8 Reasons Journalists Make The Best Content Marketing Writers

Having been a professional journalist before I became a content writer, I totally agree and why I am posting this blog on my website.

By Kylie Ora Lobell of Content Harmony

Written content is a crucial part of any content marketing strategy. It’s proven to be an important step in generating leads and transforming them into customers.

Blogging, one of the most popular forms of written content, is highly effective for companies that are doing it right.

According to a Kapost study, brands that released 15 blog posts per month averaged 1,200 new leads during that same timespan. Furthermore, marketers who make blogging a priority are 13 times more likely to see a positive return on their investment.

Perhaps this is why 69% of marketers will be increasing their use of blogging in 2016, according to Social Media Examiner:

There are more journalists looking for work right now because of the layoffs occurring in the field. According to Nieman Lab, in 2014, the number of newsroom jobs dropped 10.4 percent, which was the highest it’s been since the Great Recession occurred. Currently, there are 32,900 full-time journalists at about 1,400 dailies in the United States; in 1990, there were 56,900.

In the short-term, it may seem cost-effective to write your content in-house, or outsource it to marketers without a background in journalism. However, in the long run, your content will be stronger if you invest in solid journalists who have experience and the cache to ensure that your content is top notch.

Not convinced yet? The following are the top 8 reasons why you should stick to hiring journalists for your content marketing team.

1. They’re Formally Trained

If you hire professional journalists who have at least a bachelor’s degree in communications or journalism, they should know all the grammar and style rules. This means that you’re not going to have to spend time spell checking and fixing every misuse of a semi-colon in your content.

Journalists who have spent time at newspapers and reputable publications are also trained to avoid plagiarism and aren’t as likely to get themselves into ethical dilemmas. On the flipside, when you hire writers who don’t have a background in it, they may take chunks of information off the internet without attributing them to the proper sources. If your company gets caught in the crossfire, your reputation and credibility may be damaged.

When looking for writers to hire, go for ones who attended journalism school or a college with a credible journalism and communications program.

2. They’re Inquisitive

Journalists naturally question everything. They want to know the answers to the largest and smallest questions in life. If they’re new to your industry, chances are, they’re going to be asking the same questions that your customers want to know the answers to as well. You’re too close to what your business does in order to come up with questions of your own, but journalists are not. These questions lead to excellent story ideas, which will result in articles, blogs, whitepapers, guides, ebooks, and listicles that will answer said inquiries.

Look for journalists who write stories that answer questions. Their work samples should delve deep into topics but explain them in an easy-to-understand fashion for all readers.

3. They’re Fantastic Storytellers

From hard news to features, great journalists know how to keep the reader involved and tell a compelling story. They’re trained on how to write a solid opening sentence, an explanatory body, and a conclusion that wraps everything up nicely. Journalism is formulaic, but it’s a formula that works and ensures that readers are interested in what the writer has to say from the first sentence all the way down to the last. If you hire marketing writers, they may know how to write sales copy, but they won’t be able to compel readers to scroll to the bottom of a blog post. Journalists will.

You should scoop out journalists who have written a variety of stories, and assess their storytelling skills. Did they answer the who, what, when, where, and how questions in their articles? Did they make every sentence count? Could you get to the end of their stories without getting bored? If the answer is yes to all of these, pursue the writer.

Many companies have produced branded journalism, which is content written by current and ex-journalists. The result has been phenomenal for some brands, which are now newsrooms in their own right.

For example, there’s Dell’s Power More, formerly known as Tech Page One, which features thought-provoking interviews with technology leaders, analysis of the tech industry and topics, and forward-thinking pieces about the Internet of Things.

Former journalists write much of the compelling content. The blog has earned plenty of media coverage and sites like Venture Beach and the Smithsonian have redistributed their content. The former heads of Tech Page One, Nicole Smith and Stephanie Losee, worked at Fortune, PC Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsday, so they obviously understand how branded content can interact with the broader media.

