4 Content Hacks from a Former News Journalist

Account Director/Senior Content Director
Published 2/15/17
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As a former news reporter who once worked in a high-stress, fast-paced, you-better-not-get-scooped environment, I sometimes laugh (just a little) at the deadlines I face as a travel content director these days. “We need a story on the best five best craft breweries in the state,” a client might say, “and we need it within the next month!”

Are you kidding me with this? I used to research, report and write multiple stories every day – sometimes in as little as 15 minutes, just to make sure we made the next press run and “got the story” before anyone else.

And while the constant buzz of that newsroom seems worlds away now, some of the basic lessons journalism taught me still very much apply in the world of travel marketing. So when your own content needs seem overwhelming, remember these four key takeaways from the world of “old school” journalism that still resonate today.

1. Hustle to Get the Story

You may not fear competition in your own area to tell your stories because, well, they’re yours. (Why would some other destination want to talk about great things to do in your town?) But don’t forget, they are also out there trying to say the same great things about themselves. I’m not saying rush just to get quantity over quality. But when you identify a content need, jump on completing it like you’re afraid someone else will “get the story” before you.

2. You’re Not in This Alone

Any great story you read may only list one byline, but there were countless others who contributed to its success. Fellow reporters who shared information, sources who provided key facts, editors who polished the copy and designers who presented it in a visually pleasing way. Same goes with content marketing. Rely on your staff, industry partners and other key stakeholders to help identify content needs, feed you ideas and information and even provide their own content you can repurpose for your needs. It takes a village. Luckily, you have one that shares your same goals.

3. Strong Content Takes Time

Every journalist will tell you that the time put into publishing a good story goes far beyond the mere 20 minutes it takes to type up its words. Research, reporting, note taking and reviewing – and re-reviewing multiple times, in most cases – all have to happen first. (It’s easy to think the time needed for research and review is “wasted,” but no good content will result without it.) When you create a content plan for your destination, be sure to build in that time. Conservatively estimate the time and resources needed to create each piece, so you’re not setting yourself up for failure right from the start.

4. Adapt or Die

No one knows this better than modern-day newspaper journalists, who have seen their numbers in the U.S. decline from 55,000 some 10 years ago to just under 33,000 last year. The world is changing, and traditional news operations that don’t evolve with it are falling by the wayside. The only newspapers thriving are the ones embracing the digital age; DMOs must do the same. Your print brochures and visitor guides are still critical, but so are your website, social media channels and other digital content efforts. Be sure your ongoing content plan includes a strategy for securing video and other assets you can promote digitally.