Melanie Deziel has always had an interest in the power which stories have and communicating them to people. That’s why she studied investigative journalism at Undergraduate, and then pursued arts and cultural criticism as a Masters.
Like many other graduates studying journalism, she found that jobs are a scarce and that the industry has moved on. So she found a way of using her storytelling skills in a new way.
She began creating brand stories in native advertising, working for The Huffington Post, The New York Times, and Time Inc. Now, for nearly two years, she has been out by herself working as a consultant, speaker, trainer, and workshop leader, helping brands and publishers to tell better stories.
With content marketing becoming the main way which publishers choose to advertise, it is important that you start to make sure you’re going to stand out from the crowd. By taking on Melanie’s advice, you’ll soon start creating content that will captivate and gain you new customers and clients.
Journalism and Content
The definition of journalism has seemingly changed over the past few years. Becoming a broader term, generally, any type of content is now thought of as journalism.
But Melanie still sees there is a difference between the two, and that we’re all capable of recognizing quality journalism when we see it. After all, there is a reason why the big newspaper names maintain their subscriber base in a time when you can get your news from anywhere.
Quality and depth of writing and research go into reporting, and it is still trusted and valued today.
However, there are still many quality journalists out there who can’t get jobs in order to do that high-quality work. This is where brands are utilizing these people to tell their stories.
Melanie still benefits from her training in investigative journalism, despite never actually working as an investigative journalist. It has given her a healthy skepticism to ask more questions and get the real story.
As marketers, it is easy to believe that everything is newsworthy, but you have to dig deeper and push yourself to find those better ideas which people will genuinely be interested in.
Tell the TRUTH
The content itself is easy to make, and anyone can take a picture or jot down a quick list, and then call themselves a content creator. But there needs to be thought and strategy, and that comes with the experience of knowing the audience and the tools available.
It can then reach the right people, and at a time when they need to be reached.
Thinking like a journalist will enable you to tell better stories. And TRUTH should be at the core of content marketing. These are all of the things that differentiate true journalism and is how you give your content that special something:
We like content that is new and has something novel about it. Finding a way to tie content to current events gives it the best chance of resounding with your audience.
Something a lot of marketers struggle with is recognizing that something isn’t true just because you say it is. Find third parties who validate your story and data, as the content isn’t trustworthy when you’re the only source.
It’s great to find something special. Just because you do a particular thing doesn’t make it instantly newsworthy. But if you’re the first one to do it, or are the biggest at doing it, then that is. Do something which is surprising or different, and pick a story which will help you to stand out from other content.
This isn’t about creating drama but is recognizing that most stories have some kind of stake, such as a struggle, an accomplishment, or opposing sides. This could be the questions which your audience need answering.
People relate to people, so look for those who can help to tell your story, and even be the face of your content for others to relate with. It could be testimonials from customers or hearing from the business owner.
In its broadest definition, native advertising means that the content fits the context for which it was created, much like Tweets are native to Twitter, and that is where you would find a promoted Tweet.
For publishers, this would be articles. So when a brand is looking to advertise in a certain publication, they’ll create content which suits it, down to the audience targeted, language used, and style.
Advertising works best when you use content which fits its location and is unobtrusive. And unlike an advertorial, native advertising is produced as a partnership between the brand and publication.
But native advertising should only be a small but strategic part of your marketing plan. That’s because it is more like PR, and therefore doesn’t have a direct call to action.
Unlike PR however, native advertising gives you more control because you’re the one paying for it, which means you can achieve the best PR result possible, rather than leaving it the will of the journalist.
And when you’re providing real value, people generally prefer it to the standard advertising. You just have to ensure that the fact it is sponsored is clearly labeled as people, understandably, don’t like to be deceived.
The Content Marketing Strategy
It’s good to have a strategy for your content marketing but is something which most people undertaking content marketing don’t bother with. After all, when you have a strategy to follow, the content you produce will promote your end goals.
Content for the sake of content is not a good use of your time or resources.
You may well be better off creating one blog a week which is rich in detail and has a unique take to help it stand out from the crowd, rather than just pumping out something every day to meet a meaningless quota.
And don’t be hung up on the format when coming up with new content ideas. When you have a great idea, use it in its optimum form, rather than forcing a good video idea to work as a blog, just because. Let the story determine the format.
You should also consider your audience, as it is a total waste of your time shouting on Twitter if your audience is all on Instagram. Ask questions of your customers/clients to see where they get their news from and spend the majority of their time.
It is key to listen in the early days and then construct your behavior around that to keep them happy and interested in your content. It is often the case that niche brands are often the best at this as they really have a deep understanding of who their audience are.
When you have a strategy, you’ll know the goals you’re hoping to achieve. If you’re after a direct response, then content probably isn’t the best choice, but for creating awareness and influence, then it is.
But it only works when you put it in the places you’ll find your customers. When you listen to them, you’ll learn what their concerns are and then be able to answer and resolve them with content.
Using KPIs will then prove that what you’re doing is working. For spreading brand awareness, you need to measure impressions, clicks and post shares, whereas, for engagement, you’ll want to look at likes, comments, time on page, and scroll depth.
You can find out more about Melanie Deziel and what she does with native advertising by visiting her website www.mdeziel.com.
She also runs a bi-weekly email newsletter called The Overlap League for those people who find themselves overlapping between advertising and editorial content. Sign up in order to stay up to date with the latest news, jobs, events, and resources which will be helpful on your content creation journey.