4. They Write From A Neutral, Not Salesy, Standpoint

While it’s appropriate for your sales copy and call to action to drive your sales, your written content needs to be neutral. Content marketing needs to inform first, so you need to start from a place of producing content simply for your readers, and not solely getting them to purchase from you. If your blog posts, white papers, and guides seem like ads, your audience is not going to trust you or return to your brand for information.

Journalists are trained not to inject their own personal opinions into their work or be biased at all unless they’re personal essayists or columnists. If they’ve written straight up hard news, they won’t display a partiality towards their subject. Instead, they’ll present the information as-is and let the readers decide what to think.

Unless your brand is focused on opinion pieces, go for journalists who have crafted hard news items and don’t use “I” in their work.

5. They’re Excellent At In-Depth Research and Interviews

To answer the questions they’re asking, journalists who have worked for publications (and not just blogs) will turn to experts rather than Google. While many websites create the same content over and over again based off similar information they find on the search engine, journalists will make phone calls and interview sources, and dig deep to locate new information. They are natural investigators, and won’t hesitate to put themselves out there for the benefit of your content.

Some people may call themselves journalists on LinkedIn, but make sure that the ones you’re hiring have a background in writing for real news websites, magazines, and papers, and ask if they are comfortable interviewing sources.

Another site that featured branded journalism at its finest is CMO.com, which was created by Adobe.

It’s run by business journalist Tim Moran from CMP Media/United Business Media, and receives more than 330,000 page views per month. The journalists producing these stories reach out to influencers and the top individuals in the industry to come up with original content that can’t be found elsewhere. One such piece is “Social Selling Is As Much About Marketing As It Is About Sales” by Giselle Abramovich-Tsirulnik, senior and strategic editor and a former Digiday and Source Media writer.

6. They’re Deadline Driven

Your brand most likely uses an editorial calendar with real deadlines that content must be turned in by. Journalists who have been in the trenches of a real newsroom are used to working on tight deadlines. They’ve scrambled to put together pieces when breaking news hits, and they’re well prepared to meet any due dates that you request. If you hire marketers or use people on your team, they might not grasp the concept of deadlines and put their other work, like promotion, writing sales copy, and updating social media pages, ahead of content creation.

Hiring journalists who have newsroom experience on their resumes is going to almost guarantee that you won’t have to worry about them missing deadlines.

7. They Have Influence

Journalists who write with clarity and address the tough issues are seen as some of the most influential individuals in our society. They provoke their readers to think deeply about certain topics, and question everything we know. They constantly seek truth, and people want to be part of that journey.

Just look at Ezra Klein, the founder of Vox and a former policy reporter for the Washington Post. He has more than a million Twitter followers and fans. On a wider scale, a coalition of about 400 investigative journalists broke the news regarding the Panama Papers. This massive story was, in 2016, leaked to a newspaper and then the details were coordinated by journalists around the world, proving that they’re still invaluable to society.

When you hire journalists as opposed to marketers, you’re going to spark conversation about your company. Plus, journalists with their own followings from their work in newspapers and traditional media outlets will likely promote your content to their own audience and fanbase. This will result in more clicks on your content, and increased revenue generated for your company.

Find journalists who are active on social media and garner a lot of clicks, shares, and comments on their pieces. Look for the ones who wake people up and get their audiences talking.

8. They’re Increasingly Freelance

Right now, many journalists face layoffs or aren’t receiving as much work as they used to from the traditional media. They crave stimulation, and the chance to tell fantastic stories as often as they once did. They’re excited about writing, even if it’s for brands. In the past, it might have been an ethical dilemma, but nowadays the paradigm has shifted. When brands are one of the rare outlets funding this type of work, journalists change their own perceptions about content marketing in order to keep doing what they love. As long as you don’t ask them to write in a salesy voice or craft call to actions, they’ll be eager to jump on board with your brand.

Seek out journalists who went freelance, because they’re the ones who might have the time to write for your brand. If they’re still full-time employees at publications, you’re not going to be as high up on their priority list.

