Before I was a marketer, I was a journalist. I put in nearly eight years slugging away chasing deadlines. Eight years being hounded by PRs. When you have deadlines looming and a day to become an expert on any given topic, you quickly learn to find your sources, ask the right questions and churn out content.
As marketers, content marketing is often a challenge from conception to creation. It makes being a journalist look like a walk in the freaking park, we think. But being a content marketer and a journalist share a lot of similarities which is why so many journalists are now running content marketing at companiesbig and small.
Here are the top content marketing lessons I learned from my journalism years.
Ask open-ended questions.
One of the hardest things about being a general assignment reporter is a new assignment every day. If you’re in broadcast, you have until the 5 o’clock newscast to get a 90-second story together and come across sounding like an expert on everything from bug exterminations to rare subtropical fruits. The key is asking the right questions of the right people.
Journalism takeaway: Approach your company’s subject matter experts like a journalist. Ask open-ended questions about the topic to get the most information possible avoiding questions that can be answered with yes or no.
Find another angle.
I had a news director once who required each story pitched, include at least three additional angles. Why? So we would get into the habit of finding all the ways to tell a story so when the big story hit we could capture every perspective and could create additional content from one topic.
Journalism takeaway: When you land on an idea for a piece of content, look to your personas and buyer journey to uncover “additional angles” and new content ideas to fill up your editorial calendar.
Set up a “viewer hotline.”
Working the assignment desk was a blast. Listening to the police scanner, being on the cusp of breaking news. But also, answering viewer calls. Getting feedback isn’t always the best part of a job, but soliciting feedback gives you the chance to uncover the diamond in the rough and break the big news story.
Journalism takeaway: Find a way to create a feedback loop on your content. Read comments, listen on social media and conduct polls. These channels can feed new content ideas.
Show it, don’t tell it.
In broadcasting, I had a professor once who use to teach us to edit our stories so that at minimum every sentence had a new piece of video to match with it. The premise here was that we were using images to tell our stories not just words.
The adage show, don’t tell is highly relevant to content marketing. If your audience sees something rather than reads about it, the content is often effective.
Journalism takeaway: When possible, leverage multimedia in addition to your written content or as another piece of content giving audiences choice in consumption.
Plan daily, plan ahead, but be ready to chase ambulances.
Newsrooms are well-planned machines with daily editorial meetings to plan the next newscast and plan ahead for bigger projects. But the newsroom is always on guard for when news breaks and there is an entire team committed to monitoring for breaking situations.
Journalism takeaway: Planning is an important part of being a content creator. But don’t be so focused on your plan that you miss what’s taking place day to day. Opportunities come up all the time to hop in with a point of view or opinion on your subject matter expertise. Seize the moment. Your ten best apps for people who love bulldogs post can wait until tomorrow.