Content is everywhere. You soak up endless amounts of it from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. Today, people have come to realize that the success of their business relies on the success of their website and the success of their website relies on the value of its content.
Professionals search far and wide for talented content writers to produce quality pieces of work for their site. They look for copywriters, bloggers, social media experts, industry professionals, etc. – which are all great options, but many people completely overlook journalists.
They’re Not Just News Junkies
I’ve found that there seems to be a stigma surrounding journalism. A majority of people have categorized journalists as these hard news writers only capable of spitting out facts with absolutely no flare whatsoever. I just want to say that this is not always the case.
Take my story for example. I went to college for Journalism because I love to write. I had no clue if I wanted to write for a newspaper, magazine, online publication, etc. I just knew I loved writing and I wanted to do it for a living.
I dove deep into the world of journalism, learning how to gather information on engaging topics, conduct effective interviews, cite sources correctly, be direct/informative with my writing, and perfect my basic grammar skills. I graduated wide-eyed and ready to land my first job as a reporter.
Well… let’s just say that didn’t exactly happen. Once I started job searching and applying to publications, a fear of mine became a reality. The demand for news reporters was in decline. At this time, a majority of newspapers were entering a transition period where they were just starting to convert everything into an online format. Most had come to the realization that print was becoming less relevant and device sales for smartphones and tablets was higher than ever. So it was time to find a plan B.
The moment I found content marketing, I fell in love. Like most journalists, all I ever wanted to do was write and use my writing to impact someone in a positive way. Content marketing was just that. Actually, it was even better because I was allowed to add some tone and get a little more creative with it!
When I first made the decision to take my career in a different direction, a part of me felt like I was giving up on Journalism. I later realized that this was far from the truth. I actively apply my journalism skills every day when creating content. So that being said, journalists can actually make for very successful content writers and here’s how:
1) Journalists Know That Storytelling is Key
One of the first things they teach you in your journalism courses is the importance of telling an effective story. They’re vital to communication and are able to engage an audience as nothing else can.
According to Psychology Today, stories have always been a primal form of communication for humans. Ancient tribes and civilizations have all used storytelling in one way, shape or form. Our minds are wired to tell stories and according to psychological studies, they help us to process experiences more easily. Stories also strongly trigger our emotions. We become participants in the narrative by stepping out of our own shoes to see things differently and as a result, this increases our empathy for others. Basically, stories make us feel a little less alone in this big wide world we live in.
As a journalist, your main goal is to tell a story in the most direct and informative way possible. There’s no fluff or opinions tossed in, just straight facts from beginning to end. Unarguably tone is important in any content piece, although it’s important to first master the skill of telling a story in it’s purest form. You need to be able to organize the entire piece from beginning to end in a way that makes the most sense for the topic. Once you’ve gathered the correct information and have the basic framework down, then you can start adding the sprinkles to your sundae.
2) The 5 W’s & How. If You Know, You Know.
This is another key storytelling feature, but it’s important enough to get its own section. I’m talking about the “5 W’s & How”. This was probably one of the first things I learned in my Journalism 101 course and what it stands for is:
- And How
This is a simple formula for gathering information for a story. These six questions help guide your research by highlighting the key details you’ll need to cover. In content marketing, the same formula applies. No matter the piece you’re writing, you’ll need to define who your audience is, what message you’re trying to send, when you want the message to be received, where this information will be found, why that information is important and how you’re going to portray it. It seems pretty basic, but it’s crucial for creating valuable content.
3) Journalists Know Grammar Like The Back Of Their Hand
Grammar obviously isn’t the most compelling subject… I’m sure we all remember our grade school days where our teachers droned on and on about pronouns and participles. As much of a snooze fest as grammar can be, it’s still a vital part of communication.
Journalists have no choice but to become well versed in the rules of grammar. If you misuse the proper form of “they’re” in a news article, your credibility instantly takes a nosedive. A journalist’s AP Stylebook is their bible and as a result, they’re able to spit out professional writing pieces that flow and are easy to understand.
In content writing, your credibility is just as important as news articles. Whether you’re selling high tech medical equipment or socks with goofy prints on them, everyone is trying to depict themselves as an expert in the industry. This is also crucial for search engine optimization. Google’s main goal is to put the best information right in front of the user and if your content is littered with grammatical errors, Google won’t give it the time of day (and I don’t blame them).
4) Journalists Are Factual as F***
Along with being grammatically correct, journalists also need to be on point with their facts. This also plays a role in their credibility. If someone finds out that the information in your writing piece is wrong, they’re going to feel betrayed and probably never trust your writing again.
A prime example of a journalist who didn’t get his facts straight is Stephen Glass. He was undoubtedly one of the most sought after young reporters of his time. He wrote articles for a handful of very prominent publications and had made quite the career for himself. The problem was, a ton of his stories were fake… Glass wrote over 40 fabricated stories for The New Republic and as a result, it completely destroyed his journalism career. It was undoubtedly one of the biggest scandals in journalism history.
All good journalists are psycho about their facts. For them, they’re nothing if they’re not factual. In fact (pun intended), most newsrooms have an entire team dedicated to fact checking alone. They check double check, and even triple check the facts before anything is published. When it comes to writing content, facts are just as important. There’s room to be a bit more creative with your writing, but valid facts are still just as important for building trust between you and your audience.
5) Journalists Write Selflessly
How many times have you hopped on a company website and you were immediately bombarded by content that was nothing but “me, me, me”? Often times companies and brands get lost in their own personal goals and lose sight of what’s best for the customer.
The sole reason why journalists write articles is to inform the public, therefore they really have no choice but to write selflessly. All the top journalists are trained to understand their audience and write specifically for them. There’s no bias or personal agendas mixed in. It’s just information in its purest form.
Content writers need to embody this same mindset. The best content is produced by putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer. You can do this by making sure to answer the “5 W’s & How” with your audience in mind the entire time. In today’s society, there’s someone around every corner waiting to throw their product in your face. The best thing you can do for yourself and your potential clients/customers is to not make it about yourself at all. Now, I’m not saying you’re never allowed to mention your brand (the who you are and what you’re doing is actually quite important), you just don’t want to do so in an overbearing and obnoxious manner.
Help A Reporter Out
Now with all that being said, I want to take a moment to highlight a useful resource for gathering and sharing information. Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is a great tool for both journalists and content writers to gather information from a variety of different sources surrounding different topics. This is also a great place to earn backlinks.
Journalism and content writing are a match made in heaven, especially for SEO. Of course, you don’t have to be a journalist to be a successful content writer. There are countless successful content writers that come from all sorts of backgrounds. Also, not all journalists are looking to get into content writing. There are many who still value hard facts and thrive in the news industry. My goal here is not to convince anyone to make a career change but to simply shed a little light on an opportunity for both journalists and companies seeking content writers alike.