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7 Things I learnt at the London School of Journalism

22 May 2013 BY

I recently took a journalism course at the internationally-renowned London School of Journalism, where I learnt how old-school content marketers get shit done. They wouldn’t call themselves content marketers, they’d call themselves ‘journalists’, but the tactics they use to create great content, and get it published, are incredibly powerful for us digital degenerates, especially as content marketing becomes increasingly competitive. Here I give you six weeks’ worth of studying, condensed into a five minute read. Ready to go back to school?

Produce better content and quickly get it published

 

1. You should always consider who you are writing for

People read for a number of different reasons, but all readers fall into one of two categories: The ones that want entertainment – these are generally readers that scour Pinterest for culturally cool content, only to end up watching videos of kittens and epic fails. Then there are the ones that want to learn. They want to learn how to write great content (is that you?) or make their muscles bigger without moving from their chair (I hope that’s not you).

Action: Are you producing content to educate, or entertain? It sounds obvious, but it really is something you need to be clear on before you start writing. Make sure you aren’t pitching “entertainment” content to sites that usually only publish “educational” content. And vice versa.

2. You need to prove you’re an expert

It’s incredible how many spammy emails I get from companies that want to guest post on my travel blog. They tell me that they want to write about the ‘best things to do in Spain’, even though they are based in Manchester. What the hell do they know about Spain? Why would I want to publish their content? Perhaps if they pitched an article about their favourite Manchester lunchtime eats I would have been interested – after all, they live and work in Manchester, surely they’re the experts.

Action: If you’re pitching content to websites, be clear about why you are the expert on the topic you are suggesting. Perhaps you’ve done some serious research, perhaps you were at an exclusive event or are the first to break the ‘big news’ on an exciting story. Notice how I started this post – the first thing I did was tell you why I am the expert on what I’m talking about (because I just studied at the renowned LSJ). Remember: Why you? What makes you the expert?

3. You need to prove that it’s the perfect moment to publish your content

Like ambition and everything else in life, timing is fucking critical. You may have produced a beautiful video, or written a research paper that shows exactly how to shoot straight to the top of Google, but if you don’t pitch it to the right person, at the right time, you can forget it. For example, a blog post which shows how to future proof your website’s SEO will be far more attractive on the day that Google release their next Panda update, than it would be right now. It’s simple supply and demand kinda stuff.

Action: Don’t just pitch your idea and hope for the best. Pitch it and attach it to something that’s happening at the time. What is your ‘hook’? Travel sites were far more interested in content about London leading up to, and during the Olympics, than they are right now. I ‘hooked’ this post on to the current problem with increased competition in the world of content marketing. Why is now the perfect moment to publish your content?

4. You must stand out

As soon as I see “Guest post application” in an email’s subject box, I assume it’s going to be just another crappy spam email. Most people will assume the worst, without even looking at your amazing piece of content.

Action: As well as making sure that your content is truly outstanding, you also need to be different enough to make it clear that you are not like those other idiots. Make sure you have nothing in common with them, be unique, or at least different.

5. You need to pitch to the right person

This one’s simple. It doesn’t matter if you have an exclusive, life-changing piece of content to offer someone, if you pitch it to the wrong person then it ain’t getting published.

Action: Do your research. Don’t pitch until you are certain you’re pitching to the right person. Make it clear that you have done your research and that you know you are pitching to the right person. If you wanted an example of how to stand out (see point 4), this is one.

6. You need to be a hustler

My teacher was a well-known journalist. His biggest tip for getting content published, was to “work on your hustle”. If you don’t ask, you don’t get – you’ve got to get in there and hustle; talk to people and make a racket.

Action: Be systematic. Decide on a target of how many people you want to pitch your ideas/content to, and do it. There’s nothing technical about this; it’s just about being tenacious. .

7. You need to be concise

Remember point 1? You have to tailor your content so that it satisfies the readers you want to attract. I learnt a million other things at the London School of Journalism, but it wouldn’t be of much use to the readers here on State of Search. I’m being concise, I’m cutting it out and keeping it relevant.

Action: Don’t fall in love with your own words and ideas. You are not writing for yourself, you’re writing for your target audience.

Have you studied a course that helped with your online marketing efforts? I’m all about lateral thinking and would love to hear your thoughts!

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AUTHORED BY:
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Ben Holbrook is Head of Content at Verve Search and has a particular interest in content marketing and developing sustainable link development strategies.

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