We used to be able to position ourselves above the fray. We’re objective, we’d say. We tell the story the way it really is. PR people may spin the news, but we tell it straight.
All of that’s true. And all of that’s valid. But it’s no longer the whole story.
Truth is, reporters and editors have to shoulder a share of the marketing effort these days.
Don’t worry, journalist friends. You can still tell the truth and be objective. You can still be above the fray. But it’s not enough just to tell the story; you also have to help people find it.
There’s precedent for this.
Actually, there’s always been some degree to which this was true. Headline writers, after all, have always been charged with getting the reader’s attention, writing a headline interesting and intriguing enough to get someone to take the time to start reading the story. And what do you think a lead is, if not a method of dangling just enough of the story in front of the reader to convince him or her it’s worth reading more?
So this isn’t an absolutely earth-shaking change. And yet, it is a change.
Time to change your thinking
Most people don’t read your story anymore just because you write for a publication or website (OK, let’s say it: a brand) they trust; they read your story because they found it through Google, or someone shared it with them on social media, or because it was linked from an email they received.
So reporters and writers who don’t care about search engine optimization, or Twitter or Pinterest or Facebook marketing, or best practices in writing email newsletters, are just giving up readers to someone else. Some people will read your stories because they know and respect you or the publisher that employs you; but many more will miss what you wrote unless they see it in Google, social media or some other “marketing” channel.
So if you want people to read your stories – and I know you want people to read your stories (!) – then learn the basics of search engine optimization, and get comfortable with social media. What you’ll find out is that it’s not the dark side. Search engines don’t want you to write in a way that people will find unnatural; search engines want to think like people, so people remain your #1 audience. And if you can write a headline that’s easily sharable (and interesting) on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll start to see more people sharing – and reading – your articles.
The end result of all this is simply that all of the great reporting and writing that you’re doing gets seen by more people. The good that you’re doing by telling a story is multiplied.
How is this a bad thing?