There are any number of news stories on any given day that you could surf. How do you pick and choose which ones to hop aboard?
The answer depends on your core values, on what you as a brand want to stand for. Stories that are a good fit for some brands would be disastrous for others. Noted author and safety coach Gavin de Becker could likely work with a story on a school shooting in a manner that’s respectful and helpful. SHIFT probably couldn’t, not in any way that would be genuinely useful. Conversely, de Becker would likely have very little to say about Facebook’s new Graph Search, while we were able to hop aboard during their press conference and contribute something useful to the discussion.
The rule I apply to surfing a news story is unsurprisingly the same rule I apply to email marketing – relevant, timely, targeted, and valuable. If you can write something relevant about the story in a timely manner (generally as quickly as possible) that’s targeted to people who need the content and valuable to them, you’ve got a winner. If there’s a fashion faux pas at an awards ceremony and you’ve got something to say that fits those criteria, warm up your fingers and create some content as quickly as possible for the audience of people who are interested in fashion.
What would breaking these rules look like?
Obviously, if you’re surfing a news story and you miss timely, you will miss the initial wave of attention and inquiry as people want to learn more about the news.
If you miss targeted, you’ll send out a story to people who probably don’t want it and have no interest in it. The content won’t go anywhere.
If you miss relevant, you could send out a highly damaging piece of content – ask any brand that has tweeted a sales pitch or ad using a hashtag about a national crisis how that feels.
Finally, if it’s not valuable, at best you’ll be ignored, and at worst you’ll be excoriated for being opportunistic without anything real to add to the conversation.
What does it look like when you get it right?
The wave can carry you to incredible heights in just a day.
May your surfing of the waves of news be fruitful!
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology