08 Mar 2016

Six Good Reasons to Hire Journalists to Create Your Content

I’ve got 10 seconds to get your attention – or so a keynote speaker recently told a roomful of marketers. If I’ve managed to keep you engaged this far, I’m doing pretty good. At least half of all online content goes unread. Half.

Why the short attention span? All the neglected writing? Your customers and prospective customers stream, surf, shop and share their way around the web each day. They are asked to negotiate lot of information, and most of it is pretty flat.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask the people responsible for creating it.

As of 2016, only 30 percent of B2B marketers classify their content as “effective.” (Things are slightly better in the B2C arena: 38 percent of B2C marketers label their work “effective.”)

Effective Content Marketing

If your organization is committed to a content marketing strategy, this should be more than a little discouraging. Luckily, the solution is pretty easy: Include journalists on your content team, because they can develop content your customers will actually want to read.

Journalists are trained in the art of storytelling. They know how to get the reader’s attention and maintain it. They put the reader first, which can help your business, in turn, bump upwards in the search results.

Still need convincing? Here are six good reasons to include reporters on your content team:

1. They engage readers from the jump.

In the digital age, compelling content equates to “shareable” content. If you want content that is shared, give readers useful, well-written and relatable information and they will return for more. Often. Research supports this: hold a reader’s attention for three minutes, they are twice as likely to return to your site in the future.

On the other hand, if you give readers brand-focused, self-congratulatory spin, they move on, never to return, all in the time it takes to click a mouse.

Whether B2B or B2C – journalists excel at creating objective, transparent, well-written, thoroughly-researched content that delivers genuine value. Widgets or world politics? It doesn’t matter; reporters know how to tell compelling stories and keep readers engaged.

2. Journalists think like readers.

Solid content is just the payoff. Long before they even begin the storytelling part, reporters put themselves in the shoes of their audience.

When journalists cover a story, their obligation isn’t to the industries, organizations and agencies they cover; nor do they owe anything to the talking heads they interview. Their only obligation is to the reader. Consequently, they write with readers in mind. They aren’t afraid to ask “dumb” or uncomfortable questions, because their readers would likely ask the same questions. Reporters know readers have no use or patience for sales pitches or patronizing fluff. Reporters know thin or condescending content is the kiss of death.

blank notebook

Reporters know thin or condescending #content is the kiss of death. Click To Tweet

3. They leverage research.

Journalists know how to put numbers to work. A garden-variety copywriter might settle for throwing together a press release announcing a company’s latest ID theft prevention software, complete with a fabricated quote from a company executive. A reporter would take a different approach, gathering statistics documenting the nearly 13 million incidents of ID theft last year, the once-every-two-second frequency of the crime, and the $16 billion in annual losses. Get the idea?

Now that you’ve got the reader’s attention, it’s time to inform them – despite the shocking figures – that ID theft is actually trending down, thanks in part to consumers adopting ID theft prevention software. Now the press release is less a pat on the back and more about demonstrating real value for the audience.

4. They can talk to anyone.

When I worked as a reporter, I interviewed Presidential appointees and pornographers. Cops and convicted felons. Entertainers and ethically-challenged politicians. Activists and attorneys.

For most journalists, this sort of pivoting is pretty common. Their jobs require agility; they must smoothly swivel from one subject to the next. They are expected to get up to speed on a variety of topics quickly. Need someone to write about a new algorithm, the benefits of portfolio diversification, and cybersecurity threats? All in one afternoon? Reporters can do that.

5. They find fresh angles and valid sources.

The first question a former editor of mine used to ask: “How are we going to advance the story?” In other words: what are we going to say that hasn’t been said to death? Readers (and search engines) penalize repetitive or plagiarized content. A trained reporter will seek out new angles in an almost-reflexive manner. They’ll also look for untapped sources to fully flesh out a topic.

Speaking of sources: Is your content team quoting Wikipedia? Consider hiring someone familiar with Department of Commerce, The World Factbook, FiveThirtyEight, FactCheck.org, The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or OpenSecrets.org. Reporters will scour such legitimate, non-biased sources as a matter of course.

What are we going to say that hasn’t been said to death? #contentcreation Click To Tweet

6. They bring a healthy dose of skepticism.

A good reporter questions authority. Always. Better still: they question everything. They know their readers certainly will. Generally, when this topic arises, people reference to the need for a “built in bull***t detector” – a term coined by (former reporter) Ernest Hemingway. Allegedly.

There are other reasons to hire reporters to create content: Journalists understand attribution, grammar, syntax. They respect deadlines. They can weave SEO search terms into sentences in a manner that doesn’t insult the reader.

But focusing on SEO sort of misses the point. Hiring a journalist to write content can transform ordinary information into information that people actually want to read.

Hiring a journalist to write #content can transform ordinary information into information that people actually… Click To Tweet

Ultimately, the goal of your content is to generate traffic and win over search engines. Convincing robotic crawl engines that your material contains genuinely useful, high-quality information is the way to succeed in search rankings. If you’ve got a great headline, substance, credible sources, well-written copy free of BS, your content will be relevant to your audience. You won’t need to worry so much about keywords, perfect anchor text, and advanced SEO, because those things naturally follow reader engagement.

In 2014 Demand Metric conducted a survey of marketers. Fifty-eight percent said their content failed to offer “engagement opportunities.” Worse still, 29 percent said it was “boring or uninspiring.” Ouch. If you’re creating content as part of your marketing efforts, and you haven’t considered hiring reporters to write the content, maybe it’s time to try.

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