Content is one of the most valuable tools for marketers. Since Ben Franklin published Poor Richard's Almanack in 1732, quality content has served as a powerful tool to attract customers and form deeper relationships with them. But despite its longevity and proven value, content marketing continues to be a challenge for marketers.

Creating content that resonates with target audiences tops the list of content marketers' most challenging tasks. And, among all marketers, content production ranks high on their list of challenges, second only to having enough time. For those tasked with content creation, top concerns are about creating "the right content" and the difficulty of writing at all--from figuring out interesting subjects to differentiation and effectively articulating value.

Well, here's a solution: Hire a journalist. While there is a slew of journalistic specialties--from subject matter expertise to specific format skills--there are some characteristics all journalists share that make them an ideal partner for content creation. All journalists start from a place of understanding audiences and developing story ideas that will resonate with them. Whether they are producing text, video, or multiplatform content, journalists are storytellers who are adept at delivering on a deadline.

And let's face it, there are plenty of journalists out there looking for jobs right now. Hardly a week goes by without reports of layoffs by media organizations. And while most of these writers plan to continue their journalistic careers, many are in need of short- or long-term jobs. (And a terrific content marketing job could lead to a new career path altogether!)

Here are three ways a journalist will be helpful to your content marketing:

  1. Understanding the target audience and their problems: The Content Marketing Institute emphasizes that good online content must be valuable, relevant, and consistent--for your audience. Certainly, marketers are tuned into audiences. However, it can be easy for marketers to become so focused on their organization's goals and messaging that they fail to approach content from an audience-centric perspective. Any experienced journalist starts with audience understanding. Thus, they will be able to help you tune your content approach to be all about the audience's needs, rather than your organizations' objectives. This will help you create content that they will not only consume and appreciate, but actually seek out. Yep, if you make content that they need, audiences will come to you.  
  2. Developing an effective content strategy: You might have thought "oh, I could hire a freelance writer" but the fact is that many content marketers struggle to formulate a content strategy, which is essential for the success of any initiative. Many journalists, particularly those with editorial backgrounds, are well-versed at building out an editorial (content) calendar. They know how to develop meaningful storylines, evaluate distribution platforms, and create a realistic plan for producing this content on a regular schedule.
  3. Creating quality content on a schedule: Needless to say, this is a journalist's wheelhouse. And even for marketers who are good writers or have the budget or acumen to create video, making content is not their day job. And let's not forget about the vast number of businesses that don't have the internal capacity or staff with the skill set to create content at all, much less quality content that audiences want to read, watch, or listen to on a regular schedule. Your average journalist creates content all day, every day. They will be fast, efficient, and effective. Why labor to create something that is good enough when you can hire a pro to tell terrific stories that will engage audiences? That's what journalists do.

So now, go out and find yourself a journalist to help take your content marketing to the next level. As you write want ads, specifically state that you are in the market for a skilled journalist. Post jobs where they'll be looking, rather than in traditional marketing channels. Be clear about whether you are looking for ghost writing or want someone to create content under their own byline. Describe how their acumen will help you achieve your clearly-articulated goals and how these will be measured for success.

Be sure to include the formats you are looking for (written, audio, video, multi-platform) and any subject matter knowledge you'd prefer. (Though keep in mind that many journalists are generalists and can quickly adapt to subject matter needs.) You might be surprised at how affordable journalists can be, particularly in B2B, but be up front and fair in your contract negotiations. A great many journalists (especially freelancers) have had a rough time getting paid fairly and in a timely fashion. Your openness and enthusiasm about bringing a journalist in to round out your content strategy, along with clear objectives and a steady paycheck, could garner you your best partner yet.

If you are struggling with your content marketing strategy or with developing and delivering content that will attract and satisfy your customers, I have three words for you: Hire a journalist. Make this the year that content isn't the most difficult part of your marketing strategy. Instead, make this the year that your content marketing strategy takes your business to the next level.