A newspaper editor, a digital producer and a content marketer walk into a bar…and they discovered that great stories and brand communications are no joke—it takes all of their combined skills to engage an audience and generate leads.
If your content marketing arm is going to behave like a media company, you need strong writing – incorporating gripping video, smart infographics and powerful photos – all working together to grow audience and increase sales.
Beyond the writing, editing and multimedia producing, you also need a distribution strategy.
Oh, and some editorial independence.
I’m an old-school news guy in a new media content marketing world, but as a web editor, my work processes are largely the same: I work with freelance writers to produce stories, I work with designers to add graphic value to the posts, and much of my job centers around distribution of our content through social media to build audience.
Whether working for a company, or clients, or in a newsroom, the art of the story (or blog post, white paper or slider) takes reporting, producing and marketing.
Here are 6 ways to use these skills to produce high-quality stories that grow audiences and increase sales:
- Find your twist: Talk to corporate insiders and customers to find innovations and success stories. Check in with people who have their finger on the pulse of the company. Read everything you can for ideas – magazines, newspapers, your Twitter feed, newsletters, etc. Even going for a walk you’ll see story possibilities. Live with your eyes and ears open to the stories around you.
- Plan your story: Are you going to write a blog post, white paper or news feature article? Choose the one that will be most effective at reaching the largest audience and consider presenting the content in different ways to reach different audiences. What photos, graphics and video will best illustrate your piece? Sketch out the graphic and storyboard the big project. Whom do you need to talk to? Make a list. Think of the headline – what key words need to be in there for the best organic search results?
- Do your research: For a big project or 10X content, start with a competitive analysis to find out what others have done, and plan how you can do it better. For a study or poll, draft the headline to focus the questions. Read everything and talk to everyone on your list. At the end of every interview, ask, “Is there anything I should have asked, but didn’t? What else should I know about X, Y or Z?” Good stories lead to future good stories or blog posts.
- Write, and rewrite your story: “Journalism is the first rough draft of history,” Washington Post publisher Phillip Graham said. Write your content piece, then juggle the paragraphs to make your first rough draft better, read your piece aloud, trim needless words, check quotes and spellings, do the math (again) and spellcheck everything. Send what’s now the best content piece you can produce to your client, who likely will rework it.
- Spread the word: To get maximum reach, post your blog or story to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (pull the best short quote and embed a link to the full story.) Choose your words on social media carefully, and always use images in your posts. Schedule social media posts to reach viewers through the day. Get news coverage for your study, white paper or news feature – when warranted. Use infographics to reach additional viewers and keep drawing people to that piece.
- Track the results: How did the story do on social media? What worked, and what didn’t? Did the white paper goose sales? Did the news feature win favorable recognition for your client in the local newspaper or on CNBC or Fox Business Channel? Did you get quality backlinks to increase the authority of your website or client? What did you learn that will help you to do even better with your next story or blog post?
When you’re finished, kick back, relax and maybe grab a bite (or a drink at that bar) with colleagues. Talk about what could have been done better. Talk about the best content you watched or read in the last week. Keep learning. We’re all in this together, and we all have to work together to produce the most engaging content possible – and to do it fast.
Who would have guessed the changes in news and content marketing over in the last 10 years? Even though we have to stay on top of changing communication tools and techniques, what isn’t going to change is the importance of high-quality stories and rich multimedia stories.
About the Author: Jeff Herman is a web editor of Austin-based CreditCards.com. He founded his own startup, virtualcopydesk.com, and has worked for newspapers, a wire service, and in corporate communications for a power company and a steel mill.