Journalists make excellent content marketers. It’s not just because they’re used to writing clean, compelling copy. Or that, given the state of the modern news industry, there’s a wide talent pool for marketing departments to choose from.
No, journalists make great marketers because they have finely-developed instincts for chasing down a story. They know how to collect the facts thy need to make a full report. They ask the right questions and make sure they get a straight answer, before they write a single line.
Couldn’t your content marketing use a little journalistic edge? Not just for the copy, but for your entire strategy?
When reporters are researching a story, they go through the Five W’s: Who, What, When, Where, Why & How (Yes, I know that’s five w’s and one h. This is the country that brought us the three R’s: reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic).
You can use these six big questions to guide your content marketing strategy. Use them in your research to make sure when people see your content, they’ll want to read all about it.
#1: Who is my audience?
This question is the fundamental building block of your content marketing strategy. The more specific your answer is, the more effective your content can be. That means identifying everyone involved in a purchase decision for your solution. Research what their needs and motivations are, what information will be helpful to them, and what they need to know before they make a purchase decision.
Start to answer this question by building personas, abstracts of your ideal customer. These useful fictions are informed by interviewing your customers, potential customers, and even those who opted for another brand’s solution.
Remember that one crucial aspect of knowing your audience is knowing who isn’t your audience. Then you can tailor content to select your audience and exclude those who aren’t the right fit. The end result can be a more qualified audience and livelier content with a strong point of view.
#2: What is my audience looking for?
First, we can easily answer what your audience is likely not looking for: talking points about why your brand or solution is great. That’s the topic most brands want to publish content about, sure. But that type of content is the least appealing to the majority of your potential audience.
Find out what your audience wants and needs by researching keywords and queries. Search engine queries are direct expressions of what is most important to your audience. As Dan Blumenthal put it: “Content marketing is what web searchers are looking for.” If your content doesn’t match the need, it’s not content marketing. It’s just filler.
There are a ton of great tools to help you with that research. My favorite new one is Bloomberry, from the fine folks at BuzzSumo. Ahrefs Content Explorer, and BuzzSumo can all help you find out what kind of content is already resonating with your audience, too.
#3: When should I publish?
This question is less about finding the right time of day, or right day of the week, to publish to your blog or promote on social media. That part of the equation is unique for every audience, and you’ll need to do some experimenting to nail it down.
The important part of the “when” is to publish consistently. Establish a steady cadence, whether it’s daily, weekly, or even monthly. Set a schedule that enables you to only publish quality content. Better to have a hugely valuable weekly digest than a daily shallow post.
#4: Where should I publish and promote?
Even a year ago, this was a simple question. Publish on your blog, promote on the social media channels your audience uses. But now there are convincing arguments to be made for publishing directly on other platforms than your home site. For example, a long-form post on LinkedIn is likely to load faster on mobile, be easier for your audience to read and share, and will provide detailed analytics on who is engaging with the content.
Many marketers are finding it makes sense to post content natively to LinkedIn, Medium, even Facebook, rather than trying to drive traffic back to a blog post. Just make sure your CTA leads to a next step on your site.
#5: Why Should My Audience Do What I Want them to Do?
We’ve discussed what your audience wants—high-quality content that helps them solve a problem. But what you want is a conversion that leads to revenue. Answering this question helps you bridge the divide between the two. Why should your audience take the action you want them to take?
Your audience will feel inspired to do what you want them to do if:
- The next step is clearly stated. Now is not the time to be shy.
- The next step is logical and incremental. Don’t propose on the first date.
- The next step is How many obstacles are you throwing between your customer and a conversion?
- The next step deepens the relationship.
#6: How will I measure success?
A solid content marketing strategy works backwards from measurable goals. Don’t lead with content and add the metrics in later. You should know what each campaign is intended to accomplish, expressed in a quantifiable way.
That goes for top-of-funnel campaigns, too. Even if your goal is raising awareness, find the metric. In that case it could be an increase in branded searches, increased traffic to your site, or adding followers on social media. Just make sure you have a plan to lead that top-of-funnel interest towards further conversion.
This Just In…
Asking the right questions—and researching the right answers—is the difference between investigative journalism and fake news. For marketers it’s the difference between random acts of content and strategic content marketing. So take some time to learn your audience and determine when, how, and where you will reach them. Let the five W’s and one H help lead your marketing team to ROI.