Journalists don’t just pitch stories to their editors, interview sources and write articles. Regardless of their publication or medium, journalists are storytellers. They engage their readers, fulfill their thirst for information, build relationships and tell compelling stories that remain in readers’ memory.
Hey, isn’t that what you’re trying to do as a content marketer?
As a content marketer, it can be easy to be a bit selfish when you sit down to develop content or create an editorial calendar. Your mind naturally gravitates toward “what can this blog, email, article, etc. do for my brand, organization and website?” And that question is important to ask yourself, but it’s not the only question you should ask and it definitely shouldn’t be the first question you ask yourself.
When a journalist is looking for a story to tell, they’re not necessarily thinking about “what can this article do for my publication?” – They’re thinking “what can this story do for my readers” and “why is this story important.” By keeping these questions in mind before, during and after writing an article, journalists ensure they’re delivering valuable content to their readers, thus building trust in their readers that they’re getting the truth and the facts.
As a content marketer, that’s also what you’re trying to do. Here’s how to think more like a journalist without the j-school degree – your brand and readers will thank you.
Journalists know their audience
First and foremost, reporters and editors know exactly who is consuming the articles they’re publishing. If you pick up the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, you’ll see the staff knows exactly who is reading their publications. And the same rings true for Time or Glamour magazines.
Know who’s reading your content and who you want to read your content – this will help you hone in the voice and topics toward what your readers want and need.
Journalists know what makes something newsworthy
There are five factors that determine if a story is newsworthy: timing, proximity, significance, prominence and human interest.
Timing: The term “news” defines exactly what it is – new. Readers want to know what’s new and the latest updates. What happens yesterday, last night and this morning is more important to readers than what happened last week; hence the term “old news.” But a new angle, twist or discovery can make an old story new and timely again.
Proximity: News stories that happen near you have more significance – it hits close to home. However, especially with content marketing, proximity doesn’t always refer to geographical location, it also refers to market and industry. The topic of the story needs to be close enough to readers to pique their interest and attention.
Significance: The number of people affected by your story is crucial – what will your content mean to your audience members? Will it help them? Inform them? Both?
Prominence: Simply, why should people care? A story about a car crash may or may not be newsy, but if that car crash involves the President of the United States, there’s no question whether the story is news. Prominence applies to politicians, celebrities, professional athletes, CEOs and anyone in the public eye.
Human interest: Does the article appeal to readers’ emotions? This type of story strives to evoke emotional responses from readers, whether it’s sadness, amusement or curiosity.
Journalists understand why the details matter
When it comes to reporting a story, whether it’s breaking news or a feature story, journalists never leave an interview or event without finding about the answer to the five W’s: who, what, when, where and why. And, of course, the “how” matters too. Finding out the answers to these relatively simple questions is the starting point of every story a reporter tells. In fact, many journalists believer a story isn’t complete unless all six of these questions are answered.
They don’t tip toe around the questions or try to build up suspense to answer these questions in an article, either – they use the answers to these questions to get to the point right away and then explain more later. Why? Giving readers the most important details right upfront draws them in and tells what they need to know – and it keeps them reading to find out why the answers to the five W’s and one H are important.
While these six questions are all important to address, “why” may be the most important. It’s not enough to tell your audience what happened and how, but why it happened and why it’s important to them too.