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Five ways to turn a slow news day into a conversation starter

Slow news day

The most boring day of the 20th century was April 11, 1954, according to a Cambridge computer programmer. Except for a Belgian election and the birth of an obscure academic, nothing newsworthy happened that day.

Communications pros can relate. Every company goes through periods when it seems like there’s just no “new news.” There’s a lull between new products, there are no recent award wins or expansions to announce, and you (thankfully) have no major crises to deal with.

One option is to take a long lunch and be thankful that no news is good news. But we also know that in today’s crowded content landscape, it’s critical to keep your brand relevant. Competitors are ready to swoop in and snatch up that audience of potential customers.

A press release is still one of the best ways to earn coverage. They rank high in search, and journalists still love them, according to Cision’s 2019 State of the Media Report.

How, then, to stay top of mind without traditional news to share? Get creative and conjure relevant, engaging news out of the void. Consider what your intended audience care about, what they need and what common interests they share with the brand.

Here are five ways to do that effectively.

Manufacture a movement

We’re living in an era in which everyone has an opinion, and a place to broadcast it. Anyone can be an activist; all they have to do is log in to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. So why not harness that energy that’s already there and turn your audience into activists for your brand?

Think of a larger issue your company has a stake in. It could be sustainability, a charitable effort or even a small, fun change that both your brand and consumers could get behind. Then come up with a way that the brand and its audience can join forces to take action. Start a petition, propose a day of advocacy or launch a social media campaign. Be sure to broadcast that content over a wide distribution channel that will catch the attention of new audiences.


Why it works

The Almond Board of California has clued in to the national obsession with emojis, turning its fans into an army of advocates for its proposed almond emoji. The subject matter for this press release lends itself to great visuals in the form of a video and almond-emoji photos. Those elements make this release more appealing to online readers, journalists and search engines. Plus, by giving its audience a call to action — signing a petition — the Almond Board can intelligently track the success of this effort by measuring website clicks. And it’s likely those engagements will convert even more almond devotees, even if the emoji endeavor doesn’t pan out.

Start a dialogue with your brand’s audience

Conduct market research to find out what your brand audience cares about, or start a conversation. Give your fans and followers an opportunity to provide feedback on your brand. A direct appeal to existing or new audiences can be effective when paired with information they need to know. In other words, it’s a two-way street: Give fans information they need and ask for information in return.


Why it works

Clarisonic is doing double duty here: teasing its newest products while soliciting information from its audience about the old products they love. Rather than just reissuing the same August new product announcement, Clarisonic is keeping it relevant with a new endeavor that brings value to readers and real-time, actionable data to the brand. Plus, distributing over a newswire puts this in front of potential new fans. And again, Clarisonic can easily and quantitatively measure the success of this effort by tracking clicks on the call-to-action link, conveniently located in the second paragraph, to its Instagram page, where the poll is held.

Piggyback on a current event

Corporate communicators are already dialed in to trends and current events in their industry. But rather than being passive consumers of news, they can get active and make themselves part of the conversation by issuing unique and informative commentary on those topics that are related to their company.

Let’s put some big flashing lights around the phrase “related to the company.” That means the news has an actual connection to your brand’s core mission. Don’t jeopardize your brand’s clout by weighing in on a topic it doesn’t have expertise in. For example, audiences won’t put much stock in a car company’s thoughts about pharmaceutical policy, but readers would want to hear what it has to say about emission standards.


Why it works

CVS put out its statement the same day the FDA announced its new initiative. Clearly, CVS has a solid structure for monitoring news in its industry. And since it’s built up a reputation for its anti-tobacco stance, CVS has the credibility and expertise to comment on this change. And in doing so, it gets to remind its fans and new audiences of the policies and actions it’s already taken to reduce smoking and tobacco use. It’s a perfect opportunity for a legitimate “humble brag” that adds something useful to the overall conversation around tobacco products.

Celebrate your brand’s values

Don’t wait to be handed an award to celebrate your brand’s smaller wins. Every company has an anniversary, some lower-level personnel changes or restructurings. Turn those small events into an opportunity to re-introduce the brand to the world and talk about what makes it unique.


Why it works

While a 136th anniversary may not seem like an obvious milestone to share as news, Florida Southern College takes it as an opportunity to re-introduce itself to its audiences, both old and new. But FSC doesn’t just make it all about itself. Rather, it demonstrates its values by honoring an accomplished astronaut and the first woman of color in space, someone who exemplifies the kind of greatness FSC hopes to inspire in its students. When done correctly, an anniversary release can be so much more than just an organization patting itself on the back for its longevity.

Repurpose your brand’s content marketing and original research

Almost every company has a corporate blog and social media channels where it regularly publishes content to entertain and inform its audience. But your company is missing out if it is also noto distributing that content as a press release. That kind of soft, feature-type news works great when edited into a news release. And by distributing it over a wire service like Cision’s PR Newswire distribution, your brand can reach audiences beyond its existing followers. Plus, in Cision’s 2018 State of the Media Report, journalists said that original research and market data are two of the most valuable forms of content they can get from their PR contacts.

Don’t just take a blog post word for word and call it a press release. A press release has to have a news angle and clear attribution. That’s because it’s not just being posted to the brand’s website; it’s also being sent directly to media and posted to third-party websites. Tailor a headline that will not only alert readers to who the brand is but provide context for why they should consider the brand an expert.


Why it works

If Barracuda’s phishing report had only been posted to its blog and broadcast to its 13,000+ Twitter followers, it could have done pretty well. But the company knew this information was relevant to a larger audience than just its current fans, and that wire distribution would expose it to thousands of new eyes via potential earned media coverage and online visibility. So it edited the content into a press release, turning the blog headline of “Free in-depth report” into a more news-focused press release headline of “Barracuda intel exposes the latest strategies cybercriminals are using to get past email security gateways.” It also took care to introduce itself and provide a basis for its expertise in the press release, reeling in readers with a highlights section and easy access to its CTA link under the first full paragraph. By engaging its current fans and converting new customers, this one piece of content is serving multiple purposes.

The next time you find yourself on a slow news day, get creative — or risk missing out on that lead-generating buzz.


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