Think Like a Journalist
Brand journalism is increasingly popular among brands and marketers alike. It focuses on journalists as content creators for brands. They mix journalistic storytelling with brand advocacy to create a quality, tailored experience for consumers.
Obviously, to use this approach, brands and marketers have to start thinking more like journalists. The good news is that it doesn’t require a red-faced editor screaming at you about deadlines.
It just requires thinking more carefully about your content.
Details give weight to a story. They’re essential to the age-old axiom, “show don’t tell.” Setting a scene requires attention to everything, no matter how small. It’s the small things that flesh out a narrative and engross readers.
Use all of your senses. Note what you see, smell and hear. Ask about items that might seem innocuous. There could be a story there. And, always, always, always get names, even pets.
Take the time to gather background material on the subject you’re covering. Go in knowing as much as possible. If you don’t understand the subject, your audience won’t either.
Solid facts and figures are essential to good journalism, and they should be essential to you, as well. Gather data and statistics to reinforce your points. Give readers no reason to doubt you. If available, include graphs and charts so people can visualize the information.
Good research from trusted sources will only help your credibility.
Interviewing is at the heart of journalism, and, really, it’s useful in many disciplines. On the surface, it’s just asking questions. Those questions are a means to an end, though. You’re aiming to pull interesting stories and observations from your sources. You’re looking for something unexpected or illuminating.
There are several techniques you can use to get the most out of an interview. In journalism school, young reporters learn to ask “open ended” questions. This means questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no.” You want a source to elaborate and keep talking. One-word answers stall the flow of an interview and provide little information.
When you’re prepping, think about the most obvious questions that could be asked. What has this person had to answer a thousand times? It’s usually necessary to ask obvious questions, but try to think beyond them. Rely on your research to craft questions about the unexplored areas or implications of a topic.
Prepare questions, but be flexible—listen. If something sticks out during an answer, don’t just move onto your next question. Seize on it, and ask a follow up.
Sometimes it’s also good to treat an interview like a conversation. Set your questions aside for a minute and see where the conversation goes. You might get some interesting details. You can also work in a pointed question without seeming too aggressive.
A good interview will provide you with plenty of details and personality to produce engaging content.
When writing a news story, journalists traditionally utilize the “inverted triangle.” In other words, they start with the most important information first and work down from there. This method prioritizes clarity and efficiency. However, longer narrative styles are also useful.
Both are effective templates for packaging content, depending on the subject and medium. Think about whether a straightforward or a storytelling approach is more beneficial for each piece of content.
And sometimes writing can be about what not to do. Journalists—well, good journalists—avoid clichés and redundancy at all costs. Clichés are uninspired and overdone, and redundancy creates a clunky reading experience. Don’t ruin a good piece of content with unnecessary copy that doesn’t add any value to the reader.
There you have it! Now start working before you miss your deadline!
Do you think like a journalist? Let us know in the comments!