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Did you make this mistake last Friday the 13th?

By Kath Walters @kathwalters

Why do we read a story? Or perhaps I should ask, why do we read a story NOW?

Timeliness is a key element of what makes a story engaging – or sticky, as I prefer to say. 

We click on a story and read it right now if we feel that we really must have the knowledge within it this very minute.

Here are some reasons a story might be timely:

  • It answers a very important question for us – like why we never get the jobs we interview for, or how to live on a budget without being miserable.
  • It’s entertaining, and we don’t feel like doing our work right now!
  • It’s tied to an important public issue or event.

Make their news your news

Tying your content to the daily news agenda is not a well understood tactic, I believe.

But this is an idea that is intrinsic to traditional media: a story reported in one outlet leads to follow-up stories in other outlets, as each masthead’s reporter takes their own angle on the news.

In the content marketing sector, however, there’s a nasty name for it is “news-jacking” as in high-jacking the news agenda for self-serving, commercial purposes.

Avoiding the risks, and reaping the rewards

There is a risk of being tactless when you make their news your news. 

But it’s not hard to avoid the traps, and the rewards are worth the risks. There is little point in writing our stories if they do not get read.

Here are some tips:

1. Never write self-serving content

What’s worse than writing self-serving content that is aimed at making money without delivering any or much value? Doing that and tying it to a serious news story. 

The problem with news-jacking is that it is tasteless – but the real fault is to write self-serving content in the first place. All content marketing needs must serve our customers and prospective customers. 

The reward for content marketing is to build trust and rapport with your readers over time. Once they know you, they may choose to do business with you. 

2. Start with easy ones

Last Friday, there were more than 5000 searches for the words “Friday the 13th, according to Google Trends hot trends site

That was twice the number of the nearest other search, over 2000 for the dancer Sergei Polunin.

It’s a no-brainer to find a way to piggy-back at least one of your stories onto the Friday the 13th mania. 

There are a never ending supply of these – Easter, Melbourne Cup, National Apology Day (also last Friday), Valentine’s day, and so on.

3. Make a big effort

Make your link to news a thoughtful, well researched and considered one. Make the link clear and central to what you are saying. 

Even if you are writing valuable content, if the readers find the link you have made fake, you will lose their trust (the worst mistake).

4. News breeds good, genuine ideas

You’ll be amazed at how often you think of story ideas as you read the news. 

If you are a consultant psychologist, and there is a story about bullying in the workplace or school, it’s both appropriate and valuable that you share some or your knowledge and insights on the subject.

If you are a body language expert, well the world is your oyster, but this report on Russian president Vladimir Putin, was made for you to make your own.

5. Use tact – news is made up of real people

If you are marketing business software, and there is a report about rising insolvency rates, your knowledge and wisdom may also be relevant and useful. 

But you can see a potential risk here, too. Real people are losing their livelihoods and this can lead to many personal consequences, such as relationship breakdown, and health issues.

If you hop on your soapbox and start crowing about how they should have used your software, you’ll be part of the “news-jacking” crowd. 

Maybe this is one to pass up – tie your stories to news about productivity or leisure time. But if you do decide to link it to insolvencies, be tactful, show compassion and care about the real people who might be suffering.

Do it now

Tying content to current affairs is a legitimate and effective way to engage your readers and encourage them to read your story right now. 

It’s a tried and true tactic of traditional media. Add it to your content marketing recipe for great results, but use it wisely.