The emergence of technology in journalism has not only led to advancements in how quickly and thoroughly news is reported but also in how news is presented. No matter the current trends that drive news coverage – be it print, digital, or televised – there is one that is now so engrained in traditional journalism that no one even notices: marketing content as a news story.
Before you groan or bemoan the death of traditional journalism you should understand that marketing and journalism have always gone hand-in-hand. For centuries, the former supported the latter, using advertisements and op-eds as a means to fund publishing and staff costs.
However, marketing is moving further away from Sunday ads and sidebars, yet it isn’t hiding either. It’s beneath many headlines and bylines, becoming a new form of journalism that showcases products and services in a more serviceable and humanistic light.
It’s no longer just about selling the latest wares and most basic necessities. Jeff Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post wasn’t about boosting Amazon’s sales; it was an extension of the idea that content marketing is everywhere and evolving.
Marketing content and journalism are continuing to mix. Some will dare to keep them separate, yet there is much marketing content has learned from journalism that has helped to shape its current trajectory. Here are a few cardinal rules of journalism that have seeped into the content marketing gospel.
Seek the Truth
Though many believe marketing to be wool over the eyes, the days of snake oil salesmen trying to pull one over on the uninitiated through traditional advertisements or full page pieces is withering. Some of the best content marketers are taking customers inside of their products and services while showcasing the humanistic side of their brands. The appeal is to generate brand loyalty but more so, to show that corporations have caring, insightful, living, breathing people at the helms.
But what is brand loyalty without trust, and the best way to earn trust is by being truthful, right? Consumers have become increasingly cynical and offended by lies and sensationalism. It may move tabloids off the shelf and make cable news more fun to watch, but it doesn’t get people to connect with marketing content in a manner that creates a bond. Don’t be afraid to dig deep, expose some hard truths (good and bad), and show people how you plan to fulfill promises – but don’t veil your efforts with clickbait that underwhelms.
A lengthy feature or expose can help propel a story, but when it comes to content, what matters is timeliness.
The splash Oreo made in 2013 during the Super Bowl blackout by being on top of a breaking story showcased a trust in producers to create content tied to real-time events. Though it’s likely you won’t find yourself in a position to connect your company to Too Many Cooks, opportunities arise to create interesting and engaging content when your marketing team is allowed to use emerging trends and happening pop culture to find a new audience.
Sorry, but Macarena tie-ins and Seinfeld jokes date your content. They are quips of small town newspapers and your timely content needs to compete with New York Times headlines and Buzzfeed lists.
Formatting may be the most important takeaway for the basic fact that many journalists and publications spend countless man hours poring over reader habits, website hotspots, and design. To appeal to an increasingly fickle audience, publications and newscasts are investing in graphics and mixed media to draw new audiences and reinvent how a story is told.
The same is true of content. It’s not just about words (contrary to this article). Infographics, polls, and data are better displayed as graphics, rather than written and dissected in lengthy articles. More so, they serve to bolster the message of data-centric written content.
But it’s also about layouts and colors. Most people prefer to see color instead of reading a black and white page of text. Content should pop off the screen. Keywords and big ideas need to stand out. Newspapers and magazines have buttered their bread for decades with catchy, bold headlines. Even going as far as adding a small orange box to a drab cover can evoke a different feeling for the material on the page.
As marketing content continues to push journalism to take new risks and reframe their content, the basic tenants of journalism are best served in the emerging synergetic relationship between the two.