If you’re a PR practitioner, agency-side or brand-side, this might sound like a familiar problem to you:
What if there’s no news?
This is a situation that is far more common than any public relations professional likes to admit. Very often, there’s simply no news. The next product isn’t due for release until next quarter. The next earnings report isn’t newsworthy. No one outside of the company cares about a corporate anniversary or a new hire. Yet you still need to produce results; you still need to capture your audience’s attention, grow their awareness, build their trust.
What do you do when you have no news, but you need news?
There’s a now-legendary scene about sales tactics in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross in which Alec Baldwin’s character berates a sales team with the quote, “Always Be Closing”. Let’s paraphrase that as the solution to “no news”: always be capturing.
Capturing in this sense means always be capturing information. Always be collecting data and looking for connections, looking for ways you can incorporate the ceaseless torrent of new information and transform it into something that’s newsworthy, interesting or helpful to your audience. Here are a few simple examples.
Capture with your smartphone’s camera every day. Every day, chances are you are carrying around a high-quality digital still camera and video camera in your pocket or purse in the form of your smartphone. Make it a practice, a habit to shoot some content every workday. Shoot pictures of your work product (assuming it’s not a competitive secret). Shoot pictures in the break room or at your desk. Take a walk at lunch and shoot some video. There’s a good chance you’ll capture something that you can leverage for a blog post, an Instagram gallery, maybe a Snapchat campaign, or at the very least build up your library of in-house stock photography. Here’s an example of one I shot while standing around in the terminal of the airport:
Not only is that the airplane lavatory waste truck, you have to feel sorry for the employee who has to use the shovel. The next time I need to create content or news about terrible jobs, this photo will be the first thing that springs to mind.
Capture while reading. Many people read passively. They read a blog post, a news item, or an eBook, and when they’re done reading, they simply put down the material and move on to the next thing. As a result, their retention is poor, and when it comes time to figure out how to generate news or how to jump onto a news trend, they can’t remember what they read or where they read it. Take the time to set up powerful capturing tools and tactics so that you are constantly indexing what you read and filing it away for use.
For example, let’s say you’re representing a medical brand. The blog reading application Feedly has the ability to send any blog post you’re reading to an Evernote notebook, a place you can store important text for later reference. Suppose you were reading about the latest application of 3D printing as a way to manufacture medical casts. Don’t just nod your head and move to the next article. Send it to a dedicated notebook in Evernote, and when you’re in your next pitching ideas session, you’ll be able to incorporate that idea. You’ll be able to leverage the news that caught your attention in the process of creating news for your brand or client.
Capture other captures. When it comes to creating news, you don’t have to go it alone. Capture what other people have already captured and identified as being interesting or newsworthy and incorporate it into your content creation and outreach. For example, HP recently asked where they could find Jeremiah Owyang’s Collaborative Economy Honeycomb infographic on Twitter. This exchange was shared and retweeted by others, making it inherently noteworthy and worth capturing. If you’re using the popular, free application Tweetdeck, capturing and saving this exchange is simply a matter of adding it to a collection:
Build up a library of the most relevant, popular socially shared content, and you’ll have it available as a reference to help create news when you don’t have news. In this example, perhaps your company can illustrate some way that it legitimately participates in the Collaborative Economy. Suddenly, instead of having no news, you have something that’s part of a newsworthy trend.
No News Isn’t Good News
At the end of the day, public relations has a responsibility to create interesting, newsworthy content in order to bring new audiences to your brand. That content begins with a rich library of raw materials that you’ve captured over time and carefully curated to boost your creativity and develop a better understanding of your industry.
Always! Be! Capturing!
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology