These three journalism best practices will help you tell your brand’s story more effectively
Whether you’re a creative agency or a freelancer developing content for clients or a brand sharing your own story though online content, taking a journalistic approach to marketing will help strengthen your storytelling skills. At Yakkety Yak, we take content seriously and that’s why we think about all our writing—from blogs, newsletters and landing pages to case studies, social media and more—from a journalist’s perspective. Yakkety Yak CEO and Founder Ashley Logan weighs in and explains how you can improve the effectiveness of your own content marketing and storytelling by following these three steps.
Become a Subject-Matter Expert
To tell a brand’s story effectively, you first need to know what you’re writing about. That means gaining background knowledge about the topic through research—whether by watching videos and reading articles from industry leaders or directly interviewing an expert. Becoming a subject-matter expert is especially important when writing for a client. Whether or not you are completely familiar with the industry, project or initiative, after research, your writing must convey deep understanding and authority on the subject.
But writing with authority does not mean that you should pretend to know more than you do; “Fake it until you make it” does not apply to journalism. Once you have enough background knowledge, it’s time to brainstorm ideas, fact-check information and then seek out the answers to any questions you still have. So much of a journalist’s and content writer’s success depends on asking the right questions of the right people. And if you don’t know which questions to ask, return to thoroughly researching the topic to figure it out.
“Gathering sources is hugely important,” explains Ashley. “Taking a journalistic approach to your content allows you to become a subject-matter expert. Plus, it forces you to write with your target audience in mind. They are the people who will be consuming your information.”
Start by thinking about your audience and what is most important to them: what they need, what their pain points are and how you can help solve a problem they have. Remember: your goal is to learn enough about your topic to be able to contribute nuanced information about it that will benefit your brand’s audience. Are you sharing information they already have? Consider tapping experts to make sure that what you’re writing about is relevant and meaningful.
Earn the Reader’s Trust
When it comes to content marketing and brand storytelling in general, credibility is key. If readers don’t trust you, they won’t value your advice or buy your products and services. One way brands earn credibility in marketing is by being informative, accurate and professional and recognizing that prospective customers and clients discover your content at different points in their buyer’s journey. You should aim to provide the information they need and if you earn their trust, you might just earn a new customer or client.
If your blog seeks to sell your services more than it does to satisfy your readers’ search for information, readers may view your brand negatively or look for another source to answer their questions. Consumers don’t like being sold to when they are looking for answers. Take a tip from experienced journalists and stick to reporting on facts and conveying information in a way that will benefit your readers.
“Journalists should remain neutral and rely on accurate information from their sources,” says Ashley. “Be fair and balanced, which makes for stronger writing and a more convincing story.” When you have a reputation of being unbiased, you’ll earn your readers’ trust.
Even when you are writing to sell on product pages and in promotional emails or online ads, make sure that you come across more informative than promotional. When users land on a page describing your product, they are probably considering making a purchase and looking for information to help them make their decision. Because journalism is committed to uncovering and reporting on facts, taking a journalistic approach to content marketing means keeping your tone impartial, neutral and trustworthy.
Captivate the Reader
Good brand storytelling, like good journalism, should be engaging. Not only should the writing be clear and straightforward, but the way a piece is written should encourage readers to read until the very end for insights and information. That means following a structure readers are used to and also providing information upfront about what a longer piece will cover. By giving as much attention to headlines, subheads and structure as you do the body of an article or newsletter, you’ll create content that readers will follow through to the end. Plus, these pillar pages will also help your website’s SEO.
“It’s all about the narrative arc,” says Ashley. “Every good article has a beginning, middle and end, which aligns nicely with the objectives of content marketing. There needs to be a clear takeaway.”
Finally, be sure your article ends with an action for readers to take. For example, you might link to another page on your website or blog that provides more information on the topic, encourage readers to sign up for your newsletter and follow your brand’s social media accounts or send them to a page where they can learn more about your products or services. “Your reader should know exactly what comes next by the time they get to the end of your article, and there should be a clear CTA to prompt their next action,” Ashley explains.
Quality Content Gets You Noticed
When it comes to writing for a client, you never want to sound phony or insincere. The tone and voice of a brand needs to be authentic and align with the message they’re sharing. By thinking like a journalist and researching the industry, you’ll be able to write with authority and accuracy. Plus, when you ask the right questions, you can dig into the topic and understand the points of interest for prospective readers—and the problems they need your help to solve.
“Quality content continues to be the cornerstone of what appears to and is presented by Google,” Ashley says. Effective writing starts with drawing readers in and ends when you’ve kept them engaged until the last word. In content writing and journalism alike, quality writing provides answers, solves problems and engages readers. Ashley explains, ”Every article, newsletter or post should have the key fundamental pieces: not keywords, but strong sources, interesting quotes and a narrative arc.”
Need help developing your voice or writing expertly sourced, well-researched blogs? We’d love to help by sharing our expertise on content marketing and storytelling. Contact us today to learn how we can help tell your brand’s story. After all, you can’t fake good content.