4 Ways to run Your Digital Content Strategy Like a News Publisher (as Told by a Former Journalist)
Modern content creators know they have to be creative if they want to reach customers. Thinking like a media publisher unlocks opportunities for content that helps your customers, and boosts engagement. Here are practical ways to apply it to your digital content strategy today.
Let’s face it.
Building a thriving business blog is no cakewalk in 2019.
The number of blogs continues to climb; the content explosion is relentless.
Readers are bombarded by an endless stream of content. They can only meaningfully engage with so much.
Content marketing can help but not when it’s a thinly veiled sales pitch.
You want to support your readers to make a transformation. You want to provide them with valuable information to make better decisions. You want them to turn to you when they need advice or guidance about your industry.
So, how do you take consistent and strategic action to deliver juicy content your readers care about?
Here’s how tested techniques from traditional news publishers can make that happen.
The Case for Running Your Content Strategy Like a News Publisher
If you want to deliver content that delights online audiences, that content needs to be original, valuable and relevant.
Clint Schaff, the Vice President of Strategy and Development at the Los Angeles Times, recommends a tactic to achieve these goals. Speaking on a Co-Schedule podcast, Schaff calls on content creators to start thinking like media publishers.
There are already things marketing teams have taken from the newsroom like the editorial calendar, said Schaff.
It’s just one way the two disciplines are drawing from one another to create improved experiences for readers.
News publishers are taking a traditional marketing idea - evergreen content - and applying this to their content strategy, according to Digiday research.
Schaff encourages publishers to experiment with different formats and mediums.
Schaff’s one of the best, and most qualified, voices to make this claim. He’s at the intersection of marketing and news at one the world’s most established and innovative media brands.
The LA Times uses its own events to cross-promote new projects. It tries new products like the Dirty John podcast, now a show on Netflix.
Here are some the most practical ways you can model your content strategy on a newsroom operation.
Become a Brand Storyteller
A strange term has started taking root. It’s known as brand journalism, and it’s one most people agree should be disposed of.
Journalism is grounded in a clear mission. Inform the public and hold policymakers to account, so we can reach consensus and make better decisions.
Brands do not play this role.
In a post on Echidna.ca, Jay Menard, asks content creators to see themselves as “brand storytellers”.
“...there's a clear distinction between what journalists do and what you, working to promote your brand, are doing. You are a "Brand Storyteller."
“Journalists are supposed to be neutral, critical, and working to uncover the whole story. What you're likely doing is promotional, clearly biased in favour of your organizations, and working towards aligning with a specific goal.
“You're not doing proper journalism; you're sharing a story.”
Menard encourages marketing teams to tell authentic stories, and engage in conversation with their customers.
Using the lens of brand storytelling, we find better opportunities to create content that resonates with our readers. While there’s no such thing as brand journalism, you can bring journalism skills used to your content strategy.
Tactics like research, personal insights, and storytelling help elevate boring, bland business blogging copy to content your readers truly care about.
Menard shares examples of the types of brand stories organizations can tell.
“You want people to be people, you want interviews to not feel forced, and you want to welcome your consumers into an environment that offers them some value. How can this work? Q&A videos with staff members that play to their expertise. If you want to highlight the strength of your organization...interviewing people about their expertise is a great way to share that...
“Another way is to give your content consumers a behind-the-scenes look at the operation. People like to feel part of something -- and if they've connected with your brand in some way, then giving them a look behind the curtain can be appealing.”
Microsoft includes elements of storytelling to profile the work of its Artificial Intelligence team in this media release.
The lede focuses on the drought and its impact on people’s lives. Only then, do they begin a discussion on Microsoft’s team.
A 21st-Century Content Strategy: Media as a Service
Microsoft is taking charge of its narrative. It’s telling its own story directly to its audience. Brands who don’t follow this approach will get left behind.
Former Financial Times journalist Tom Foremski shows us how.
Foremski proposed the idea of media as a service, and it’s a model beyond content marketing.
“The explosion of content marketing is proof that the concept of 'every company is a media company' is becoming understood by the mainstream. It is resulting in a tidal wave of media content about companies, commissioned by the companies themselves.”
You might be worried your readers wouldn’t want to be bombarded by news about your company. And you’d be right.
So, how do you stay in front of your customers without annoying them?
Pick your brand's "beat". In the newsroom, beat reporters covered specific topics. Those reporters exclusively focussed on those areas. When you had a news tip for one of those fields, you'd often turn to your beat reporter colleague for advice or assistance in covering the stories. They had the contacts and experience; you didn't mind sharing the byline because their rich insights would make the story better. When you know your industry well, you're a credible news source for your readers.
You might also think of yourself as an industry copy taster. In the newsroom, copy tasters viewed and selected the articles from the wires. You can create a digest where you discuss the biggest trends shaping your industry, and what they mean for your customers.
Consider using trending events in your industry to foster thought leadership around your brand. Insert yourself into the narrative with a fresh and useful perspective.
I’d like to share two examples of thought leadership.
HubSpot, the marketing software developer, covers industry news and reports, firmly establishing the brand as a source of insight and analysis.
Moz is a SaaS company that sells SEO and marketing analytics tools. It provides free tools and one of the web’s most popular SEO guides.
On top of that, the brand conducts its own analysis on Google updates. The SEO industry values Moz's reports, and even questions them Moz when they don’t react to a Google development.
Try the following tools to monitor your industry:
- Google Alerts
- Google Trends
There's a lot of content online today. You want to break through the noise. You want to connect with your customers. Aligning your content strategy with journalism best practices gives you a competitive edge. And when you focus on bringing value first, and the conversions will follow.
Thumbnail image credit: Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash