business blogContent Marketing

Changing landscapes: From journalism to content marketing

By April 14, 2016 No Comments

The creative industry is an economic driver right now, and it pays to be a creative mind with an adaptable mindset. To the writers out there that might not have once considered going into the marketing industry, consider that the digital iron is now hot for your very traditional skills.

A copywriter isn’t necessarily a good journalist, but all journalists are good copywriters.

I guess I would say that, given that I’m a journalist that switched to content marketing. But I’m from the school of thought that all writers are inherently marketers, whether they like it or not. A writer is always selling something: more newspapers, more books, your client, yourself. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing; it’s just a simple fact.

All writers are inherently marketers

The honest marketer

It’s been a trend in the marketing world these last few years that more and more writers have made a similar transition to the one that I made. This I feel is the increasingly creative nature of the industry coming through and I for one couldn’t be happier about it. In moving away from traditional marketing we move towards a more traditional way of writing. We apply the skills we have learned to new projects and new ways of thinking.

I think this appeals to writers these days because a veneer has been lifted from the world of marketing – sometimes seen as a ‘dirty’ moniker – to reveal a more honest and transparent way of marketing. Something that the writer that has the inherent marketer lying latent inside can identify with. Good journalists seek truth, and for an advertiser or a marketer to try and pull the wool over someone’s eyes these days is often met with vitriol. The public won’t abide it.

A veneer has been lifted from the world of marketing

Ultimately, it’s all good content

I never thought I’d end up in the marketing world, though with the benefit of hindsight I think it suited me better. I’d hazard a guess that I naturally made the switch from journalism to content marketing because I’m more a features writer than a journalist, per se – more culture supplement than front page. I’m also generally a glass-half-full kind of a guy, and ultimately the best journalists need to levy a certain degree of cynicism on everything they observe. During my training as a journalist I certainly learnt the mechanics of being cynical and holding to account, but I find rose-tinted specs can be very fetching.

Nevertheless, I learnt a lot from the world of journalism that adapts very well into the world I now find myself. Story structure, headline writing, the art of turning the inexplicably complex into the incredibly simple, scrutinising the facts (perhaps even more so now than as a journalist, given that any bias in the marketing world is, well, expected), creating and maintaining tone of voice, and above all, developing a rapport and relationship with your audience. You’re marketing yourself; you want your readers to hear from you before they hear from your rivals and therefore the preservation of trust in your ability to convey the message, to get the message right, and to write it in a way that (a) addresses their deepest desires and (b) which they enjoy, is paramount. These traits and more underpin the principles of good, modern content creation.

The value of modern marketing is something that a writer can genuinely aspire to

Opinion pieces, thought leaders and SEO

I particularly enjoyed a stint as an opinion writer in the pharmaceutical industry. If you’re not familiar with the practice of writing an opinion piece, trust me, it’s not as easy as just giving your opinion. That’s what the social media mob does. No, yours has to be a reasonably held opinion; those two magic words open up a Pandora’s box of complications as to why nobody should care what you think.

You see, opinion writing is a more niche skill that you don’t tend to learn in great detail when training as a reporter, but when you get your head around it, it’s invaluable in business blog strategy. A major goal of the business blog is to be outstanding as a thought leader in your field, and the first way to do that is to lead opinion and express that opinion in an engaging way. Your opinion – reasonably held – is uniquely valuable information. After all, you are an expert in your field. I presume.

This also applies to SEO, an area which has also been quite off-putting to journalists in the past. In the old world there was something jarring to a journalist about writing an ‘SEO-friendly’, ‘clickbait’ style blog, for example, with a dubious title like “You’ll never believe what these 7 tips about [keyword 1] will do for your [keyword 2], [keyword 3] and [keyword 4]”. That kind of practice went against everything you were trained in – you’re supposed to write a headline, not a story. But now we’ve moved away from the traditional constraints of SEO into producing copy that’s altogether more fluid, of high quality and specific relevance, that finds a unique angle and that attempts to provide unrivalled value to the reader. This all feeds back to the traditional values of journalism – the value of modern marketing is something that a writer can genuinely aspire to.

The decline of the print industry, falling revenues and staff cuts in media means news outlets have to design new models for profit making – content marketing

You have digital skills

I reported recently about the digital skills shortage and, well, that’s still ongoing. What’s also ongoing is the evolution of digital marketing, or as it’s soon to be commonly known, marketing.

What’s amazing about this industry is it changes constantly with a tighter and tighter onus on producing the highest quality information of genuine value to its reader. There has always been a sharing of values and people between newspapers, magazines and PR firms and content marketing is another string to that bow. Meanwhile the decline of the print industry, falling revenues and staff cuts in media as a whole means that news outlets have to design new models for profit making – ones that more or less adopt the model of creative content marketing. Indeed, media organisations like the Guardian and BBC have already developed content marketing arms to their infrastructure.

All journalists are good copywriters, and it’s not just the ones getting disillusioned by the changing face of news and media that are being snapped up by agencies and in-house corporate teams all over the shop. This is an increasingly creative world of content that we occupy, built on honest and transparent brand values that apply to a newspaper as much as they do to any other company. To stay competitive, companies looking to stand out in their field are hunting out the creative writers that can really push them.

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