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3 Classic Journalism Techniques That Will Improve Your Content Marketing

3 Classic Journalism Techniques That Will Improve Your Content Marketing
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Is your content marketing falling flat? The reason may be, well, your content itself. To be effective, content marketing depends on more than just a snappy "click-bait" headline. It depends on your story. 

Related: 3 Often-Ignored Aspects of Content Marketing

And the stakes here are getting bigger: As more businesses have turned to content marketing, the field has gotten crowded. For next year, 2016, 77 percent of B2C marketers and 76 percent of B2B marketers expect to produce more content than they have in 2015, according to Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report.

At the same time, digital media consumption has increased by 49 percent since 2013, reports Contently.

So, if your content marketing is not delivering the ROI you expect, it’s time to look outside the marketing silo and take a closer looking at how journalists create their content. Journalism and marketing are not mutually exclusive fields, after all.

In fact, there's a lot marketers can learn from journalists. Consider the following three lessons for improving your content marketing.

1. Pull from the headlines. 

From pop culture to sports to current events, what are the major trends making news right now? Your content marketing doesn’t have to be exclusively about this topic, but it’s a smart angle to use to stand out in a sea of the same content.

In October, Volkswagen made headlines for manipulating software in its cars to hide emissions problems. Journalists nicknamed the scandal "Diesel Gate." And some companies took note: Binary Options Reporter, for example, smartly tweaked its content marketing strategy to address this hot topic.

Binary Options Reporter even published a blog post titled “Volkswagen Diesel Disaster Continues.” The post focused on the latest revelations from the VW disaster before subtly referencing its own company's service, binary options trading. The focus was on how consumers could handle any VW stock they might hold, as part of an investing strategy.

2. Don’t 'bury the lead.' 

“Don’t bury the lead” is a popular saying in journalism, and it certainly applies to content marketing. Burying the lead means forcing a reader to plow through several paragraphs in an article, post or story before reaching the main point. No one wants to open a newspaper and read through three paragraphs in order to find out the big news.

The same is true for content marketing. Your target audience members have a short attention span. They’re scanning your blog content while waiting in line to order their coffee, commuting to work in the morning or downing mouthfuls of lunch at their desks. So, get straight to the point. Content marketing (even white papers) are not an academic paper in college: Brevity and clarity are to be rewarded. Keep content scannable: Make headers, bullet points and numbered lists work for you.

Related: 5 Marketing Changes Small Businesses Need to Make in 2016

3. Be a storyteller. 

Great journalists find a human angle for their stories and you should, too. Don’t hide behind a brand or idea. Put a human face on your stories. For example, if you’re writing about a common problem affecting many of your clients, open your piece with a brief story about how Client XYZ addressed this problem.

Always ask clients, of course, for permission before sharing their stories. You may be surprised by just how positive the feedback is and how many clients want to be part of your case studies!

Remember, each piece of content you produce should support your business’ long-term marketing and branding goals. This means that in addition to each piece being a great stand-alone story in itself, your various pieces must work together to tell one larger coherent story about your business.

Not sure how to get started? Content Marketing Institute published a fantastic guide to business storytelling last year and its key points remain relevant today.

Bottom line: As your business prepares for 2016, it’s easy to get swept up in the new marketing trends and the growing demand for visual, interactive content. Before you add those bells and whistles on to your own content marketing strategy, be sure that that strategy is solidly grounded in the principles of journalism.

Create a great hook by pulling from the headlines. Never bury the lead. And bring a human angle to every story you tell.

Related: 4 Ways to Increase Your Content's Reach Without Breaking the Bank