Any well-taught journalist knows that grabbing the attention of the reader is essential in our purpose. What readers want to know, and the anticipation of what they need to know, determines the news, therefore what we write about.
All forms of journalism adhere to the reader rule, but some have middlemen in between the writer and the reader. In the world of content marketing, writers are creating content with their specific client in mind first. The tone, subject matter and even the way a piece is written can vary between brands or clients, making content marketing a new experience to journalists.
CMO: Content Marketing Objectives
Journalists (especially those newer to the field) have to adjust to this sort of writing. Now, your worries don’t only consist of AP Style and the controversial Oxford comma, but also including the objectives within content marketing.
Content marketing is still fairly new to the media world and has opened many doors for journalists. It’s all about keeping a delicate balance between advertising the brand and meeting client’s needs, while also providing valuable and engaging information to the reader. In this sense, it is a middleman of information making sure multiple, and often competing, needs are met while laddering up to the bigger picture.
The industry is less focused on churning out quick content against demanding deadlines like journalists may be used to, and more about marrying timely information with creative content. With journalism at the root of content marketing, quality content will always rule over quantity.
Content marketing comes in all forms depending on the client’s needs. Blogs, newsletters, print publications and social media are all platforms that need content. Certain industries rely more heavily on different outlets; for example, financial clients may focus their content on social media while senior living clients may want engaging feature content in print or blog form.
A big difference between content marketing and the journalism we were taught in j-school is that journalists are focused on facts, while content marketers have to prioritize needs. They have to understand specific needs of the client, while also addressing the needs of the client’s target audience.
The “S” Word: Strategy
In content marketing, measures of success are based on objectives and strategy. While writing for newspapers or magazines has its own strategy i.e. following the inverted pyramid structure and limiting your descriptive language, content marketing writing has to keep more in mind within the core of the content itself.
As a content marketer, you have to ask yourself important questions: Am I using specific SEO keywords to help optimize this content? How well is this article highlighting my client’s objectives? What role does this specific piece of content play in the overall content strategy?
When it comes down to it, the client’s vision and goals, the current competitive landscape of the industry, and the select windows of opportunity within a specific platform will determine the content strategy. Updating and optimizing content frequently across different platforms isn’t just efficient in the digital space, it is expected. In this way, you can create, manage, and moderate the content to see what is working and what isn’t.
The client typically has multiple objectives-whether that’s increasing leads, sales, engagement, followers on social media or thought leadership. Every client is different, so understanding what action should be given priority is essential. The client’s priority-such as whether they want to drive sales, improve traffic or increase thought leadership-can impact the voice and tone of the content, as well as the channel it lives on.
Measuring the success of the content you are creating means looking beyond an increase in vanity metrics like retweets or “likes” on an article. If the objective was to increase traffic on a website, it’s worth considering whether on-page social engagements lead to a significant increase in traffic. On the other hand, if the objective was lead gen or sales, it is important to know if that click through from social media meant more time spent on the site. And if so, where did they spend that time? Did they request more information? Using metrics and analytics to drive the right desired behavior that ties closely to the strategy helps ensure the tangible success content marketers are after.
Figuring out your audiences’ preferences helps to further the strategy. The tone and voice of the content can be completely different from one medium to the next, because of the way your audience consumes content on that medium. A data point from a covered topic could live on Twitter, while a short summary with key takeaways live on a blog, and the in-depth story with research and sources in a print publication. Changing your style of writing for each medium means you have to have an in-depth understanding of the goals, strategy and audience.
The 2 C’s: Content Creation
So you know how to write, but writing for content marketing takes going down two routes. Write the content as an advertisement for the brand but also find a subtle way of putting the reader first. Finding a balance between these two is what makes the “content” part of content marketing successful.
As with any form of journalism, you’ll want to research (and then research again) the industry and business terms of your client. Words like “audit” “brand assets” and “lead gen” will become frequent in your written vocabulary.
Be sure to write creative content that will last; “evergreen content”, a term used in the industry, describes content that remains relevant over a long period of time. Instead of writing breaking news about the latest political scandal that becomes stale after a week, what you write for in content marketing will have a much longer shelf life.
Make sure your content can be integrated across channels by thinking of each separate piece as part of a whole. If you are creating content for Facebook as well as a printed article for a magazine, the content should intersect into a single path with similar themes that ultimately ladder up to client.
In the end, you have to make your content appealing. In the breaking news industry, a journalist is focused on communicating what happened. The content marketer not only needs to communicate what happened, but also why the reader should care, and in some cases, guide what action they should take next.
As a writer, engaging readers is what we are taught to do. While journalists engage through reporting the news, content marketers engage readers by creating content tailored to a client. If you can keep your audience engaged with your writing, the transition from journalism to content marketing will run smooth.