Some of my fellow StoryTellers recently attended the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s event surrounding their annual 40 Under 40 publication, which highlights young local leaders who’ve made an impressive name for themselves, and rather quickly.
Naturally, I asked my colleagues how it was. Who did you meet? What was their story? As a former journalist, I’m always interested in a good story, but one really stood out. It was about one of the founders of the organization, Love Your Melon. (You’ve probably heard of this local winter hat company, or have seen the popular beanies floating around. They’re basically everywhere.)
These budding head-warmers were created by two University of St. Thomas students as part of an entrepreneurial assignment. Rather than breeze through the activity hoping for a passable grade, they set out on a goal to put a hat on every child battling cancer in America. Long story short, the college duo is now responsible for 2.6-million dollars in donations toward pediatric cancer research and more than 90,000 hats for children battling cancer. And their story is far from over. This second-hand story presented to me by my colleague made me want to go on a beanie shopping spree, and it’s spring.
Where am I going with this? Love Your Melon has a great story. One compelling enough to share at our office the next morning. It’s a story you’d hear on the news, in the paper, on Facebook – essentially journalistic gold. Why is that? It’s because it’s a selfless, feel-good, human-interest story sure to challenge even the Grinch to hold back a smile. Love Your Melon’s story reached my ears, got me emotionally invested and inspired me to become a customer. Why can’t your business do the same?
Start thinking like a journalist.
You may not be raising a large sum of money for cancer research, but I challenge you to say your company or organization doesn’t have a story behind it. It’s what you do. It’s what you represent. It’s who you are. Let people in!
It’s time to rethink your marketing strategy and move away from traditional in-your-face tactics and cheap branding efforts because no single add can tell the multi-dimensional story of who you are.
Brand journalism is shaking up traditional views of marketing, because it marries content strategy with journalistic skills, redefining the way companies communicate and get noticed. Discover your inner journalist and start thinking like one.
Where do you start?
Journalists are naturally inquisitive and are ethically responsible for remaining neutral. These are two traits everyone (especially content marketers) should tap into. Reporters are routinely handed assignments they know little (sometimes nothing) about, but given the power of curiosity and a pocket full of good questions, they morph into the expert you’re trusting at the top of the 10 pm news.
It all starts with a desire for knowledge and the determination to get to the root of a story. This can (and should) be applied when producing stories that represent your brand.
Journalists are also experts at breaking down complex information and delivering it through concise, informative and compelling content. After all, their stories have to be short enough to fit into a newscast or newspaper. If your content feels like it’s dragging on, you’ve missed the mark and lost your audience.
Who should tell your story?
A news director I once worked with told me repeatedly that if I only came back with interviews from officials, he wouldn’t run my story. It didn’t take long to understand why. (To clarify, an official is generally the spokesperson for the topic who can supply all of the facts, but often falls flat when it comes to conveying the emotion behind the story.)
Let’s go back to that Love Your Melon example. While a conversation with its founders is fascinating, the story would be elevated to the next level if we had the opportunity to hear from a child who received one of the hats. Because at the end of the day, that what it’s really all about.
Same goes for your business. I’m sure the CEO or industry spokesperson has some solid intel in the back of his/her pocket, but is that really your story? Numbers and boring industry jargon? How about sharing the stories of the lives your business has impacted? Plus, boasting about your business feels disingenuous. Don’t tell them how awesome you are, show them. Journalists do this all of the time when developing characters within their stories, and it’s what keeps us coming back for more.
Keep the stories coming
Think about the last blog you subscribed to or business Facebook page you started following. Did you jump on the bandwagon because they had one decent blog post or one catchy social share? Generally, it’s a collection of alluring content.
This is where content marketers really shine, as they know establishing a name for yourself (especially on Google) will generate more organic traffic. They also know that Google has gotten smarter, so maintaining real-estate at the top of a search engine can be tricky if competitors are producing more content than you are.
It’s important to build a content strategy and stick to it. If you’re concerned with coming up with enough stories to tell about your business, you’re going about it all wrong.
Journalists are asked to tell the same stories all of the time, with the task of making them completely unique. I can’t tell you how many times as a reporter I had to find a new angle to a story I’d been covering for months. (Almost every day?)
This is proof that it CAN be done, you just need to put on your creative hat and explore a new perspective. Every one of those kids receiving hats from Love Your Melon has a unique story to share – as do their parents, siblings, and friends. In our changed marketing environment, marketers need to focus on creating captivating, ongoing journalistic content that will attract and engage their target audience.
To reiterate, brand journalism does not mean marketing without a strategy. Strategy ensures the brand's messaging remains consistent. But it should allow creative freedom within to explore journalistic content. If it doesn’t, I suggest you rethink your strategy – your audience will thank you.