10 Journalism Lessons Marketers Should Know

Some may blame the decline of the newspaper for why journalists are making the switch to marketing and public relations, and that may be partially true. But it’s also true that many of the skills required to be a reporter or editor are also crucial to marketing roles like social media manager, inbound marketer, and marketing strategist.

Here are 10 things marketers can learn from journalists:

1. Worship King Content

Back in the day, marketing and advertising involved spouting the virtues of a product and hoping someone was paying attention. These days, outbound marketing doesn’t cut it. Instead, we as marketers have to be more like journalists — creating quality content that’s relevant to your customers.

2. Be Relevant Everyday

If the mad scramble of brands creating Harlem Shake videos is any evidence, cultural relevance — however fleeting — is an important part of marketing. Like newspaper editors, marketers have to be in the know about ever-changing trends. The Harlem Shake may be old hat now, but last month, everyone from Pepsi to Hot Pockets was shaking their thang for the world to (hopefully) see.

3. Timing is Everything

Newspapers are equipped to respond immediately to breaking news, and marketing agencies should be too. Oftentimes, companies concerned with protecting the brand will require multiple levels of approval before an article or even a tweet can be published. While brand identity is certainly important, it shouldn’t come at the cost of relevance. As they say, old news is no news. Like journalists, marketers need to be able to create timely content.

4. Have a Newsroom Attitude

To create timely content, marketers need to be constantly monitoring, creating, and analyzing content. Realizing this need, many agencies are already abandoning the cubicle set-up and instead structuring their marketing departments like mini-newsrooms. Like a newsroom, marketing agencies need to be open, bustling with constant production, and ready to react and engage at a moment’s notice.

5. Think Like a Journalist

Marketers that specialize in content creation have to think like a journalist. What’s the story? What’s the angle? What do customers need and want to know? Do more than just inform — tell a story.

6. Write Like a Journalist

Writing for the web is vastly different from writing for a newspaper, but there are a few tips that apply to both. Grab the reader’s attention in the very first paragraph. Talk about the most important things first. Be concise.

7. Headlines Sell Papes

Sorry — I couldn’t resist a reference to Newsies. In the newspaper world, it doesn’t matter if a story is the best thing that’s ever been written. If the headline doesn’t work, no one will read it. The same is true in marketing. We have to create great headlines and blog titles — not only to attract readers but also to help the article get found through Google.

8. Do Your Research

Just because marketers publish on the internet and not on the printed page doesn’t mean you can slack in the research department. Get out of the office, talk to people, and verify your sources.

9. Create Accessible, Readable Content

This may seem like a no-brainer, but content marketers have to also be writers. Using business lingo, technical jargon, industry slang, or mediaspeak doesn’t work for the average consumer. Even if you work in a very specialized industry, you need to create content that doesn’t talk down to the reader but is still accessible to many.

10. Be Noble

It’s no secret that, when it comes down to it, marketers are trying to sell you something. While we aren’t like the noble journalists who inform citizens about the issues that matter and tell the stories that deserve to be heard, we’re not totally worthless. Yeah, marketers are selling you stuff, but as we learn from journalists, I think a little of that nobility may be rubbing off on us. We’re not just pushing a product on an unwilling customer; we’re informing and educating potential customers about a product, then letting the customer decide. We’re not just writing catchy advertising slogans, we’re creating quality content that’s real and relevant to actual people.