The following guest post is by brandchannel reader Kevin Johnson:
It’s no surprise that more and more digital marketing agencies are hiring individuals with a background in journalism rather than marketing. In an age where content is king, the fact remains that for the content to do anything worthwhile, it has to be good. And while a traditional marketer may have the skill set for writing tag lines or the copy for radio ads, most journalists are better prepared with the skills to make content marketing truly stand out.
When it comes to creating quality content marketing, many advertisers seem to fall into the trap that they are simply producing ads on a digital platform (as many disastrous “promoted content” pieces on Buzzfeed so easily demonstrate). Yet this mentality couldn’t be farther from the truth.
“Traditional marketing tactics always interrupt,” explains Todd Noall, CEO of Fusion 360, an advertising agency specializing in content marketing and SEO. “With content marketing we’re trying to give consumers something of value, like news or entertainment. That way it’s not an annoying interruption—we’re contributing to the conversation and giving them information that they want.”
In recent years, many advertising agencies have adopted what is more of a “newsroom” mentality to produce content marketing that will meet this criteria. Writers are not copywriters, but brand journalists. The agency’s goal is not to produce glossy magazine ads or shoot high-concept TV spots, but rather to write journalistic articles and provide other forms of digital content (such as videos and infographics) that appeal to a certain segment of a particular brand’s target audience and help build SEO.
The background provided in journalism lends itself easily to some of the chief goals of content marketing—namely, to provide valuable, interesting information to a consumer. The most successful news publications know that there is more to journalism than reporting on breaking news—stories must be told in a way that will draw in readers and keep them coming back for more.
Brands such as Coca-Cola, Hootsuite and Red Bull have all embraced this mentality by creating videos, providing unique articles and even conducting interviews that are then shared through brand-owned and third-party publishing platforms.
So how do traditional marketers fit into this world of journalistic marketing? They don’t—at least, not very easily. In a recent article for the Wall Street Journal, Jeff Koyen, editor-in-chief of mattress company Casper’s content marketing platform, made his views quite clear: “I’m hiring journalists; not marketers.”
So what can traditional marketers do to make sure they’re not left behind as content marketing continues to rise in importance? It’s quite simple, really: think like a journalist.
Here are four tips to getting started down the path to crafting content marketing that works.
Write for an Audience
Too often, content marketers merely attempt to regurgitate marketing materials into article format. Pieces that focus on reminding readers that, “Here at [business], we’re proud to offer the best [product or service] to fit your lifestyle!” quickly come off as shallow, fake and worthless.
The trick here is to realize that with content marketing, you are no longer necessarily writing as the voice of the brand—more often than not, you’re writing as if you were a third-party journalist, which makes a direct sell a big no-no. Learn what type of news and information appeals to an audience, and then provide your own unique insight. Which brings us to point number two…
Look for the Unique Insight
Chances are, there are already several hundred (if not thousand) articles covering the exact same topic you are trying to use as content marketing fodder. And while simply getting a link online does constitute content marketing, getting that article read and shared by an audience does a lot more good for a brand. Even with so many articles that have already been written on a particular subject, chances are there is an angle that hasn’t been covered yet. Find that unique perspective and use it.
Creating a solid piece of content marketing often requires its fair share of research. But the sad truth is that there is so much content on the web—especially in the world of content marketing—that is woefully inaccurate. Simply scanning Wikipedia would not cut it for the Washington Post, and it shouldn’t be considered sufficient for your content marketing purposes, either. Make sure any information you use in your pieces is accurate. Established industry leaders are going to provide much more authority to your content marketing than a quote from an unknown blog.
No one can become a great writer without reading. And with a seemingly unending source of material available both on- and offline, there is ample opportunity to read—and learn—from other writers. Learning from the best allows you to not only strengthen your own writing style, it will help your content reach and appeal to that oh-so-precious audience that is the ultimate goal of all content marketing.
Kevin Johnson is a marketing writer, currently living in Utah but forever proud of being a Virginian. Outside of working and writing, he spends his time honing his skills in Harry Potter trivia and playing music.