As a Senior Content Director at Miles, my work helping destinations tell their compelling stories often puts me in the market for strong freelance writers – a search that usually leads me to former newspaper reporters.
There’s no question the traditional newspaper industry as we know it is struggling, so it’s easy to see why reporters might be looking for extra work. But what is it about a journalist that makes him or her a particularly good storyteller when it comes to travel writing – or any type of content creation, for that matter?
You can attribute that to the same tenants of journalism they follow when reporting the news.
“Long before the advent of search engines, journalists were perfecting the craft of dynamic, interesting and informative content that could capture wide audiences,” the editors at Prose Media wrote in a recent article. “It’s hardly surprising then that as content marketing developed, many people began referring to this dynamic, informative content as ‘branded journalism’.”
Remember the 5 Ws? Don’t bury the lede? Fact-check everything?
When you think about it, many of these same principles apply in travel writing as well. Let’s take a look …
- Remember the 5 Ws: You may remember them from school, but who, what, when, where and why are the first questions rookie reporters are taught to seek answers for when reporting on the news. That same approach applies to any content creation. When telling the stories of your destination, WHO are you trying to reach? WHAT do you want to tell them or have them do? WHY should they visit you and not your competitor?
- Start with a Catchy Headline: We’ve gone from a nation of “readers” to “scanners,” so only content that really grabs someone’s attention is going to be read. That starts with a headline, and a good one will draw folks into your story. Think of it as “click bait,” if you will. Make it clever, meaningful, helpful, actionable, accurate.
- Don’t Bury the Lede: The first paragraph of a newspaper story is called the “lede,” and that nugget of information should convey THE most important news you’re trying to share. It grabs a reader’s attention right away. Travel writers also should focus on the most important message points they need to convey and make sure those come through loudly, clearly and quickly. When Miles creates content for destinations that have unique claims to fame – the birthplace of this or the capital of that – we waste no time making sure readers know that right off the bat.
- Use Quotes to Tell the Story: Readers love hearing people share thoughts and experiences “in their own words,” which also adds credibility to your message. You can say over and over that your destination offers an unmatched culinary experience, but having “real people” share those same views adds weight (and personality!) to your message.
- Accuracy is Everything: Nothing hurts a newspaper’s credibility more than printing a mistake, and nothing damages a destination’s reputation more than marketing, advertising or content that isn’t accurate either. If readers can’t trust your content, how can they trust you’ll show them the good time you’re promising? Carefully proof every story, fact-check every claim, spell-check every word.
- But Don’t Rely on “Just the Facts”: Accuracy is paramount, yes, but a lengthy recitation of facts and figures does little to motivate potential visitors who need inspiration to choose your vacation destination over others they may be considering. Travel writing comes to life through descriptive words and experiential storytelling, so don’t just tell them you have two lakes and four rivers and 100 miles of shoreline. Rather, describe how it will make them FEEL to be floating on one of those peaceful waterways or rafting through ravaging rapids.
- Above All, Get the Story: Journalists are trained to sniff out stories at every opportunity – a lesson marketers should learn as well. There are stories all around you and opportunities to share them every day. Keep telling stories. Day in, day out. Just like the newspaper.