Updated on March 27, 2020. Originally published on Sept. 30, 2014.
If you’ve ever read a compelling feature story and felt an overwhelming emotion or urge to act, you’ve witnessed the power of the journalist.
Whether I’m reading an exposé about the last true hermit in Maine or a story about young girls forced to live as boys in Afghanistan, the subject doesn’t matter. Articles packed with rich details, colorful dialogues, and dynamic characters tug at my emotional side and leave a lasting impact on the way I live and see the world.
Resonating with readers through written words is no easy feat, which is a realization marketers have come to terms with. In fact, producing engaging content is the biggest challenge for 52% of marketers.
Through Influence & Co.’s close proximity to the Missouri School of Journalism, we’ve learned firsthand how the communication skills that journalists possess can translate into inspirational and educational thought leadership content for our clients.
And although marketing and editorial maintain a healthy distance in the newsroom, joining forces in content marketing could be the winning combination for companies and individuals.
Unlike traditional marketing practices, content marketing isn’t fully self-serving. You’re writing to educate an audience, and this goal applies to every phase of content creation — from strategy, writing, editing, and even the publication choice.
By turning to journalists, marketers can harness their unique intuition and specialized communication skills to connect with an audience on a deeper, more meaningful level. And these jobs give journalists the chance to exercise their editorial expertise and touch readers with their words.
Here are 10 key skills that make journalists strong assets for your content marketing team:
1. Objectivity: Just as journalists are trained to keep personal opinions and biases from seeping into their reporting, content marketers need to maintain a non-promotional stance to earn readers’ trust.
At Influence & Co., one of our specialties is creating content that helps our clients become thought leaders in their industries; remaining non-promotional is essential for those clients to forge organic relationships with their audiences.
2. Emphasis on research: Truth is the backbone of journalism, and all journalists know that they need data or research to support any definitive claims they make — or quickly face reader skepticism.
The same concept also applies to content marketing. Whether business professionals are using personal experiences, anecdotes, or bold statements about the future of their industries, they need examples or studies that lend authority to their ideas.
3. Focus on the audience: Journalists have an obligation to the public. They have a critical eye for what’s important and can whittle down complex subjects to their essentials so readers can easily understand. They write with the "why" in mind and choose details with purpose.
When you write, who’s the reader you imagine? Many people envision themselves as the recipient of their message, which can be a hard habit to break. As an individual or brand, you’re writing for a specific audience, so their unique needs should guide your editorial decisions.
4. Strong writing and communication skills: As trained observers, writers, and editors, journalists not only know what readers want, but also know how to execute it. This doesn’t mean packing an article with jargon or Shakespearean-style writing; it means carefully selecting words, phrases, and metaphors that enhance understanding and fill in any holes.
If you want to succeed in content marketing, you have to communicate your message clearly and succinctly or your entire strategy can fall flat — don’t underestimate the value of an experienced writer. Gifted journalists galvanize their audiences, and applying this technique to content marketing can drive profitable actions.
5. An eye for editorial: A simple comma or letter can dramatically change the meaning of a sentence or phrase. These mistakes are easy to overlook unless you have the training and attention to detail that editors do.
In content marketing, even the smallest errors in logic or word usage can convolute your message, affect how readers interpret it, and compromise trust and credibility. Your content should uphold a high editorial standard, and editors have the acuity to make that happen.
6. Experience working and interacting with sources: Forming a trusting relationship with sources and extracting key details is a basic requirement for any journalist. She has to make subjects feel comfortable to disclose the nitty-gritty details and insider information that humanize a story.
Working with a journalist to communicate your message can take the pain out of content creation. She knows the right questions to ask to get what she needs, which can save you time.
7. Ability to formulate unique ideas: Only fresh, innovative article angles will survive in the crowded online space. Journalists have experience pitching unique ideas to editors — and know rejection well — which has shaped these high expectations.
Companies and individuals need to find ways to amplify their voices through content marketing. Journalists can identify areas for exploration and fill the content void. So when your message or idea takes a unique or unexpected stance, people will notice.
8. A knack for storytelling: Great journalists take readers into an entirely new world and choose the most relevant details and facts to reveal. They report, write, and edit with a story arc in mind that guides readers from beginning to end.
Storytelling is a sought-after trait in the content marketing field. Stories activate our brains, which can lead to positive brand perception and awareness. Journalists understand how structure, organization, and logic work together to make a story or article feel complete and keep readers moving along.
9. Time management skills: Although this might seem like a more general skill, managing an editorial calendar — while also executing on that content — is a complex task.
Journalists have experience juggling multiple projects on a deadline and taking ownership of their work. And because consistency is king in content marketing, you can rest assured that your team will churn out plenty of content to keep your audience engaged.
10. Versatility: Journalists must be ready to cover any subject at a moment’s notice. This forces them to quickly become “experts” on any topic thrown their way. They dig deep into the gray area of a story with an eagerness to learn and understand.
Hiring journalists for their content marketing team will set companies up for enduring success. Journalists value credibility and know what it takes to establish trust with readers. Content marketers strive to inform, inspire, and entertain an audience through unique insights and perspectives, and journalists are equipped to do just that.
So when you're staffing your content marketing team, don’t overlook these specialized communication skills; they could mean the difference between talking at your audience and truly connecting with them.