 

How a Winning Blog Strategy Can Generate Traffic

One of my pet peeves about company blogs is that they really aren’t blogs. Corporations make the mistake of using blogs as sales tools or announcing company news, which I believe is a huge mistake. When blogs are used properly, they can actually be the best lead generator you have in your online arsenal.

Blogs are supposed to inform, entertain or educate your target or secondary target audience. It is not to be used as an opportunity to directly sell your services or product. No one wants to read about how great your product or service is in a blog. They should get that from the content on your website.

Do you want to increase traffic? Do you want to decrease your bounce rate? Do you want your blogs shared by your clients? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you must have a blog that interests your audience in some way. It either imparts information they want to know, answers a question to a problem they may have or entertains them. Blogs have to have some type of take away for your intended audience to keep them on your site and interested.

A blog is not a press release. Blogs are not your company getting news coverage. Blogs aren’t about launching a new product. They can mention these things, but the main topic isn’t about selling. It’s about informing.

And why are blogs so important if it’s not really a sales tool. Blogs don’t directly generate sales, but it can drive traffic to your site, and that is its intended purpose. Increased traffic can turn surfers into buyers.

A great blog can show that your company genuinely cares about their customers by offering informative articles. It also shows your company knows the market and this builds trust for your product or service.

Let’s say your company sells teas imported from around the world. Most companies would say their blog should be about how great their teas are or how they just opened a new import market in India. That type of information is a “press release” or on your company’s “in the news” page if a media outlet has covered the story. It is not a topic for a blog.

A tea blog would be about the history of tea, or the history of tea used for medicinal purposes, great tea infusers, what country exports the most teas, different types of teas and what each type of tea may offer the tea connoisseur. These types of informative blogs show your clients or prospective clients that you know the tea business and it may help them select the types of teas they want to order or how to use the tea once they do order from you.

The hidden gem of blogs is that blogs can pull in customers who are not looking to purchase tea but are just wanting to find out more about tea. And then when they land on your site, they may indeed become a customer. That’s your secondary target audience.

Also, another huge benefit of a great blog is that they are often shared with other users on Social Media, emailed or saved for future reference. You will get brand recognition and increased traffic to a whole new audience that hadn’t even intended to visit your website.

Launching a blog isn’t an afterthought. It’s a well-thought-out strategy. It’s about selecting topics that have an impact on your target and secondary target audience. And the bottom line is that blogs can generate traffic you might not otherwise get from your website copy. Make your blog count!

Content Strategy – It’s Not Just About SEO

Sure, SEO is still an important part of your overall digital marketing strategy as it helps to drive traffic to your website. But getting traffic to your site is only half the battle. You’ve got to have quality targeted content that speaks directly to the needs or wants of your ideal customer.

It comes down to what do you want your visitors to feel, to do, or to think. To get your customer to take action, you have to know them. What motivates them? What are their online activities as well as their offline activities? In other words, you’ve got to build an ideal customer avatar and write to that audience.

If you aren’t speaking to your target audience, no amount of SEO is going to get them to stay on your site. Your bounce rate is an indicator that your content is or isn’t hitting its target. If they only stay on your site for a few seconds and leave, your content simply doesn’t speak to your ideal customer avatar.

For instance, right now, I am writing copy for a carpet cleaner who wants to increase its visibility online to customers who need rug cleaning. They haven’t established themselves yet as rug cleaners. They barely mention rug cleaning on their site.

So, after having done extensive research on rugs, the history of rugs, the types of rugs, piles, weaves and rug materials, I also researched who primarily purchases rugs that require professional cleaning. Keeping in mind that my ideal customer avatar is well-to-do, educated and knows something about interior design or art, I am targeting my copy to help them select a rug that fits their lifestyle as well as how to maintain and clean each rug type.

Your copy has to establish your business as an expert not just in your services but the services that led up to your service or product. And in this example in order to increase rug cleaning services, the business must show they know something about the different materials, weaves and uses for those rugs as well as how to clean them.

