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Think like a Publisher; Act like a Journalist

You know the first rule of content marketing is to think like a publisher, right? Our job as content marketers is to figure out what information or education our target market wants and then develop content to fill the void. It’s an important shift away from broadcasting the products and services we offer. If you ask me, the second rule should be to act like a journalist.

A blog post at PR 20/20 caught my eye this week. The (Self) Education of a Content Marketer speaks to the necessity of immersing yourself in every part of a topic you may be covering. It’s no longer sufficient to understand your message and how you want to position it. You also need to be able to tell a story worthy of captivating an audience. You want to ensure everything you publish is credible and that requires research, often quite a lot of it.

Acting like a journalist
In working alongside copywriters and other content producers on several different projects, the most creative pieces always come from journalists. When I asked print journalist Dan Hatch, Marketing and Media Editor at The West Australian, how he came up with so many good sources and content ideas, he told me it was his newspaper training. Reporters must 1) fill a certain number of columns with new content every day and 2) write a story. That’s two significant differences from traditional marketing copy. But if we really want to think like a publisher, then we have to be developing content like a journalist.

Good sources for information
So where do journalists find what they need to create a great story? It’s often in the most mundane places. Be prepared to troll through pages and pages to find the inspiration and sources to develop your content. Fortunately, we can do most everything on the web but you have to break away from Google search results if you want to stand out from everyone else. Move away from popular sites like Mashable and the Huffington Post because that’s where everyone else is snooping around.

Off the beaten path
Here are some of my favourite places to dig:

  • Local and community newspapers
  • Industry associations
  • Industry newsletters
  • Industry reports and surveys
  • Government websites
  • Press releases from government officials
  • Online media release distribution sites
  • University websites
  • LinkedIn discussion groups

Does it sound like a grind? If so, you might be in the wrong job. Journalists, by and large, are incredibly curious people. They’re full of questions and willing to follow many threads on any topic to get the story they want. In the process, they make valuable contacts they can tap in the future when they need a comment, quote or expert opinion. It all goes into writing a richer, more entertaining story. As marketers, we absolutely have to be taking this approach if we want our own content to stick.

Do you think marketers should act like a journalist or is it overkill?

If you would like to find out more about content marketing, plan to attend Content Marketing World Sydney, from 4-6 March. Early bird registration closes on 31 January. If you’re not in Sydney, the Content Marketing Institute has arranged a special group rate at the Sheraton on the Park for people – like me – that will be traveling to the event. I hope to see you there.

Image courtesy of graur codrin/