6 Skills that make journalists effective copywriters.
When I decided to make the switch from the bustling newsroom to the world of freelance copywriting I questioned if I had the skills to do it. After all journalism and copywriting are two different disciplines. A journalist investigates and writes news and more in-depth features. A copywriter writes to persuade a reader to take an action — whether that’s to click, make a sale, or book an appointment. But as I learnt more about the disciplines of copy and content writing I found many of my journalism skills were a good fit. And they’ve shaped the copywriting service I offer to my clients.
What skills can a journalist bring to copywriting?
Every news story or feature starts off with research. At the heart of every story is the interview. By asking lots of questions a journalist to tell the story will find the right angle to make the story interesting or relevant, and get insightful quotes, and provide the face to the story. I ask my clients lots of questions to ensure I get the information needed to write the content that will get them results.
Journalists also break and back up stories by sifting through figures, reading annual reports, researching using search engines and social media, and much more. This skill can be put to good use in copywriting to get to know your business and industry, your competitors, and to understand your customers and their motivation.
Journalists need to be able to quickly gain knowledge on topics which are new to them and turn complex subjects and jargon into writing which is easy for the reader to understand. This skill gives them an edge in producing copywriting which is engaging throughout.
Throughout time humans have been captivated by stories, and storytelling is a powerful tool to capture your customer’s interest, engage them and help them build a connection with your brand.
At the heart of journalism is the ability to write a good story which hooks the reader. This is a skill a journalist turned copywriter will put to good use to make your content stand out.
To write a strong news story a journalist will pick the strongest angle, use powerful quotes, include facts and statistics, and feature human stories as case studies. They will then structure the story in a way which captures the reader’s attention and encourages them to continue reading the story.
When it comes to producing your content, a journalist turned copywriter can put their storytelling skills to good use. Case studies, social media posts, website content, press releases, advertorials, blog posts, direct sales letters, email marketing, and newsletters are all forms of copywriting where storytelling can be effective.
During my newsroom days I loved the rush of meeting a deadline. Among the ones I looked forward to most were A-level and GCSE results days. These days took organisation to ensure I had all the information I needed for our 9am deadline. Schools and press officers were prepped and primed for the event, and venues for photographs of happy students were set up before the summer holidays.
Deadlines are a daily pressure for journalists. Organisation, time management, and quick-thinking, and even faster typing are key to meeting them. And these skills are vital when it comes to meeting the deadline of a copywriting project. If you have a tight deadline to meet a journalist turned copywriter will be able to work quickly to meet it.
Every piece of work a journalist produces is pored over by editors. They criticise, ask questions, and expect re-writes to be done quickly. So, when you ask your copywriter to make changes to your copy, you can feel safe in the knowledge that after years of editors’ comments they won’t take it personally, and they will act on it. And I know that the changes you need will mean you get the copy you want.
5. Keeping It Short and Simple
KISS (Keep it Short and Simple or Keep it Short and Sweet) is one of the many acronyms in the world of marketing. The principle is that short and easy to read copy is easier to read and more likely to grab and hold the reader’s attention. Writing short and simple copy is something journalists learn in training. They use short sentences, simple words, and structure the story, so the reader finds it easy to read and doesn’t lose interest. Time and space are also reasons journalists need to learn how to keep reports short without losing impact. A reporter will learn how to edit their work to fill a space on a page or a few minutes of airtime, and still tell the story.
Long words, jargon, lengthy sentences, and copy that doesn’t get to the point quickly will bore your reader. And the same principle applies to copywriting. By keeping it short and simple your sales copy will capture and hold the reader’s attention, which gives you a better chance of persuading them to take an action. A journalist turned copywriter has lots of experience in how to Keep it Short and Sweet.
News stories must be well-balanced, objective, and backed up by facts. By producing honest copy and accurate copy with statistics and case studies, you will create trust with your reader. That trust means your copy is more likely to convert.
Articles also need to be free from errors grammatical and spelling errors, names and numbers need to be correct. This means a journalist spends time proof reading and double-checking what they have written. And they will do the same for your copy.
If you think a copywriter with a background in journalism could be a good fit for you drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about the world of writing checkout my Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.