How Thinking Like a Journalist Makes You a Better Marketer
Think about a great news story you’ve read.
Got it? Now, think about this — as you remember the details of the story, what are you feeling right now?
That news story in your mind — was it a list of facts? Some bullet points answering the “five W’s”? Probably not. Whatever journalism piece you’re thinking of, I bet you don’t remember the news story as much as how the story made you feel.
Good marketing is also about making people feel something. We believe all marketers should hone their storytelling skills by learning to think like a journalist. Here’s why and how you can do it.
MAKE YOUR AUDIENCE FEEL
When I was in high school, I couldn’t wait to grab the weekly newspaper from the school library each Wednesday morning. I’d curl up in a cozy chair, kick off my shoes, and open up to the sports section.
I was a member of the basketball team, and our small town has a fantastic local journalist whose writing would always bring me back to the previous Friday night — the sound of the pep band, the smell of popcorn, the embarrassment of seeing my mom do “the wave” in the stands (😂) — and, more than anything, what I felt during the game.
I don’t remember specific stats, minutes, or even season records. But I do remember what it felt like to have a high scoring game against my previous school while their boys in the stands chanted a mean nickname at me, and I remember crying with my teammates in the locker room after a hard loss — embracing even the one girl I never got along with.
Week after week, our local journalist brought those feelings back to life. I’d read about the game and have goosebumps on my arms and tears in my eyes because it was real again.That newspaper documented the narrative of my high school athletic experience, capturing not just the facts, but also the emotions and raw experiences.
Okay, cool story, Jaden. But what does that have to do with marketing?
Here’s the connection. As a marketer — just like as a good journalist — you need to make your audience feel. That’s the difference between telling and showing your audience. They should consume your information and then draw a conclusion on their own based on what you made them feel, thanks to your mad storytelling skills.
Just like how you should be talking about benefits instead of features, you need to connect with your buyer persona by putting their needs first.
So, are you ready to think like a journalist? Here’s a handy tool to help you do that.
HOW TO TELL THE T-R-U-T-H IN MARKETING
Your audience’s needs may not be the same as what you want to give them. As you seek to show — not tell — your audience why you are worthy of their attention, circle back to this TRUTH acronym to guide you in your content creation.
T – TEACHABLE CONTENT
One of the most important aspects of inbound marketing is teaching your audience, not just telling them about your current lease offers (ahem, auto dealers). You can do this effectively using evergreen content (AKA content that remains relevant as time goes on).
Here are some examples of educational content:
- DIYs and how-tos: For example, “How to Change Your Car Oil” or “How to Check Your Tire Pressure”
- Deep dives: A three-part series on a new vehicle model
- Profiles and features: A profile on a salesperson, highlighting some of their most frequently asked questions from customers
R – REPUTABLE SOURCES
Just like in journalism, you should cite reputable sources in your marketing.
When it comes to auto content, your dealership is the expert, but what other sources can you include as well? Consider citing industry influencers by finding someone your audience already knows, likes, and trusts.
Or, what if you cited a rival dealership’s blog post in your own? While that may sound crazy, it would help build trust with potential customers and show that you’re not afraid to acknowledge the competition. And, after all, those leads are already on your website.
U – UNIQUE ANGLE
It’s time to raise the standard for what qualifies as unique content.
We understand that publishing one-of-a-kind content is hard. You really need to sell vehicles, and so many dealerships grasp onto their monthly lease offers like they’re the biggest news in the world. Many of our clients have a difficult time letting us write something unique that tells a story about their brand.
How can you tell the same story that other dealerships are telling, but with a different approach? Here are some considerations:
- Is yours the first or only dealership to offer a particular service?
- Is your dealership the best, longest, oldest, tallest, or any other -est?
- What’s something your brand or employee has done that is unusual or inspiring?
T – TENSION
What’s at stake if someone doesn’t buy a four-wheel-drive vehicle? What will happen if they ignore recall notices? What possible maintenance problems will they have with this certain truck model?
Listen — if people have questions, it means they care about the answer.
Sometimes, those are hard questions, and they might not always shine the brightest light on your brand. But wouldn’t you rather be the one to answer those question before someone else does?
Don’t be afraid to talk about risks, struggles, debates, and other opinions.
If your dealership claims to care more about customers than sales, then stop bullshitting. Stop ignoring the common maintenance problems that potential customers may encounter, and instead strive to honestly educate them ahead of time so they trust you in the future. Stop pretending your brand is perfect, and instead do an honest comparison of your SUVs with another brand’s. Do you want to actually help your audience? Then do it, and stop just pretending you are.
*Jaden steps down from soapbox.*
H – HUMAN CONNECTION
People don’t relate to cars. They relate to other people.
You already know that. That’s why you hire salespeople who create great customer experiences on the lot. That’s why you care about the reviews on your Facebook page and why a negative review is a really big deal.
You may work in the automotive industry, but you are not a car. You are not a dealership. You are not something to be sold. You are a real, live human being who blows your nose and has insecurities and maybe a cute laugh.
By utilizing this TRUTH acronym, you have an opportunity to show that human aspect of your dealership — something that can really make you stand out from the rest.
ADVICE FROM AN ALMOST JOURNALIST
My weekly newspaper-reading ritual is what inspired 18-year-old me to go to school for journalism. And while I certainly didn’t plan to end up in marketing (much like five of my coworkers, who also have journalism roots), my background in news reporting certainly benefits my marketing skills.
So, here’s my advice: start thinking less like a salesperson and more like a journalist to create better brand stories.
If you’ve hired an agency to do your dealership’s digital marketing, I’m begging you to listen to their content ideas that might seem out of the box.Let them try new things.
And, if you don’t have an agency and aren’t sure you have the time or energy to think like a journalist, we can help you. Request a free digital audit to see if we’d be a good fit. That way, we’ll be the journalists/marketers, and you can get back to selling cars.