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Why It’s Important to Think Like a Journalist in Content Marketing

journalistWhen I went to journalism school, my dad asked me what I was going to do to support myself. I told him that money didn’t matter; I was in this for the good of the people. I even had a t-shirt to support my cause.

Well, that’s before I realized how journalism training can be in marketing communications. My internship and eventual first job was at a magazine – a pizza marketing trade to be exact. The lessons I learned there were invaluable to my business today. I got to think like a journalist and investigate the issue of an industry. And a lot more people liked me.

Today, I’m not exactly a journalist, but a marketing communications writer who gets to treat each project like a journalist on a beat. I get to scour through industry reports, blogs and news articles to create messages that resonate with my clients’ audiences. That’s why I’m so glad I got formal training in journalism. It’s a key tool in what I do. And, thinking like a journalist can help you create better content.

How Thinking Like a Journalist Enlivens Content

There’s a lot of really great marketing content out there. But, many content marketers shake their heads at why they aren’t getting the traffic or conversions they want.

It’s because they aren’t thinking like a journalist. The number one factor in journalism is what’s most important to your audience – not the people on your sales or marketing team.

Real people read the newspaper or watch the news to see what’s happening in their world right now. They also read blogs and magazines that have to do with their specific interests or business needs. I believe this is why blogs are so popular. It’s instant information on your need-to-know subject.

Turn to the Seven Questions of Newsworthiness

A journalistic formula that never fails to help you gauge the content your audience wants is the seven questions of newsworthiness:

  • Prominence – This usually affects the people in the story. It’s why celebrities get so much attention. They are the perceived upper crust. People love to learn of their lessons and failures. Sad, but true.
  • Magnitude – The more people a topic affects the better. Why do you think people like Kenneth Cole make comments like the recent Egypt Twitter faux paux.
  • Proximity – The more close to home your message, the better it will resonate. This is often the number one item a journalist looks for. And as David Meerman Scott said yesterday in a video over at Hubspot, it’s a good idea when trying to drum up business in a local market.
  • Uniqueness – Firsts, a new take, twists, turns and one-of-a-kind feats and stories. That’s what readers want from journalists and what they want from you.
  • Timeliness – It used to be recent. Now, it’s real-time. As it happens. Live. On the spot. People love being in the know right now. It’s hard to manage, but it’s very effective.
  • Significance – Defining why this content is important to the audience is the key here. A journalist asks why this matters to the people. Your customer or prospect asks, “What’s in it for me?”
  • Human Interest – The human element helps a journalist connect the story to the readers. Adding a story or a anecdote gives your content resonance because people identify with other people.


A journalist thinks about the audience above all else. We marketers should follow suit.