How to uncover and tell brand stories like a journalist

Identifying the news hook and making the best use of your sources are two keys to creating compelling narratives on behalf of a client or your own organization.

What lessons can you learn from a TV journalist?

Darcy Pohland was known for her ability to dig up stories like few other reporters in the Twin Cities television news market.

The late WCCO-TV news veteran dug up stories with relentless resolve and determination. Pohland, who died in 2010, worked her beat and developed reliable and trusted contacts.

Pohland knew how to mine for well-sourced stories and craft that information into the evening newscast’s lead story time and again. Content marketers might emulate her commitment as they strive to uncover and flesh out their own company stories.

What are you known for?

Before you start creating content, identify your client’s or your own signature offering—or what you’d like to be known for.

In the mood for beef? You’ll head to a steakhouse. Hankering for lobster? Off to a seafood place you’ll go.

In the news industry, some networks are known for their respective stances on political issues. MSNBC presents a more liberal perspective, for example, whereas Fox News leans hard to the right. Although your organization is probably not political, it most certainly has a perspective on your industry.

So, what do you want people to know you for?

Learn your ‘beat.’

If you’re going to write about any subject, especially your industry, you have to understand it fully—and that goes beyond skimming a website or a brochure. It takes studying and understanding every aspect of your industry or the industry of your client.

When you know the vital angles, issues, problems and solutions, everything else comes easily. If you don’t know much, become a student and make it your beat. Read trade publications; follow industry leaders on Twitter and LinkedIn; read their posts, articles and books and watch their videos. Make it your obsession.

Differentiate new information from junk.

The phrase, “That’s old news,” refers to information readily available in other places. Every day, content laggards pump out stuff that can be found elsewhere.

Know your beat, so you can lead and report on innovative ideas, products and services. Become a resource for people who are looking for fresh information and news, not junk.

Develop informed sources.

Reporters learn from people who know more than they do: their sources.

Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein worked to verify hunches and pored over public records during the Watergate investigation in the 1970s, but they needed “Deep Throat”—who turned out to be an FBI bigwig—to provide and confirm vital information.

Creating remarkable content doesn’t always mean sharing the stuff swirling inside your head. Some of the best content comes from people who are closer to the action than you. Journalists don’t make the news; they report it.

On the other hand, if you are a “mover and shaker,” share your original thoughts and information to help others.

What’s the news peg?

As you screen story ideas, ask yourself who cares about the topic or information. Who is the audience, and why would they care about your content? In newsroom editorial meetings, reporters and assignment editors are often challenged to present the “news peg” in the story.

Quite often, new bloggers will fall in love with an idea they came up with after learning something—but there’s no clear news hook. They alone care about the story, because it’s new news to them, yet it has little or no value to anyone else.

Here’s the catch.

It’s not easy; creating remarkable content that people will read, share and care about requires work. However, there’s a payoff: Taking a news-styled approach to writing compelling content will distinguish your posts from the “listicle” information that is filling the internet.

A version of this article first appeared on Business 2 Community.

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