How to think (and write) like a journalist

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 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.
 
Here’s how.

Spot a good angle

In the world of journalism, a good angle is something that is deemed to be 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.
 
Ultimately, it comes down to common sense. But before putting pen to paper, seriously consider if the angle will be interesting to others.

Research

Knowing how to conduct solid research will improve your work by leaps and bounds. 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.
 
1. Consult a range of sources, such as mainstream and industry media, podcasts and independent reports.

2. Evaluate the source and the material.

  • Is it credible? Is it respected? What is their political bias? Are the statistics still valid today?

3. Organise the research.

  • What is most important? Which elements will be used as a source?

4. 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 bread crumbs.

Interview

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 a series of blog articles. An effective approach is to interview the stockists to add a human interest angle to the content.

Why? Because the people behind a brand often have inspiring stories to tell, which are more likely to resonate with consumers than writing about the products they sell.
 
Want to get better results from an interview? Try these five steps.

1. Always do your research.

2. Prepare questions in advance, but don’t be afraid to ask more as they come up.

3. Use open-ended questions.

4. Listen carefully.

5. Take notes.

Write

You’ve spotted the angle, conducted the research and interviewed a few experts. Now it’s time for the writing.
 
For anyone writing blogs, editorials or marketing material, try using the inverted pyramid.
 
This refers to the structure of a story where the most important information is at the top. The who, what, where, when and how.
 
This is followed by supporting details and further background information.
 
The idea 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 then go even 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?

Thinking like a journalist is not just for writing articles — it can work for any type of writing, including website copywriting and tone of voice work.
 
Even if simply being briefed by a client, the right research and questions can make all the difference to the success of a project.
 
So get ready to embrace your inner journalist to truly transform your writing practice.

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