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Good Storytelling Equals Successful Content Marketing
It's now stating the obvious that we live in the era of information overload. Your target audience experiences just what you do whenever they go online to find information that helps them solve a problem or answer a question.
To capture the attention of your target audience successfully, you must create content that tells stories concentrating on their needs and desires, not simply your revenue goals. That means it needs to be interesting and immediately useful to them to keep them focused on your brand. Editorial content—which provides your audience the informational content based on your brand's stated expertise they came to you to find—enhances the customer experience with your brand and encourages brand loyalty.
And, yes, while it's true your audience loves stories, those stories need to be authentic, well-crafted and well-told. They can't be self-serving, thinly-veiled advertorials, which is ad copywriting (which also includes native advertising and sponsored content), and ads are what your audience works to avoid. Your audience is likely to subscribe to receive your editorial content. They won't subscribe to receive your ads.
Think about how often you ignore "sponsored content" in digital publications. Why? Because you know it's just a long ad. That doesn't mean you don't produce such copy or editorial content writers can't and won't write the material. It's important, however, to understand the distinctions between editorial content and ad copy and know these professionals do, too.
So, how can you make your audiences happy with the right editorial content? You do that by hiring a journalist as an editorial content writer.
What exactly is an editorial content writer?
Simply put, it's a professional journalist who is recruited by a corporation or brand to write editorial content (rather than decidedly "salesy"/marketing copy) in story format using their expert storytelling skills. They're also called "brand journalists" but "editorial content writer" is a more accurate phrase because these professionals tell your story news-style rather than write brand copy.
They use the same story development and writing skills refined working with news organizations to write your brand's content. That means there may be quotes from credible sources, statistics, evidence and research to support the main ideas in your stories.
Because they are adept at crafting reader-focused stories for news organizations (most of which target specific audiences), they bring those skills to your projects, too. They tell stories in the authentic manner for which most news organizations are known. They enhance reader experience by creating a clear picture in their mind and providing answers to target audience questions. But, there is a primary difference between their telling stories for news media and brands.
For brands, they tell the story in your brand voice, rather than as objectively reported news piece that may not benefit or build trust in the story subjects. They collaborate with you to use their journalism skills to help you tell compelling stories that build audience confidence in your brand.
Whether editorial content writers discuss your organization's offerings in their content depends on its purpose and that purpose is determined by your firm's marketing strategy. But, don't focus the content on the brand's products or services, which is copywriting, and call it content. You should center it on the target audience, their needs, and their customer experience, which is the foundation of editorial content writing.
What desires or questions do they have or problems do they need to solve for which you have the answer that relates to the product or service you offer? Content addresses those desires, questions or problems, not product or service features like copy does.
By telling original stories, an editorial content writer can help you show your readers why a better mattress prevents more sleepless nights for them or how a particular food handling tactic prevents certain lawsuits against at their upscale eatery. You leave your brand’s specific product or services features out of the conversation you’re having with your audience through content.
Well-written content focused on the audience's needs helps them to conclude your business knows how to solve their problem and they should reach out to you for help. That is the goal of strong content marketing, and that's where an editorial content writer can help.
Who hires editorial content writers?
If you think about it, you've probably seen pure editorial content in action. Many corporate brands now have robust blogs that provide all manner of content that is intended to help their target reader make better decisions or run their lives or enterprises better. From American Express OPEN to Salesforce.com, you've probably been to many of those sites to consume their helpful editorial content.
You'll find editorial content writers being hired by law firms, associations, financial services industry firms, software providers, high-tech firms and other corporate brands wanting editorial talent for the content marketing teams. While often, larger brands will contract with content marketing agencies to use their roster of pre-screened journalists to produce editorial content, many brands hire editorial content writers directly. Even small companies are getting into the act.
No matter what kind of organization you are, if you want your story told well and have it resonate like a news piece to your audiences, hiring an editorial content writer might be your best option. That's especially true if you can't afford to hire a content marketing firm or you want to maintain complete control over the content marketing process.
Just make sure you're transparent about exactly what your content is—editorial content presented by a brand rather than actual news like readers get from a recognized news organization.
What content could an editorial content writer produce?
What they could write depends on their background, skills, and interests. Often, journalists turned editorial content writers create the same type of informational content for your business as they do for media outlets for which they've written news. A good look at their professional clips or blog will give you an idea of what particular editorial content writers can create. This graphic shows what you would hire an editorial content writer to produce.
It’s not overemphasizing the point to repeat that to be legitimate editorial content, it has to be written journalistic style, which means it would be carefully researched and reported, in most cases, like real news.
Nonetheless, many of today’s journalists can and do write marketing copy and can incorporate the elements of marketing copywriting into your content under the appropriate circumstances. They could write advertorials and brand-focused custom content, but that is not editorial content. Again, it's copywriting, and your brand should represent it as such.
Moreover, when and how you use ad copy in place of editorial content will be dictated by your organization's overall marketing plan, which includes its advertising strategy. Your brand’s content marketing strategy, which should be robust and established before your hiring an editorial content writer, will focus solely them provide editorial content.
You should also be clear about what an editorial content writer should not do, in some cases, ever. One of those things they should never do for any brand is paid media placement and for law firms, it may be ghostwriting attorney content.
How to Find Journalists for Your Editorial Content Writing
Any journalist you engage as an editorial content writer should be a highly-experienced professional with significant writing experience in the areas where you produce the most content.
If your industry is in a particular business sector, they should have writing experience in that industry or a related one as well as strong business acumen. They should understand the market dynamics of your industry, where it's innovating and what kinds of disruption or changes it's undergoing.
Require journalists you’re considering for editorial content writing work to provide substantial evidence of their storytelling experience with appropriate writing samples. If you're going to have them accept editorial responsibilities, they should demonstrate they're capable of doing that work.
Also, because most editorial content writers don't act as marketing strategists, they won't replace any of your content marketing professionals. They will complement your marketing team or department with their services by telling reader-focused stories in your brand voice.
Because they will work in close collaboration with your staff or contractors, it’s important they have a keen understanding of organizational dynamics and behavior. They should be confident and self-starting but able to work with a team as well as disciplined, detail-oriented, deadline-focused and creative.
Hire Journalists to Get the Best Content Writers
Surely, you're aware that many calling themselves content writers are not qualified to write the robust content you need for your content marketing strategies to succeed. Many may have some marketing background and have been blogging to a sizeable audience for some time. That doesn't make them real editorial content writers. A journalism background usually does, if the journalist is comfortable writing for content used in marketing programs in addition to authentic news stories.
That's why many companies are complementing their copywriting team with those who have professional editorial backgrounds. Your brand also should consider adding journalists who provide editorial content writing services to your remote contracting roster.
By contracting with the right editorial content writers, you can achieve the major content marketing goals that your organization has, including becoming a go-to source for information in your business sector.
(c) 2016. Dahna M. Chandler for Thrive Writing, Inc., a division of Audience First Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced wholly or in part without express written permission of the author.