Making news – what makes the cut and how you should apply it to your copy
You’ve heard David Meerman Scott say every company should get themselves a journo to write their copy.
He calls it “brand journalism” and describes it like this:
“Creating interesting information online that serves to educate and inform consumers. People in companies now realise web marketing success comes from creating content-rich websites, videos, podcasts, photos, charts, ebooks, white papers and other valuable content.”
As well as being able to create content quickly and efficiently, journalists also have the capacity to think up story ides that will be relevant to a specific audience. But how do they do that? The answer is they use a set of ‘news values’ to determine what’s important and why.
These news values can be applied to your web copy or “brand journalism” to help you craft content that’s relevant and popular with your intended audience – whether that be customers or otherwise.
So what are these ‘news values’ we speak of?
Does your story relate to anyone of particular prominence in the wider community or in your niche?
This doesn’t just mean physical proximity – it also means emotional proximity. Will this story be close to the heart or mind or wallet or location of your reader?
We’re not talking money here. We’re talking themes or topics that are already floating around in the cultural/news space. What’s the buzzword of the moment? Do you have a take on that relevant to your audience? This is especially pertinent to writing for the web because popular keywords are generally things of particular interest at that time – tap into that and you could be tapping into a much wider readership. Here’s an example: About a month ago now “planking” was getting all kinds of media attention. People were Googling the term and it was probably trending on Twitter. As a web strategy agency, it would have been a good time to talk about the role of social media in the creation in cultural memes.
Which leads us to our next news value….
While “planking” had a great deal of cultural currency for a moment in time (it was reported on as a web craze and also for its tragic implications) it is no longer particularly timely. What’s more, timeliness refers to the need to be as up-to-date as possible when reporting the news or telling a story. This is especially true in breaking news when the details are forever changing. Read Real-Time Marketing for more on that.
This can refer to anything from a war to a dispute of opinion. In brand journalism it’s obviously most likely to refer to the latter. So if you have relevant, polarising opinions that may spark debate or dialogue, you’re off to a good start for creating content that’s of interest to your audience.
How many people will care about your story or idea? How will it affect them? Does the idea make you tick? Has it got some “wow” factor?
People are inevitably drawn to content that affects them. Put yourself in the shoes of your reader and apply the old “what’s in it for me?” mentality. Easy to answer? You’re onto something.
- Human interest
Is there any emotional context? How can you make your particular audience laugh, smile or cry? Will they feel connected? Curious? Will it tug at the heartstrings?
- The odd or the unusual
If something happens in your field that’s out of the ordinary – you should be writing about it. We all love a good UFO story don’t we? Or is that just me?
Remember: Journalists don’t apply all news values to every single story, but the combo of a couple is pretty much an assurance that your audience will find your content/story interesting.
The most important thing is knowing who your audience is. Do you?