When it comes to ideation, as a creative strategist you have to balance client requests with what you deem compelling content. Coming up with fresh ideas that will both ignite a conversation with your audience and please the client can be a constant struggle, but a great bridge between the two is the level of newsworthiness.
Leveraging trending stories is an easy way for you to capitalize on a current event – and a great way for your promotions team to earn multiple placements quickly – but discovering newsworthiness through methods other than focusing on what’s currently trending will make your content stand out from the rest. Localizing national topics and focusing on a human interest and other relatable angles can increase your campaign’s reach.
Here, we’ll walk you through a list of newsworthy angles and provide tools you can use to create content that extends beyond your target audience.
Impact or Consequence: Does Your Content Answer the “So what?”
Generally, the more people affected by an event or issue, the more newsworthy it is. How strongly does a topic impact people? And how many people does it impact? These are questions with real consequences, and if you can base your answers on potential readers’ reactions, you’re bound to produce something newsworthy.
A great example of this is personal finance. Everyone can easily identify with the topic because everyone has bills to pay – and the more people affected by your idea, the more newsworthy it becomes. But your audience knows they have to pay bills – so what? This is the question you need to answer.
Take a look at this campaign by eBay Deals: “Trading Time” breaks down personal finance into two identifiable parts – salary and a typical workweek. From there, it allows readers to calculate just how long they must work to pay off needs and wants over their lifetimes.
The campaign works for two reasons: First, it takes a fresh approach to the personal finance vertical by revealing what a typical workweek is worth in terms of something more tangible than a paycheck; second, it includes a fully interactive website that allows readers to personalize the story’s impact by calculating their own results based on their current salary.
Proximity: Can You Include Any Regional Ego Bait?
Let’s face it: People love reading about anything that could be a throwdown for their hometown versus topics with less personal connection. Proximity is generally considered geographical – an event that happens in one’s state, for instance. But the rise of digital publishing has expanded the concept of “local”: No longer do you need to target regional publishers – your promotions team can target much larger publications and still pitch the local angle so long as your content includes some sort of map.
Let’s look at the personal finance vertical again. Movoto took this vertical and added a geographical element: It created a map that featured the wealthiest person in each state.
Paired with a headline that demands a click based on ego alone – “your state” – the resulting visual also shows its audience how certain states are doing compared with others around the country. And although proximity usually refers to geographic location, this campaign also tapped into social and cultural familiarities – names like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are easily identified, as are companies like Walmart, where the Waltons earned their fortune.
Conflict or Controversy: Does Your Content Present Competing Data?
We all have a sense of routine and normality, so whenever something out of the ordinary happens, it’s potentially newsworthy. And stories with this type of unexpected hook are what editors are looking for.
One vertical that can easily generate unexpected results is health, and body image in particular always generates reader conversation. A great example of a campaign that capitalized on this was Bulimia.com’s reverse Photoshop of superheroes.
What makes this campaign compelling is that it combines a boring vertical – health – with one that usually earns the most shares – entertainment. Reimagining superheroes with more realistic body types ignites a conversation with its audience about body image and how it continues to be such a sensitive issue for many.
Magnitude: Can You Surprise Your Audience With How Many or How Much?
Similar to regional ego bait, people love superlatives: The first, the best, the most, the largest – these are what people want to know, and including them is an easy way to give your campaign news value.
A great example is SumoCoupon’s net neutrality campaign. This story had an obvious currently trending hook, but in order to make their content stand out, it included a map that showed how many more people began to send emails to the FCC once the comment period opened on May 15, 2014. And to reach an even larger audience, it embraced an entertainment angle: The visual also shows how many more comments were received after John Oliver’s segment aired on June 1, 2014.
Necessity: Is This Something the Public Needs to Know?
Another way to make your content newsworthy is to include data that are helpful. In other words, your campaign should include information not readily available to the public but present it in a way that is easily digestible.
Take the idea of higher education. Although it’s widely known that an advanced degree can advance you career-wise, its potential to increase your salary is not as easy to find. The team at eBay Deals decided to investigate and broke down lifetime earnings for professionals with different degrees – revealing how much a graduate earns by degree, class, and grade.
What makes this campaign more compelling is that the breakdown by different degrees targets a much larger audience – someone who wasn’t sure about the time and money he or she put into a bachelor’s degree now has some sort of attributable monetary value.
Now that you know what makes something newsworthy, here are some tools that can help you in your search for your next viral hit.
Tool No. 1: Google Alerts/Trends
Google Alerts and Google Trends are two resources that can help you easily monitor what’s currently trending within your targeted vertical along with any noticeable changes. For instance, Google Alerts allows you to create an automated notification based on your topic that delivers results directly to your inbox.
Google Trends is a way to see any changes in search habits, which is a great resource for any campaign that looks at change over time. For example, BuzzStream compared the search history for “content marketing,” “inbound marketing,” “press release,” and “public relations.” The results revealed a major shift in the industry over a seven-year period: More and more people are interested in newer tactics such as content marketing versus more traditional techniques such as press releases.
Tool No. 2: BuzzSumo
BuzzSumo displays currently trending content along with the top content for a specific query, and you can narrow your results even further by domains, content type, and date. For example, if you search for “content marketing,” you can narrow your search results to articles published within the past month along with any that included infographics. This is a great way to see how some of your competitors covered similar topics in order to help you present your content in new ways – and increase the likelihood of pickups.
Tool No. 3: Reddit
Reddit is a great way to see what your audience is interested in. The site allows users to submit content that gets voted up or down by readers, and its homepage is filled with the latest trending posts. Users can also narrow topics via subreddits, which are automatically presented under the search box. This is a great way to help you narrow your topic and see which categories your audience is most interested in.
Putting It All Together.
Remember that the most compelling content always has a high news value, and there are multiple ways to approach a newsworthy angle. Focusing on trending stories that outperform others within your vertical will increase your level of engagement – and expand your level of reach beyond your targeted audience.