3 places to surf ahead of the news

For centuries, humans have been riding waves as a form of transportation, from ancient Polynesian cultures onward. Surfers swim out into turbulent waters and find a wave to match speeds with. The basic idea then is to be just ahead of the break, riding the wave to the shore. A similar phenomenon can occur in marketing and public relations, where a savvy marketer or PR team can find a story and get just ahead of it in order to ride its power. (noted author David Meerman Scott calls this phenomenon “newsjacking”, which is a neologism for hijacking the news.)

But how do you actually make this work? How do you get ahead of the wave of news so you can surf it? After all, in actual surfing, the least exciting place to be is behind the wave. There are three starting places to look for waves to catch. The first and most obvious are near-realtime social media channels. If you haven’t already set up Twitter lists, Facebook subscriptions, and Google+ circles of prominent, influential, or interesting people in your industry, stop and do so now. Watch what they chat about collectively and look for trends, hashtags, and commonly shared items to see what’s gaining ground and attention among your industry leaders. These will also be the most relevant waves to catch, as they’ll be focused on your industry.

Hot Searches - Google

The second place to look are on two of Google’s properties, Google News and Google Hot Searches (part of trends). Google’s Hot Trends will give you national stories that are breaking based on the number of searches about them, which means that a story is still in a discovery phase. People are searching for more information. Google News can deliver targeted information about your industry as spotted in registered news sources.

The third place to look is your calendar. What events that are known to generate buzz are coming up? Recently we had the Golden Globes awards, and that’s followed by the Academy Awards about a month later. If you’re in media, fashion, or entertainment, planning ahead with content should be a no-brainer since these events are known and scheduled. If you’re in B2B SaaS services, you’d better know when Oracle OpenWorld, Salesforce Dreamforce, Enterprise 2.0, and other events are, and have content ready to roll around those events.

In the next piece, we’ll talk about what news you should and shouldn’t surf.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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Posted on January 15, 2013 in Strategy

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About the Author

Christopher S. Penn has been featured as a recognized authority in many books, publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, BusinessWeek and US News & World Report, and television networks such as PBS, CNN, CNBC, Fox News, and ABC News for his leadership in new media and marketing. In 2012 and again in 2013, Forbes Magazine recognized him as one of the top 50 most influential people in social media and digital marketing; Marketo Corporation named him a Marketing Illuminator, and PR News nominated him as Social Media Person of the Year. Mr. Penn is the Vice President of Marketing Technology at SHIFT Communications, a public relations firm, as well as co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp New Media Community Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. He is an adjunct professor of Internet marketing and the lead subject matter expert and professor of Advanced Social Media at the University of San Francisco. He’s the author of the best-selling book Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer.
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