If a customer has an antique rug worth thousands of dollars and they need it cleaned, you want them to know that their investment will be safe in your hands. You want them to feel “safe and confident” that you know rugs and how to clean them.

So we created an entire new webpage for the client reaching its target audience of affluent rug owners who want to know more about rugs and rug cleaning. We are also writing a weekly blog on rug purchasing and cleaning to help to establish their business as the rug cleaning experts in their local area.

I didn’t start out as a web content writer. I began my writing career as a journalist and magazine editor, where my writing purposely had to inform, entertain or impart some benefit to my readers. Content writing does the same but goes one step further it has to have a call to action, whether that action is a feeling, a phone call or a purchase.

 

 

An Awesome Amalgamation! – Synchronicity, Divine Timing and Heart-felt Determination!

Having your own business can be trying at times, especially when there is a lull in work. Work never comes in steady, and you must get used to that fact. Either you are overloaded with work and pulling your hair out to make deadlines, or you are wondering how the mortgage is going to be paid next month. Creatively using the downtime coupled with divine timing as well as synchronicity is the key!

 

In idle periods, I do business development. I target a geographical area or concentrate on a business type and reach out by email or by phone. I also do a lot of social media interaction either by liking someone’s post or creating posts of my own. I also do blogging on my own sites. And I believe blogging is business development. You never know whom your post will connect with.

Never, ever underestimate the value of your work or what you have created. Case in point. In 2015, I decided to begin writing for a living after several years as a marketing professional. But the “catch 22” in the writing world has always been you need recent clips to get work. So, I started writing for online magazines for free. In fact, I had to pay a yearly fee to even submit articles. It was quite a blow to my ego as well as my pocket book, but I enjoyed writing again.

However, as life often does, I got pulled into jobs that required all my energy. I needed to make a living. So, I stopped submitting articles. But those articles remained in cyberspace and people unbeknownst to me read them.

Low and behold just this week I interviewed with an out-of-state client for web content writing and during the interview she had said that she had read some of my articles. I thought since she was from Ohio perhaps she had read my New York City magazine articles. But no, it was the free articles I had written for the spiritual magazine. This truly surprised me as I had written these articles off as a waste of my time.

The article she referred to was on twin flames versus soulmates, and not even on the topic in which she needed me to write. Click here for article. Immediately there was a connection over cyberspace from an article in which I received no payment. I truly believe because I wrote this from my heart it came back to me. God never allows anything you do from the heart go unnoticed or unrewarded. Every ounce of creative energy you put out there makes a difference even though it may take years to come back to you!

So, never give up. Keep posting. Keep blogging and keep believing in your work. It does return and sometimes in the most synchronistic of ways.

 

 

 

A Year On – Launching a Freelance Writing Business

After nearly 25 years of being a professional writer and marketing and public relations professional, I decided to hang out my online shingle and start a writing business.

Meryl Streep’s character in “The Devil Wears Prada” reminded me of a former boss I had while working in Manhattan.

But as they say, nothing worth having comes easy. It took a year to build up a clientele, plus build out two websites all while working two and three part-time jobs, but the tipping point finally came this year. The payoff for all my hard work is what energy I pour into my own business comes back to me. And working the occasional weekend isn’t all that bad when you know it’s for your own business as well as your client’s.

My idea of opening my own business began about three years ago, after taking a national consulting company through a three-year cobrand process when they were bought out by an international firm. Once the cobrand was over, there were 15 marketing directors from the acquired companies vying for the top marketing spot. I had no interest in climbing the corporate ladder once again because I had had my career success in Manhattan several years earlier. I knew how empty it could be at the top and making six figures didn’t bring happiness. I took a marketing writing position. However, I didn’t apparently share the new marketing director’s vision of how the marketing department should be run. So, I took a severance package and walked.

I truly believe in following your heart and your gut instinct. My intuition was screaming at me. Since I had left the journalism field, my career was not fulfilling me.  I had enjoyed being a reporter because I felt my stories, my writing was helping to inform and entertain the community in which I lived. I had not felt that way in a very long time in the corporate world.

