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Being first with a piece of content isn't necessarily a guarantee of victory in the traffic stakes, but in timely situations the sooner you can join the party the better.
When news breaks, and there's a legitimate reason for your brand to share its voice then it's all systems go to collaborate with your PR and marketing teams to produce something that will capture the attention of your audience.
It's a very different skill to planning and coordinating your own brand-generated campaigns, but arguably the rewards can be much greater, if and when you get it right.
Producing content quickly doesn't need to create panic in the ranks if you have a few processes in place.
Before something happens
Work up some templates. This doesn't just apply to written content with approximate paragraph and word counts - if you can leave suitable cut scenes in video or audio templates, it's an easy edit to insert footage (of a phone launch, a fashion event, etc) when it comes in.
You should also know the size and style of the graphic assets you'll need so they can be briefed in accordingly.
Do your preliminary research. If you're creating content around a planned event there's a certain amount of information gathering you can do.
The UK Budget for example happens at the same time every year and those reporting on it usually know the majority of what's going to be announced, filling in some of their article or savings calculator blanks shortly after the official word goes out.
- Get stuff signed off. If you think you'll need a quote from your CEO, get two or three which you can pick the most appropriate from when the time comes.
- Have opinion-formers available. If the news story is substantial enough, the people with something interesting to say are likely to be getting lots of calls. If you spend the time between news stories building relationships then your calls will be the one they answer.
While something is happening
- Monitor social media. With all the constant chatter, there should be an abundance of opinion you can analyse. It's often the case that people will pick up on an element of what's going on that you hadn't (or couldn't have) anticipated. Factor this in to increase the likelihood of being accepted as a valid part of the conversation.
See who else is on the ball. Look at what angle the competition is taking and either do it better or offer an alternative.
If everyone is talking about Simon Cowell getting egged during the X Factor final, do a piece on famous live TV protests, or 17 ways to throw an egg, or recreate the video in LEGO, or produce a graphic diagram showing the trajectory and velocity of the throw. Make sure your noise gets heard.
Work in real time. Football journalists will have their match reports done and dusted by the 80th minute so they're ready to file barring any late dramas.
You don't need to wait for the final whistle to start production.
After something has happened
- Get the nod. Hopefully if you've done your prep this should be a box ticking exercise - if you think your legal team may need to run their eyes over anything contentious, make sure they're primed.
- Put it out there. If your own CMS doesn't give you the option to publish on the fly, then maybe your PR team can point you towards a relevant news outlet that hasn't yet got round to producing anything. Save them the trouble and you could both benefit.
- Assess the audience reaction. Again, your social networks are invaluable here, from both passive reactions and from those actively fuelling debate and discussion. Make sure you're listening.
Update or expand. News doesn't have to be tomorrow's chip paper, especially online where a piece of content will live for as long as the URL stays intact. If you think there's some long term potential for what you've made, don't let it languish in the depths of your blog.
Take out any timely elements, improve it with any audience insight, and put it somewhere on your site that slots seamlessly into the customer journey.