Putting the audience first: A journalist’s approach to content marketing

Brett McGrath

December 16, 2021

Putting the audience first: A journalist’s approach to content marketing

I won't soon forget the moment of getting of the Zoom call with Matthew after meeting him for the first time. He had just started his new role at Uberflip as the Director of Content Marketing and was on a mission to identify opportunities to implement the right kind of change with his work. He didn't just come in and start making recommendations. He spent time with everyone in the business asking questions. Matthew is a former journalist and went into detail about how this makes him a better content marketer in B2B. I asked him to record an episode with me to share more and I've learned a ton from this relationship. Make sure you give him a follow on LinkedIn for more opportunities to learn from him.

Putting the audience first: A journalist’s approach to content marketing

Matthew Desrosiers

Director, Content Marketing at Uberflip

Content marketing is journalism with a different audience.

Hear me out on this.

What is the purpose of journalism?

The American Press Institute answers like this: “Though it may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of news is as a utility to empower the informed. The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.”

Journalists achieve this by building trust, which is essential to their audience accepting the information they’re sharing. They put the audience first, and prioritize relevance through choice of topics, timeliness of delivery, and completeness of information.

Ok... let’s make some substitutions to that definition:

Though it may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of content is as a utility to empower the buyer. The purpose of content marketing is thus to provide buyers with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their jobs, and their organizations.

Hmm, that sounds pretty spot on.

I started my career in journalism, and though I’ve since transitioned into content marketing, I’ve never stopped being a journalist. I take the same approach to content strategy today as I did back then. And I apply the same principles to achieve my goals.

Similar to the trend of 24/7 news, the mistake we make as marketers is thinking we need a constant volume of content to be everywhere, and cover everything that our buyers could possibly be looking for.

The truth is, our buyers have very specific needs. And just like our counterparts in the journalism world, we need to build trust with our buyers so they will let us meet those needs. We do it by putting them first. By being relevant, timely, and complete. We educate them on topics they need to understand, and we provide solutions when they’re looking for help.

If that sounds oversimplified, it is. But in a digital world where more buyers than ever want to self-direct their buying journey, and rely on content to do so, it’s the marketer who puts their audience first that will win, every time.

And so, I’ll share some thoughts on what you can do to move away from volume towards a more meaningful approach to your content.

Understand the volume problem

More content can’t be bad, can it? Well, yes. And that’s because you only have a buyer’s attention for a short period of time. If they come to you looking for help with a problem, but instead have to wade through piles of irrelevant information to find it, you’re going to lose them. It’s also a signal to the buyer that you don’t really know what their problems are, and it erodes trust.

On the other hand, if you capitalize on the buyer’s attention by providing a relevant content experience, you build trust instead, which leads to further engagement and ultimately revenue. But to succeed at that, you need to...

...Know your audience

Don’t rely on a spreadsheet to tell you what your audience cares about. Look at the data, talk to your customers, jump on a call with sales, and really invest the time to get intimately familiar with who your buyers are, and what they need. I promise, not a single one of them is going to say they want to read more stuff.

But if you start reducing volume, it’s going to impact some of your engagement metrics. That’s why it’s important to think about...

...Data as your friend, not your master

How does your marketing team measure success? Is it by how many leads it brought in, or how much revenue it influenced? I’d guess the latter.

Why should content be any different?

Team productivity, measured by volume of content created, is important. Just like awareness metrics are important. They should be factored into your decision making, but they don’t define the success of your content. So, why do we spend so much time being handcuffed to these metrics? 

At the end of the day, your buyer is what matters. Are you meeting their needs and expectations? If you are, you should see that reflected in their progress through the buyer’s journey. Measure your content against that, and let the rest of the data help you make adjustments along the way.

Those are the insights that will help you...

...Kill the classifieds

Newspaper classifieds have changed, big time. That’s because readers stopped looking to newspapers for buy/sell advertising, and went online to sites like Craig’s List. So, newspapers have stopped providing so much space in their publications to classifieds, have shifted to an online model, or killed them altogether.

This is a powerful lesson for us as content marketers. Don’t be married to the past. Just because the content was good last year, doesn’t mean it’s still relevant today. In your bid to be relevant to your audience, have the courage to cut the things that mattered in the past, and focus on the things that matter to them now.

With that mindset, it’s time to...

...Kick down silos

So maybe you’re reading this and thinking to yourself: “Heck yes, I’m going to break out of the volume trap and put my buyers first!” Good for you! But if you’re activating these insights on your own, then you’re operating in a silo.

Content teams can’t do it alone. If your teams rely on your volume to feed their channels, you’re going to get sucked right back in.

That’s why the best thing you can do is to collaborate aggressively with your peers. Kick down every silo you’ve built, or those that have been built by others, and start working together on the buyer’s journey. That’s how you really break out of the volume trap.

Ultimately, you need to remember that...

Buyers are people, too

Let me just end by reminding all of us that our buyers aren’t pipeline targets or aggregated engagement metrics. They’re real people, with real lives and real problems.

If you start thinking about them that way, then the new content marketing definition from the beginning of this article makes a lot of sense.

As marketers, our job is to improve the lives of the people we choose to serve, and we can do that by building the right content that empowers them in their daily professional lives. That’s the power of great content marketing.

Want to read the full eBook? Check it out on the Juice. 🧃


Related Resources