – this often means that you need to deliver great writing to the audience, rather than just factual recitations. 

And then you have to learn the ability to engage the audience in a thoughtful conversation.

A well-developed editorial sensibility becomes a sixth sense. In great newsrooms, it becomes an unspoken language, with everyone on the same page in terms of what each story needs. Acquiring an editorial sensibility can catapult your content strategy.

And without it, it’s all just a bunch of words.