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Unleash your inner journalist

Brand journalism is a popular approach in B2B content marketing. Using a few tricks of the trade will make your content speak with authority By Michael Ouellette Oct 31, 2019

Marketing and journalism are like two alternate dimensions: they’re rooted in the same universe, but they’re executed differently. This is mostly good.

Thing is, we marketers can learn from those intrepid reporters running around with notepads and credentials and serious faces. Here are a few journalistic-ish things you should apply to make your content marketing more detailed, more interesting and ultimately more valuable.

Make the call

As marketers, we often have to write content about subject matter we don’t have a lot of expertise in. And we often have to do it fast, which means lots of googling and combing data sheets for ideas.

The thing is, those are usually pretty dull. Try picking up the phone and calling an expert — the client probably has one kicking around somewhere. Reporters are constantly on the phone for a few reasons: They get information faster that way, rather than waiting for a busy person to get around to answering an email. Calls are also more personal, and a quick, casual conversation can yield some gems that turn your current assignment into a winner and opens up all sorts of options for related content.

Find the hook

Our clients have a specific message they want to deliver to certain people — that’s what marketing is. Often, that message needs a little help getting noticed by the intended target audience. It’s our job to do the digging and find a nugget that’s going to pique someone’s interest.

Writing 400 words on a chain drive risks moving the needle on the boring meter. But hey, did you know the first chain drive was invented to power a massive ancient Roman crossbow? Bingo — that’s interesting. And it will keep readers, well, reading.

Lead with the lede

We know, no one spells it “lede” anymore. But the idea of leading with the most useful information hasn’t changed, regardless of how we spell the word. And just to be clear, this means the information most useful for the reader.

In the newsroom, this is known as the inverted pyramid. It’s a dumb name, but the technique helps the editor quickly cut from the bottom of the story to make it fit the column inches, without fear of losing pertinent information. It makes sense in marketing too, because if the first paragraph is loaded down with irrelevant information, no one will make it to the end to learn about your amazing message or follow through on a CTA.

Be conversational

Nobody likes reading stodgy bizno-speak. Not even the executives for whom it was invented. Be direct, get to the point and don’t use terminology unique to the product you are writing about. Instead, use common language and references, and focus on being relatable. It’s way easier to read and more likely to get results.

Tighten up

It’s surprising how many words that sound natural in speech simply aren’t required in writing. So don’t use them (see?). The word “that” is a prime example. It can be deleted nine times out of 10 and never be missed.

Also, skip repetition. For example, you never have to say something comes closer and closer. The first closer does the job. “More and more?” Nope. Just “more,” thanks. Try it — you will become obsessed with cutting out extra words. Your readers will thank you.

Bonus: Screw the Oxford comma

“Wait, why am I supposed to use a comma after this word, but not that one?”

This little mark has driven a great deal of debate. For nothing, really. Just channel your inner Cormac McCarthy and skip it. No one notices anyway.


Looking for examples of B2B content with journalistic flair? Check out our Thinktank, where ideas abound.