Back in October, I wrote a blog post about public relations professionals role as a professional storyteller, and in the post, I mentioned that more than 33 percent of the top brands have created their own type of content, besides the traditional press release. In a span of five months, I’m sure that the number of brands that produce content has increased.
Why do I bring this up? Because I think there’s too much of it. That’s right, I said it. There’s too much content out there. However, I’m not the only person who has noticed this problem. From an article on Wired.com:
With the abundance of social media platforms, everyone essentially can be a publisher of content.
“Tools like Blogger and YouTube and social networks like Twitter and Facebook turned everyone into news producers, and this glut of content devalued the sort of polished news traditionally created by professionals, driving old school journalism towards irrelevance.”
This quote sums up perfectly why we have the content conundrum we do today. Marketers, executives, PR professionals, bloggers, journalists, creative directors and everyone in between jumped on the content bandwagon, resulting in the mass abundance of subpar material than can be found online (Buzzfeed I’m calling you out). It’s not necessarily the quantity of content that I have a problem with, it’s the quality. Here are a few things to think about (besides including images and multimedia) in order to give your news-related content a good kick:
Press releases – As PR Newswire puts it, “The end goal of a press release is to generate earned media,” Webb said. “The path to get there is to provide something so fascinating that the reader is compelled to act.” The press release has gone from a tool that reporters use to the end-means of getting news out there. Demand more details for those press releases, actually talk to somebody to get a quote, and think about if it warrants an actual story. Sure, it’s great to have a release posted on XX number of sites, but if not one journalist asks a question or inquires about it, or seeks to write a larger story on it – was the press release even worth it in the first place? This brings up my second point…
What’s newsworthy? – I think executives and marketers need a refresher on Journalism 101 because if the content online right now were to be judged based on newsworthiness, I doubt half of it would qualify (see Eight Primary Factors that Determine the Newsworthiness of a Potential Story). Sure, some types of content were only created for entertainment purposes, but for content that’s trying to get a message or news out, see how it stacks up against the criteria from the link above.
Offer an exclusive – I’m sure exclusives are still pertinent to magazines, but I think most newspapers, and certainly PR professionals, have lost sight of what an exclusive can do. Again, having your news release on 50 irrelevant websites might boost report numbers, but that one piece in Forbes would deliver more value. Offering a reporter or editor a truly exclusive story helps build the relationship you have with them, shows that you know what’s worthy of an exclusive, and can even spark other journalists’ interest when they wonder “why didn’t we get that story?” Just make sure you keep your end of the ‘exclusive’ bargain and don’t offer the news out to everyone.
Differentiate your content – That press release you sent out, the journalist who picked up the story, the accompanying blog post on the company website, the social content, etc… all tell the same message and story, using the same exact words. Job well done? I don’t think so. While messaging points are important, why would someone read a story on the company blog that they just read elsewhere online? It may be a good idea for those in charge to decide what types of content are best for the right mediums. If you are sharing the same story across multiple channels, try, as hard as it may be, to offer a different take on the story.
Use AP Style – More of a personal pet peeve, but with the increasing number of blogs and bloggers, set your writing to a higher standard and follow AP style. A journalist is certainly more likely to re-use your content if they see that is well written, free of grammatical mistakes, uses AP style, and doesn’t look like it was written by a second grader.
As more and more content is produced and published on the web, it’s going to be harder to make your content stick out from the crowd. I hope these tips were helpful and if you have a few good pointers for delivering better, newsworthy content, I’d love to hear them.
- Tim Viall, account coordinator, @timothyviall