What news waves should you surf?

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?

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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

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Posted on January 16, 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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