What does it mean, to think like a journalist?
Is it constantly being alert and interested? Always curious and hungry for knowledge?
Well, yes and no.
Journalists can be all of those things. But they are also trained writers with a core set of skills that can transfer into content writing, and even copywriting.
This is why thinking (and writing) like a journalist can give your work a boost.
Spot a good angle
In the world of journalism, a good angle is something that is new and interesting, or provides a unique perspective. It has to be newsworthy.
For example, while the launch of a new product might be an exciting development for a company, it’s not exactly newsworthy unless it’s a ground-breaking device. But a story about how that product has helped a customer (as in a case study) is worth pursuing.
Basically, spotting a good angle comes down to common sense. So before making a start on the first draft, seriously consider if the angle will be interesting to others.
Knowing how to conduct solid research will massively improve your work. Every time. Guaranteed.
Not only will you discover more about the topic, but you will start to piece together a story in your mind.
The research process will also bring up questions that need to be answered, possibly sparking a new and more interesting direction.
Here’s a four-step approach to journo-inspired research.
- Consult a range of sources, such as mainstream and industry media, podcasts and independent reports.
- Evaluate the source and the material.
- Is it credible? Is it respected? What is their political bias? Are the statistics still valid today?
- Organise the research.
- What is most important? Which elements can be used as a source?
- Rely on facts and evidence, not emotions.
Bonus tip: be observant when researching. If something piques your interest, then it could be worth following the breadcrumbs.
Writers, particularly copywriters, need to be able to write about a topic persuasively.
But for that there has to be a certain level of understanding, and one of the best ways to understand something is to ask questions.
To give you a better idea, imagine an eCommerce marketplace client wants to hire you to write a series of blog articles. A great approach is to interview the individual stockists about their business/process/background to add a human interest angle to the content.
This works because the people behind a brand usually have inspiring stories to tell. And stories are more likely to resonate with consumers than simply writing about products.
Want to get better results from an interview? Then try these 5 steps.
- Always do your research.
- Prepare questions in advance, but don’t be afraid to ask more as they come up.
- Use open-ended questions.
- Listen carefully.
- Take notes.
Ok, so you’ve spotted the angle, conducted the research and interviewed a few experts. Now it’s time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
A useful technique to consider is the inverted pyramid approach – especially if writing a blog, article or marketing material.
The inverted pyramid refers to the structure of a story where the most important information is at the top – the who, what, where, when and how. Once the structure is in place, further details and background information can then be added to provide more context.
The idea behind the technique is to present the story in a descending order of importance, so readers can quickly decide whether they want to read the article or not.
You can even go further by limiting every paragraph to one main point or idea. This allows readers to scan and pick out content that interests them without giving up completely halfway through.
Still not convinced?
And if nothing else, thinking like a journalist helps when being briefed by a client. Because, as any seasoned writer will know, the right questions and answers can make all the difference to the success of a project.
So get ready to embrace your inner journalist to truly transform your writing.
First published on hayleymaguire.com.