As content marketing continues to heat up and businesses large and small jostle mercilessly for people’s attention alongside media outlets and independent content creators, the winners will be those that …
- CREATE interesting content that’s relevant for a specific audience
- TELL genuinely authentic stories that strike an emotional chord with people
- PRESENT their content in a professional way that suggests quality without necessarily being too slick and polished
- PUBLISH content ‘in real time’ around topical issues and events when the situation requires it
- PLAY A BIGGER GAME with their content: they don’t just produce ‘utility content’ that addresses customers’ questions and concerns (as useful as that can be), but also ‘leadership content’ that takes the reader (or viewer/listener) down unexpected paths, that provokes thought, articulates interesting concepts and ideas, inspires us to think differently about a relevant topic or issue.
Okay, so you’re sold on the idea of producing high quality content that cuts through, gets noticed and helps elevate your brand above the dross produced by your competitors. But actually doing it properly, with purpose – and to the level required to make a difference – takes skill-sets you don’t have within the four walls of your organisation.
Enter the journalist …
This, my friends, is when it makes sense to engage the services of a professional journalist or journalists, depending on the breadth of content required. Large enterprises can probably afford to make these positions full or part-time, but for all other businesses, engaging freelancers is by far and away the best option.
BUT HERE’S THE KICKER: a professional journalist can do a lot more than simply write blog articles. Here are three examples of how they can help your brand smash your content out of the park!
1. CREATE multimedia content for your business
Don’t hire a journalist and just limit their output to churning out blog posts en masse. Maybe your business could be producing white papers or ebooks or guides or special reports, or ghostwriting opinion pieces for the boss for third party media outlets or other people’s blogs and online publications.
While some journalists prefer to stick to just writing, others are adept at producing video and audio. These are digital storytelling avenues you might like to try!
If you build up a pool of reliable freelance journalists, this is a path you might like to explore. I emphasise: this is well within reach of businesses of all sizes.
Obviously going tactical without first having a strategic plan in place will probably guarantee your content efforts will get messy down the line, but the goal here is to not be afraid to experiment with different content formats. A good journalist – or combination of journalists – will provide you with a range of skill-sets you’ll be able to tap to stay ahead of the content game.
More than that, they’ll probably do it quicker and more professionally than many inside your business who already have enough on their plates without having to sit down and write articles with depth and quality.
2. EXTRACT stories from your people
The value a professional journalist brings to the table is not just writing or producing editorial-style video/audio/articles but being able to extract the right stories from people, stories that matter for an audience.
Journalists know a good yarn when they hear one.
Take video. If a journalist chats in-depth with your people – the leaders of the organisation, the internal subject matter experts, the founder of the business – there is every chance that intuitively they will identify a load of interesting story hooks and angles that can be turned into compelling content for your brand.
And while this process might start with a video interview (from which multiple short snippets can be produced for social media), a good journalist will be able to extend its value potentially by creating audio content for a podcast, and a clutch of articles for the company blog (and/or for individuals’ LinkedIn feeds).
Of course, the journalist doesn’t need to just talk with your employees: great stories can also come from others within your ‘brand orbit’ – customers and partners, for example.
Not only will a good journalist present these stories professionally and in the right format, but there is every chance the end product will be superior to what can be achieved internally by non-professional writers.
3. Improve the finished product through editing
This is something I hear happening more and more these days, and it makes a lot of sense. It works like this:
Articles are produced by a company’s internal staff; they come up with the ideas and share the workload with a number of people given the task of writing articles for the company blog, for example. Generally these will be a company’s subject matter experts, senior executives or, in the case of a smaller business, the founder/CEO.
More often than not one person is charged with coordinating the effort so stories are delivered on time.
Then the finished articles are handed over to a professional journalist who not only checks and edits the copy but also makes improvements to the headline and all-important introductory paragraphs, as well as selecting stock images to accompany the story. If need be, articles are also cut back in length and finessed until they are in the best possible shape for the reader.
The goal here is to ensure that any stories published have not only been checked and improved in terms of grammar and overall writing, but also that over time all content has a consistent look and feel, a style that fits the brand. This is particularly important with multi-author blogs where the quality and styles of writing can vary enormously.
If you can find a freelance journalist who also has newspaper/magazine editing experience, they are GOLD! I use one myself for articles written by my clients: he never fails to improve the written product, and is a very cost-effective addition to my team.
Well-regarded content marketing specialist, Sarah Mitchell, is also a big believer in the use of editors. In the video above, Sarah explains how a copy editor is her “secret weapon” when it comes to producing top quality written content (you can listen to my full interview with Sarah on the Reputation Revolution podcast here).
Whatever your content marketing needs are, there’s every chance that by working with a professional journalist you will improve the quality of the content you produce as an organisation and along with it, a better chance of hitting reaching the goals you set down in the first place.
You might need to try out a few freelancers before you settle on one or more who can deliver the value you’re after, but it will be worth it in the long run!