Flip on any TV news, and you’re more likely to think about what you’re seeing rather than how it was created. That half-hour show took hours to come together, and it takes even more work to make it look effortless.
I’m a former news producer now working in marketing and advertising. I left behind a third-shift schedule, 12-hour days and midnight lunch hours, but I took with me valuable writing skills and a renewed appreciation for the sun.
News and marketing are two similar industries. News producers and reporters target a specific audience, just like a marketing agency. Strong writing and creativity make both products shine, and both can change the world.
They are also both hilarious when they go wrong:
Many news writing principles apply to marketing, such as turning jargon into well-written and understandable content for clients. I think about these ideas now as a communication specialist at Candeo Creative.
Read these six tips to energize your own writing.
1. Know your audience.
A producer thinks about his or her audience when deciding the order of the stories in the newscast. If you’re trying to keep women aged 25-40 with kids from changing the channel, you’re going to air a story about school closings first. If you’re a travel agency targeting empty nesters, you would showcase great deals on adults-only resorts.
2. Get to the point quickly.
Most news stories are 30 seconds long. You have to write clearly and concisely to tell a story in a limited amount of time. Otherwise, the audience will change the channel and look for a different source of information. Your advertisements should do the same. No one wants to read through 10 pages to find your phone number.
3. Focus on the most interesting aspect of your company, product or service.
“If it bleeds, it leads” is a quote synonymous with journalism, and it’s true. Death and disaster are compelling and keep people around, which boosts ratings. “A dad rescues his family from their burning Oshkosh home” grabs your attention much faster than “No one is hurt after a dryer fire in Oshkosh.”
Don’t go destroying anything, but do tell your customers what’s captivating about your products or services. Wouldn’t you rather buy a cup of handcrafted, freshly brewed Arabica coffee than one from McDonald’s?
Newsflash: It’s the same thing, but consumers are most likely to buy into creative messaging.
4. Don’t forget the backstory.
Continuing coverage always includes a line explaining what started the event. You don’t know how closely the viewer has been following the story since it started, so it needs to make sense to someone who only has a vague idea of what’s happening. If your target audience doesn’t know what you do, how are you going to convince them they need your service?
5. Use journalism’s 5Ws and 1H.
What is your product or service? Who needs it? Where are you located? When are you open? Why do your customers need it? How will it benefit them?
6. Remember the “so what.”
“Insurance provider Aetna acquired rival company Humana in a multi-billion-dollar merger.” So what? Why does an audience in Northeast Wisconsin care? If they use Humana insurance, the merger could increase their monthly premiums. Humana is also the largest employer in the greater Green Bay area, so the merger poses a threat of job cuts.
You run a car repair shop. So what? Well, when someone needs an oil change, you guarantee you’ll have it done in a half hour. Then customers don’t have to miss any time from work or find someone to pick up their kids after school. You save them time and a logistical headache. That’s why they should care.
Finally, most producers try to end each segment with a kicker – a lighthearted story to leave the audience feeling good before the commercial break. Never underestimate the power of humor to deliver a message. People are still quoting this commercial 16 years after it first aired:
My kicker for you:
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