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Newsjacking and other fruitful sources of content marketing ideas

Image: Leonid Pasternak via Wikimedia Commons

“What am I going to write about?” That’s the content marketer’s constant challenge. In fact, the number of sources is endless. You just have to have the right mindset.

Let’s remember what content marketing is. While there are any number of definitions out there, I think of it very simply:

Content marketing is sharing something useful or interesting that will attract traffic to your site.

That might be as complicated as a video that takes weeks to produce, or as simple as a movie review.

But the content marketers I work with complain about what I call “content marketer’s block” — they don’t know what to write about. I’m coaching two brilliant people like this right now; they hired me to help edit their blog posts, they’ve developed a plan and a point of view, and yet they don’t seem to able to produce much in the way of content.

Of course, at the other end of the spectrum are daily bloggers, like me. Unless you are brimming with ideas and time, I don’t recommend that you do this. But surely you can produce more.

Here’s how.

The content marketer’s mindset: mining your experience

Your job as a content marketer is develop insights and perspectives that are useful or interesting to your audience and to write about them. Those insights and perspectives should be new. If someone else has already written a nice post about the five-step process for securing a business loan, then we don’t need yours.

Luckily, there is an endless source of new material: your life. You just need to change your mindset. You need to recognize that the things that you think are new, or unusual, or funny are likely to be interesting to others as well.

Specifically, any of these ideas could be blog posts, podcasts, or sharable videos:

  • In dealing with customers, what do you need to explain over and over again? Write it down and explain it clearly.
  • Did you meet a customer who is doing something unique or outstanding? Ask to profile them.
  • Is there someone at your company who seems to know things that the rest of you don’t understand? Interview them; turn their insights into a post.
  • Did you hear a talk that inspired you? Interview the speaker.
  • Did you read someone else’s post that sparked an idea in your mind? If you agree, explain what makes those insights stand out. If you disagree, explain why they’re wrong. If you have a different perspective, show why.
  • Did you have a personal experience that overlapped with your content area? Write it up. For example, this might apply to experiences you had as a customer, if you write about customer experience, or marketing that connected, if you write about marketing. While most of what happens to you as a consumer is either boring or private (or both), there’s certainly the occasional experience that makes you say “Wow, now I understand something that I need to share.”

Notice that none of these say “Look how great our company is.” Nobody wants to read that. But they do say “Our company has a useful and interesting point of view.”

How to do newsjacking properly

David Meerman Scott has written a whole book on the topic of newsjacking — using news events as a hook for your opinions. It’s easy to do this clumsily; just because the Republicans passed a tax plan, that doesn’t mean you need to write about it. But if, in the course of your daily keeping up with news, you have a differentiated perspective on what you read, newsjacking is effective. Here’s how to do it:

  • As you read the news, notice topics on which you have a perspective worth sharing. For example, if you write for small businesspeople, then the tax plan’s impact on small business is a valid topic. If you write about reputation, a famous person’s reaction to accusations of sexual harassment is fair game. Popular stories at the top of the news are great, but so are lesser-known stories that you can elevate with your perspective.
  • Describe briefly what happened, then segue quickly into your unique perspective on it. In my own work, for example, I write about announcements and news only when I can deconstruct the written source material from the perspective of effective business writing. Similarly, you want to write about what the news item says about creativity, or startup funding, or accounting fraud, or whatever is likely to interest your segment of readers.
  • Tell what the lesson is. Stuff happened. Fine. I have an opinion on it. Interesting, perhaps. Here’s what it means for you. Ah, now we’ve created useful content.
  • Create a great title that’s not clickbait. Describe what happened and your unique point of view; use the names of companies and individuals to signal that it’s about the news people are reading.
  • Post and promote quickly. As Meerman Scott’s diagram shows, the value of newsjacking rapidly decays as news stories get old. You basically have one day to write about news, then it’s stale and old. Once you’ve written, launch links on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook as quickly as possible


“But what if I don’t have any ideas?”

If you can’t do any of these things that I’ve described, you’re no content marketer. Get a different job.

If these ideas intrigue you but you don’t know what to say about them, you’re not a content marketer, either. Content marketers need a point of view, and the ability to express it.

But if you’re a decent writer who’s got a healthy curiosity, I just gave you seven good strategies on how to create useful content. What’s stopping you?

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