Six publishing traits to apply to your marketing
I often advise businesses to think like a publisher when it comes to devising, writing and distributing their own news and content.
Whether it’s the headlines they use to entice the reader or how they present complex data in a visual way using infographics and videos, we can all learn new tricks by looking at how major news channels plan, publish and promote their content.
Social media, smart phones, easier-to-use website software, and generally greater technical knowledge, have given businesses of all sizes greater autonomy from the mainstream media.
But that doesn’t automatically equate to better PR and marketing and there’s still so much (old and new) we can learn from the major media organisations who invest millions to stay at the sharp-end of news publishing. Here’s five things publishers do that that will help you create better content and improve your PR and marketing.
- Put the audience at the heart of your content
Successful media companies know who reads their newspapers, magazines or websites and the type of stories those readers will find interesting. To get into this mindset you must always be thinking about how your audience will react to a new piece of content. Will they read, watch, or listen to it? Will they find it useful? Will they share it with others? If the answer to these questions is no then you must question why you’re producing the content in the first place. Use online evaluation tools to constantly review how many people are reading your blog, watching your videos or downloading your newsletter. Use this data to continually shape your content strategy.
- Exercise editorial control
Within news reporting there’s a structured process a piece of content must go through before it actually gets published. In newspapers, for example, a reporter will file their copy to a news editor who will check the facts with the reporter, correct spelling and grammar and, if necessary, flag up any legal or other editorial concerns. It may go back to the reporter for rewriting before it is proofed again by sub-editors, before getting final sign off by another editor. If you want to achieve the same quality control within your own content then introduce your own sign-off procedures and appoint an ‘editor-in-chief’ who will have overall responsibility for content strategy and direction. A poorly written blog, a badly designed newsletter or a hastily edited video will only serve to damage your brand.
- Create an editorial calendar
Look at how any major news organisation covers big political, financial, sporting or cultural events. They’ll have numerous reports looking at the issue from different angles. They may have an infographic which explains the issue in more detail, a live broadcast interviewing different experts for their opinion, a cartoon or political sketch, an editorial opinion piece and so on. All of this doesn’t just happen. It’s been prepared for months in advance using a detailed news planning service to identify important dates and milestones. Now think about your own business sector and plan out your own editorial calendar based around key events. For example, if you’re a hotel or restaurant then you might plan PR activity around events National Tourism Week, National Chip Week and so on.
- React quickly to ‘newsjacking’ opportunities
The media is good at fuelling a news story and moving the story on as times passes. Capitalising on the hype surrounding a fast-moving news story is a tactic many big brands have successfully used to their advantage. Though I personally hate the term, some in our industry call this ‘newsjacking’ – effectively piggybacking on a high-profile news story to get your own publicity. Think of the ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’ memes that hit social media instantly, and also appeared as adverts in the national press, when England had a goal disallowed against Germany at the 2010 World Cup. At a more basic level, it could be as simple as offering your organisation’s reaction to something big that’s happening in your sector.
- Shamelessly promote your content
This may sound like a rather obvious analogy, but if you look at newspapers, the most newsworthy stories are on the front page or other pages that occupy prime positions, mainly the odd-numbered right-hand facing pages. Interesting features that are towards the centre of the paper are promoted on the front page so the reader doesn’t miss them. A serialisation of a major celebrity autobiography might be advertised in the paper for days in the run up to its publication. The point I’m making here is that there’s no use producing really great content if it’s hidden away where nobody can see it. Your company’s ‘newsroom’ should be prominent on your website and the content in it should be shared with your online community through social media. The content should also be optimised for search engines so Google, and your potential readers, can find it easily.
- Make your content clickable and sharable
In recent years, news websites have become masters at creating content that people can’t resist commenting on and sharing with friends and colleagues. Think about those stories about the Geordie accent being the most trusted, stories about redheads being more intelligent, or stories based on lists like ‘25 reasons why Wales is the best place to live’. These are the ones that go viral on social media as people tag their friends who are from Newcastle, have red hair or are from Wales. Admittedly, most of these stories are created by the PR industry, but the media present them in such a way that gets people talking. Even if you don’t have a big budget, these are principles you can still apply to your own content strategy.