Today there are probably more former or aspiring journalists working in the content marketing space than there is actual journalists by the old-school definition. One unfortunate fact of the great content migration is that many of the processes and structure of print media failed to make the jump. Today, companies are less concerned with the foundations that journalism was built on. That isn't to suggest that companies entering the content marketing space need to operate like a 1960s newspaper, but there are some traits that any company would benefit from borrowing.
The pressure to turn out content has led to an unending number of listicles, recycled advice, and canned articles that feel disingenuous at best. This has led to the journalism industry looking down their nose at content marketers, and for a good reason. Much of the criticism is not unfounded and companies would be better off if they modeled their company processes after traditional journalism to find a happy medium.
The Devil is in the Details
How much fact-checking takes place in most digitally published articles? As someone that has written for large, well-known content marketing brands - not that much. Sometimes, not at all. Some large companies don't even have editors on hand in any capacity.
Take your content to the extra mile by truly diving into the topics that you write about. Include statistics, quotes, and reference other original research. Including even a bare minimum level of research and fact-checking will put you above most of the competition. Pay attention to and include small but important details in every piece that you publish.
Hustle Makes Success
To be a great journalist, you need to learn how to truly hustle. That doesn't mean to churn out 5 articles per day, but rather hustle for a higher level of quality. Pursuing meaningful relationships that can benefit you and your work will put you in a position for success. Not only that, but building those relationships will help you throughout your career, giving you access to a wide range of sources. In the content marketing sense, that can mean building relationships with the readers and writers that are within your field.
Don’t get caught in the trap of churning out low-quality articles, just for the sake of targeting a new keyword. Know your readers. Find the angle that is most intriguing, and work to develop sources and relationships with colleagues and readers alike.
Research is the Backbone of a Great Piece
You load up the content calendar, note the subject, load up a few similar blog posts through Google and start plugging away. It’s something that most content marketers will be able to relate to.
In an ideal world, content marketers would spend more time reading and researching than they actually do writing the article. Being a quick researcher is a great skill to have, but that shouldn’t affect the amount of information that you intake.
For companies that are developing your strategy - consider that element when you are budgeting for individual pieces from freelancers. Make sure that you are paying enough, per piece, to give your writers and editors ample time to research and fact-check.
For instance, if you look at the market insights section of the OpenLink website you'll notice that each piece has a hefty amount of research that goes into it. This ensures that their audience perceives them as a thought leader in their industry.
Put the Audience First
Who are you writing for? Is it the company that pays you? Is it the editor that will be reading your article? In some sense, yes, I suppose. But most of all, you are writing for your audience. They want to feel like their perspective is reflected in the article, even if you are advocating for a different outcome than they would like. This is perhaps the biggest loss in the jump from print to digital media - the ability to dial down your message to only that the audience would find interesting.
Every piece of content that you create should be laser-focused for your intended audience. That means that you will need to dig deep into your customer personas and really identify the type of information that they will find most useful. In doing so, you will develop a more clear connection with your audience that helps you to stick in their mind and creates loyal customers. It's too bad that so many companies have lost sense of their target audience.
Editors are Essential
It is actually shocking how many companies are publishing for hundreds of thousands of people, but don’t employ a single experienced editor. Many of those that do employ editors misconstrue the position and instead hire a glorified proofreader. Editors are there to work directly with writers and help them mold their story. They help them find their voice and refine their style. A great editor can mean the difference between content marketing success and failure.
If you're investing in a content marketing team, but don't have an editor to help guide and mold the content, then you're doing you and your team a disservice.
The internet and digital content marketing have changed the game. Even traditional outlets like the New York Times have had to adapt to changing times. Companies that adapt more of the position influencers from journalism and integrate it into their content marketing find themselves poised for success.