After doing a year of researching business types that would fit me, my brother Bill and I decided to launch Nelson Business Experts. It went nowhere for a year, partly because my brother was still in a funk from his second divorce and didn’t want to do much of anything meaningful besides sleep and I didn’t want to go it alone. So, I let him heal and forgot about the business for a while. Meanwhile, we both worked customer service jobs to make ends meet.

I finally decided to pursue the business again at the beginning of the year, when a synchronistic event occurred. Out of the blue, I got an interview for a job in which I had not applied. I decided to attend the interview anyway. While interviewing for the creative director position, my intuition was calling out “no, this isn’t what you want.” So when the interviewer asked if I was interested I said: “may I spin this in a different direction?”

I told the interviewer, who was also the owner of the company that I didn’t see myself in this position he described but would like to write for his business as a freelancer. And he went for it!

I have since won several more clients, but winning additional work at first proved to be the biggest challenge for the business. However, there are now several online avenues in which to win work in freelancing. I highly recommend building out your profile on LinkedIn and getting recommendations from past employers and colleagues. You can also join LinkedIn ProFinder, which matches you with other professionals looking for your services. I have found work on ProFinder.

Thumbtack is another professional job matching system that works quite well. You must buy points to bid on jobs, but you get daily jobs you can bid on. But these jobs are mostly one-offs where you do a project rather than win a client long-term. Although, there are long-term offerings as well. Make sure you set your filters on the type of services you offer to receive the type of jobs you want. My brother and I have found clients from this site.

I am also a member of Flexjobs.com but with little results. Just my opinion but most of the jobs are low-paying gigs for writers who are looking to add to their portfolio or highly specialized types of writing that I don’t do.

I just joined Mediabistro, which I was a member of several years ago as a journalist in New York City. We shall see how that goes. I will give it some time before I critique it. But it seems to me with just being a member for a few days most of the jobs are working onsite and in the eastern US.

I am only looking for virtual work now. And it’s out there. I’ve talked to several clients who say they only work with virtual writers.

As a freelance writer, I am feeling fulfilled once again because I help business owners with their individual successes through my copywriting.  And the freedom to work where and when I want, priceless!

 

 

 

What is a professional writer?

A professional writer has a degree in writing, has written hundreds of stories on a multitude of topics for a myriad of audiences and in several genres.

Experienced writers are worth their weight in gold and worth every penny you pay them. Each word in the copy is chosen for maximum impact. The audience to which writers are attempting to influence is researched and understood.

Professional writers are also easy to work with and consider their client’s needs as well as the finished product. Yes, writing is a work of art. However, when you are writing for a client their opinion matters, not the writers.

One client told me that one of his writers got testy when he critiqued his copy and wanted him to change it. A professional writer may indeed explain the reasons why it should be this way or that, but in the end, you are writing for your client, not to please yourself.

Critiques from editors and clients over the years have made my writing better and I welcome feedback. A good writer knows this. No one writes in a vacuum.

Words are meant to be read and digested by the reader calling them to action or to feel a certain way about a topic. Good copy flows. It isn’t choppy. Every piece has a beginning, a middle and an end.  Each is equally important. The beginning pulls the reader into the copy. If readers don’t get past the first graph, you haven’t done your job as a writer. The middle imparts knowledge about the topic matter and the end sums up and reiterates the call to action if there is one.

A professional writer knows how to flow each paragraph into the next, knows where a quote is best placed in the copy, knows when a quote will help to further the copy and when it doesn’t.

Professional writers know their craft, have perfected their craft and do not have an abhorrence for deadlines.

Having a writing background that began with local journalism, helped me to hone my craft over several years. I then jumped to corporate communications, public relations and marketing where I furthered my business writing skills by creating brochures, websites and other marketing collateral.

Right now, I am writing SEO copy for a technology copy, but am always seeking new clients.

So, if you are in need a well-rounded writer, who knows her craft, contact me and we can talk about how I can tell your business’s story through writing clean, concise and compelling copy.