Creating Compelling Content: How to Think Like a Brand Journalist

Engage Consumers, Don't Sell ThemLaunching the next viral app takes finesse. Or, maybe you’re the brains behind a walking, talking electronic toy destined to top every kid’s Christmas list from here to the Equator. Fabulous.

Now market it.

Shout from the rooftops and wait for the sales leads to roll in. Write a post for the company blog. Devise a social media strategy. Brainstorm a podcast topic. It’s all in a day’s work, right?

For most marketing professionals, the promotional tasks never end. You’re expected to wear too many hats, leaving your entire marketing plan looking a little scattered. If you’re not a professional writer, these content creation tasks can end up amateur and too advertorial.

If bringing a brand journalist into the mix to craft creative, engaging copy isn’t in the budget, take a few tips from these marketing-focused writing professionals. They know how to creatively promote your company, product, service or idea without turning your marketing campaign into a self-promotional snooze fest.

Leave the sales pitch for the sales team to toss around. Instead, think like a professional journalist crafting a feature for the front page of the Sunday newspaper. Make your writing compelling, informative, engaging and friendly.

What Engaging Content Isn’t

It’s easy to sit down and make a bullet point list of the newsworthy things your product can do. But by wasting space telling consumers your XYZ Cleanser makes bathrooms clean (Really? Wow!) or that your all-natural toothpaste makes breath fresh (You don’t say?) undermines the intelligence of your audience.

Skip the obvious. Give readers valuable information. Content marketing is not long-form advertising.

Use statistics, results from polls and insider scoops gleaned from interviews. Focus on information that isn’t common knowledge. For example, let’s dive back into that XYZ Cleanser. Tell readers how  sourcing natural disinfectants from renewable fermented fruit sources creates an environmentally friendly product or about a program promoting hygiene education for inner-city school kids, which the company happens to sponsor. Tell them information they don’t expect. Build that bond and trust in your brand; product sales will follow.

Some marketing content never mentions the company’s product line. Never.

Your text should build trust and user engagement on the company website, social media stream, or blog (or, better, other independent blogs). Later, the sales team can launch their deal-closing tactics on inbound sales leads. Yes, really.

Know Your Audience, Then Get Chummy

Before you start slinging words, think about your audience. What interests them? What causes and values do they appreciate? What problems are they trying to solve?

Create rapport with the reader by demonstrating you understand what type of situation they’re facing or what questions they’re trying to answer. Only then should you explain how your product/service/gadget/doohickey can help them.

Don’t talk directly about the blatant benefits of your product on the first meeting. You should know where consumers are likely to find you for the first time. Your job at that point is isn’t to close the sale, it’s to open the door to a discussion.

Brand journalists often work with experts and other sources to create fact-based, hard-hitting statements. Think about this. If I tell you lavender essential oil can make a headache magically melt away, you’re thinking, “Well, OK. It might work.”

However, if you read a quote from a Mayo Clinic physician touting the benefits of the oil and can click a link to a research study focused on the health benefits of lavender, you aren’t ready sales copy. You’re reading science. The company isn’t selling you anything– you’re learning about it from the Mayo Clinic. That makes you much more likely to take a positive action and buy. And in the end, that is the final goal, right?

There, my friends, is the magical union between fact-based journalism and subtle marketing techniques that produces engaging content.

Find a News Angle

Chances are, you have little to lend to a conversation about Jimmy Fallon taking over the Tonight Show, the New Jersey Bridge Scandal, or even the Olympics. Headline news is rarely where the best brand angles can be found. A good brand journalist uncovers timely, interesting information that is highly relevant to your business and the consumers who care about those issues.

For example, the FTC’s recent workshop on native advertising was not exactly breaking news for many Americans. However, it was important to folks working in the online marketing space. So it made sense for the Content Blvd Co-founders to get quoted and be a part of the discussion as it unfolded on Forbes.com.

There won’t always be a good news angle you can use to your advantage, but showing your target audience that you’re paying attention to the same things they are makes your words more relevant and influential.

Show, Show, Show! Lead with Examples

By now you’ve caught the attention of your readers. They feel like you’re credible, friendly and really want to help. Excellent. Now hit a home run and show the reader why they need your product.

Testimonies from current users work wonders. If you’re able to develop cases studies based on user experiences, even better. Case studies can provide deep, evergreen content that isn’t just about your product– it’s about how to solve a real problem for consumers in your niche. Remember, talking to your audience about their needs is your first goal.

Link to first-hand reviews on amateur blogs. After all, those are the voices of the people–the average consumers–whom you’re targeting with your marketing efforts. Connect your readers to real people they can identify with, not shiny-faced actresses paid to smile and spew scripted lines on a YouTube clip.

Build more credibility by curating publicly posted user-generated content from your company’s social media accounts. Which would you trust: a studio-lit glamour shot of a product sitting idle on a white backdrop or a slightly grainy cellphone snapshot of a person smiling while using the product in their home?

Consumers identify with situations and images that resemble realistic scenarios, not print-ready images. And, according to Nielsen, they are much more likely to accept a product endorsement from a friend or an independent source than to take your word for it.

Let’s switch gears. For just a moment picture yourself on the couch. You’re wearing your favorite slippers and have a cold beverage in your hand. You fire up the laptop.

Which headlines get the click; glossy sales copy or engaging real-life feedback, backed with credible sources and text with captivating snippets you want to share with your friends?

Think of brand journalism as reporting on your industry niche and providing information that meets consumer needs, not selling your product.

What’s your approach to creating engaging marketing content without an overbearing sales tone?

Angela is a blogger, brand journalist and all-around wordsmith writing behind the scenes for brands including United Way, Colgate, Walgreens and Purina. If your content marketing agency is looking for a writer, give Angela a shout at angela.tague@yahoo.com today!

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Posted in Content Marketing, Creating Content, Writing Better Content

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