Is a journalist really the best person to tell your story?

Candice O'Sullivan
December 18, 2013

Content marketing

The term storytelling has become synonymous with content marketing. The problem with this association is that it perpetuates the myth that to develop good content, all you need to do is tell a nice story.

While that’s certainly part of it – the ability to attract and engage readers is key to the success of any content marketing campaign – you also need to make sure you’re telling the right story. The right story is not only memorable but also moves the audience (i.e. the buyer) further down the sales funnel.

When organisations focus on the former and ignore the latter, they naturally gravitate to the cultural stereotype they most closely associate with the ability to ‘write good stories’; hence the rise and rise of the ex-journalist in the content era. After all, journalists tell stories every day. Who better to tell your story, right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

You see, I have no doubt that your journalist friend can write you a nice story. And they’ll get all the facts right. But in my book, that’s not enough. A decent story might keep an audience reading – even to the very end – but if that same audience can’t understand their part in the storyline or see any purpose beyond the ending, then your story hasn’t done its job. It’s merely an interesting read. It won’t sell anything.

So what is required to make an interesting read a persuasive one? Put simply, it takes a writer who:

  • Understands your marketing objectives
  • Appreciates your commercial imperatives
  • Takes a strategic approach
  • ‘Gets’ brand
  • ‘Gets’ your brand
  • Knows your target audience, intimately
  • Can empathise with and clearly articulate your audience’s concerns
  • Focuses on the benefits of your offering, not just facts and features.

So, who is this person and where do you find them?

They don’t all go by the same title, but they are typically agency-bred and B2B-focused. This means their writing skills have been honed in a highly commercial marketing environment where the result (ROI) is paramount.

Delivering the right message to the right person in the right way at the right time is their modus operandi.

These are people who truly respect brand and will immerse themselves in your brand as a first step. These are people who spend a great deal of time getting to know you and your audience, because only then will they know how to communicate your offer. These are people who can speak your audience’s language without resorting to buzzwords or jargon. And these are people who don’t care about the byline, because they understand that lead-generating content should be all about you and your audience – not about them.

This approach to writing is at once commercial and humanistic. It’s a rare mix (and a rare breed of writer) so the next time you are looking for a ‘storyteller’, ask yourself what your business really needs: a nice story or the right story.

This post was contributed by Candice O’Sullivan, Director and Head of Strategy at Wellmark. You can find Candice on Google+ at +Candice O’Sullivan or follow her tweets on brand strategy, content marketing and related topics @candicepill.

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