How to think like a journalist — and not just broadcast about your brilliance

It used to be that only two kinds of people needed to think like a journalist.

They were:

  1. Journalists; and
  2. People who wanted to be written about by journalists.

Now, in the online world, where millions of words are spewed out every day via countless social media channels, it seems to me that anyone who creates content needs to take a journalist’s approach.

Almost everybody in business has social media accounts to run, websites to populate and blogs to publish.

If you’re using those channels to broadcast a message about how wonderful you are, then you’re likely to be ignored.

If you’re providing something useful, entertaining or downright surprising, you’ll stand a chance.

When I share my advice here on LinkedIn, bear in mind that a lot of what I say about press releases and news stories would apply equally to blog posts, website content, B2B marketing materials … or just about any occasion when a blank space is in need of words.

Whether you’re sending a press release or writing an article for your website, it’s easy to fall into the trap that has caught many of us out over the years: Broadcasting about our brilliance.

You might indeed be proud and delighted to be the best law firm, IT consultancy or distributor of fast-moving consumer goods anywhere around. But if you use all the channels at your disposal to tell people so, they will tend to shrug.

Would anyone expect you to say you weren’t the best and didn’t offer amazing value and expertise?

(I suppose if you said you were the second best in your field — as Avis did in its1960s advertisingthen you might catch people’s attention.)

What will impress people much more is having some valuable and interesting news to share. That means, as I said in an earlier article, finding your “crikey”. You need to spend some time thinking about the compelling stories you have to share.

Some ways to find your compelling story

1. Surprise people.

With certain exceptions, people don’t want to read something that is exactly like something they’ve read before, only with different names. Surprise them with your unique insights, your quotable facts and figures, the story of what you do that nobody else does.

2. Inform people.

Your organisation probably has all sorts of useful insights, data and opinions that would interest people. You know things about your industry that will affect other people, or at least engage their interest. Don’t keep that confidential between you and your customers. Share it freely and demonstrate your expertise.

3. Get your insights out quickly.

You can put out your insights on some breaking news or a trending topic, while less nimble organisations are still getting their content signed off by half a dozen people — or not responding at all. This is one area where a savvy small business can often have the edge over a big and hierarchical one.

4. Think about people.

If you think you have some news to share, ask yourself “Who does this affect … apart form me?” If the answer is “lots of people”, you might be onto something. Now think about them when you’re communicating it. If the answer is “not many people, really”, you may need to think harder about how to tell the story — or whether it’s the right news to be sharing.

5. Tell a human story.

“Person starts business” is not necessarily an interesting story, admirable as that achievement is. But what about the tale of all the blood, sweat and tears that person invested in the business because they believed in it — and because they thought they could get right something that everyone else was getting wrong? Now that’s a story. And I’ve seen tales like that attract many thousands of readers.

You may know you’re brilliant. But when it comes to convincing other people of that, it’s a case of “Show, don’t tell”.

Originally published at



Business editor for the Daily Echo Bournemouth, the Southern Daily Echo and the Dorset Echo.

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Darren Slade

Business editor for the Daily Echo Bournemouth, the Southern Daily Echo and the Dorset Echo.