After spending six years as a full-time journalist and editor at many publications, networks, and digital destinations, I found myself drawn to the vast world of content marketing. While definitely different from reporting, I discovered much of my journalistic training and experience translated seamlessly to content marketing. I knew how to research, fact-check, cover a topic from a variety of angles, and even understood the fundamentals of search engine optimization. These learnings allowed me to work in the content marketing field for several years before founding my own agency.
While I am proud of my career trajectory, I’m also not unique. As the field of journalism has shifted over the past decade, many writers have found other outlets for honing their craft and building a business. If you have considered transitioning from media member to content marketer, take it from these four experts who have mastered content marketing.
Their top tips for transforming your journalism knowledge into a content marketing empire include:
- Think holistically about your journalism experience and skill set.
- Ditch the inverted pyramid.
- Network within journalism stories.
- Dig into no is not an answer attitude.
- Learn basic SEO best practices.
- Look at all angles.
Think holistically about your journalism experience and skill set.
Unless you’re a hard-hitting news reporter, part of journalism writing is creating a persuasive piece of content. Perhaps it’s a review of a newly-released dating app, a skincare line, or the opening of a restaurant. To do this effectively, you must research, possibly interview sources, fact-check your information, and make an ending statement. Content marketing is all about informing the reader about a product or a brand and hopefully nudging them toward buying a product or service, explains Daley Quinn, a freelance lifestyle journalist and content strategist. As you begin to learn about content marketing, think holistically about your journalism experience and skill set since you’ll likely find more similarities than you expect.
“Making the switch from journalism to content marketing is fairly easy. You’re still writing an informative blog post or story, incorporating SEO keywords when necessary, and then using your persuasive skills to finish out the piece of content with the call-to-action (CTA),” she continues. “I find that, because I’m a natural-born storyteller, I’m good at sharing a brand’s story, too.”
Freelance writer and strategist Ruksana Hussain says a big part of journalistic writing is dependent on solid research and resources, following trending news and related stories, and crafting excellent copy. These are all skills that translate to content marketing, where articles need to be well-researched, relevant to the audience, and bring in the readers each time. “I was able to easily pitch or introduce myself to content marketing firms and brands based on this criteria and providing work samples to prove my skills,” she says.
Ditch the inverted pyramid.
Freelance financial writer Miranda Marquit says her journalism training helped her to learn how to interview subjects, find good sources, write concisely, and practice meeting deadlines and providing a fast turnaround. However, some of the skills she developed in J-School and in her career haven’t translated to content marketing. One of the biggies? Getting out of the habit of all stories following the inverted pyramid formula.
If you’re unfamiliar, this means putting the most critical information — aka, the purpose of the story — at the top to give readers an idea of what they’ll learn. The facts then follow, telling the story. However, in content marketing, she explains it’s more about hooking the reader with an interesting tidbit and then laying it out as you go.
“You don’t completely bury the clever opening, but you don’t get all the information in the opening paragraph,” she continues. “Instead, you’re more likely to start with a compelling story or a piece of information that draws the reader in. Then you spin it out to lead the reader down a particular path.”
Network within journalism stories.
No matter what type of career pivot you’re making, the hardest step is the first one. How do you find content marketing clients? How do you convince them of your skills? How do you build your business? Luckily, if you’ve already created a journalism career for yourself, you likely have a plethora of opportunities lingering in your inbox. As content marketer and copywriter Hana LaRock recommends, a solid follow-up to a journalism story is reaching out to the contact to see if they ever need content writing services.
In fact, it was a tactic that proved successful for LaRock herself, who was able to transform her travel writing niche into an agency that provides services for companies in the following sectors:
- Real estate, and more.
To have one foot in each world, set limitations for yourself and your company so you can remain ethical and trustworthy. Personally, I will never write about a content marketing client in a journalism story. I also have separate portfolios for journalism and content marketing since they are different.
That’s an important distinction to make, LaRock reminds. “The clients that you’ll want as a content marketer may or may not pay attention to the fact you are a journalist and vice versa,” she says. “It’s okay to keep these parts of you separate and combine them when they are convenient.”
Dig into that ‘no is not an answer’ attitude.
Part of the reason you became a journalist was to tell the stories of others. This tenacious attitude can prove incredibly helpful as you try other writing avenues. As Hussain says, journalists are trained and will do the required groundwork to get the facts right and the sources for comment. “This works great for content marketing too, where getting to the bottom of the topic and finding the resources to comment on it can take your writing to the next level,” she adds.
Learn basic SEO best practices.
No, you don’t have to be a professional search engine marketer with a degree. Marquit says you should learn basic SEO best practices. Like how to incorporate keywords and key phrases naturally, how to use headlines, and when to use linking. “The basics can help you be more desirable to editors and others who use content marketing to draw people to their websites,” she says.
Look at all the angles.
As any successful writer will tell you: you’re only as good as the ideas you come up with. Ideation and pitching are at the crux of a journalism career, and they can prove helpful in content marketing. Companies often need their content to appeal to various demographics and cover various angles to remain relevant, exciting, and necessary. Since you already know how to do that, you’re an asset to any brand.
“Journalists ask the necessary questions to ensure their stories are covered from all angles and look at every topic from a factual, objective lens,” Hussain says. “This also applies to content marketing in providing readers the pros, cons, and everything in between for a comprehensive deep dive into any subject matter on hand.”
Plus, journalists are experienced in speaking with subjects and sources of all levels — regardless if it’s a celebrity, a doctor, or a student. This cool-headed attitude not only helps you to interview effectively, but it makes you a master of tone. “The ability to break down any topic to a language any reader will understand is another great quality to move into content marketing,” Hussain adds.