A couple months ago, I organized an SEO workshop for bloggers at my old company. It went really well – the turn out was great and everyone felt like they learned a lot. I did a presentation on creating newsworthy content and even very experienced bloggers told me they discovered a few new tricks about coming up with new blog post ideas.
I decided that I would elaborate on the presentation because the slides aren’t very self-explanatory. Darn you, PowerPoint! In any case, feel free to run a split screen on this post and the original presentation, but in this post I will simply cover the first of the three sections: researching the hook.
What is newsworthy content, anyway?
Something is described as newsworthy when a topic is interesting enough that other people would want to know about it. It often means a lot of social shares and a good amount of search traffic under the right circumstances. In rare occasions, it might even get picked up by other publishers.
There are a lot of factors that can influence newsworthiness, including timing (is the topic current?), signficance (does it affect a lot of people?), context (is it something I as a reader can relate to?), and proximity (is it something that hits home for me as a reader?).
Researching the hook
Every good story needs a ‘hook’. A good hook connects your readers to what’s going on at the moment or helps them relate your story to their life and what they are interested in. Keep in mind, readers care more about themselves than you, so they want something that will impress, excite, or educate them.
A hook is different from a gimmick. A gimmick would be something like “8 Movie Scenes That Prove Ryan Gosling Will Be an Awesome Dad” – we all know what you’re trying to do with that! Use his new baby (I know, another bachelor down – sad face) as a jumping point to talk about the media’s lack of interest in fathers but the ‘get all up in her business because she doesn’t breastfeed’ attitude toward mothers.
Newsworthy Content, Step 1:
Ask yourself: why is this story relevant right now? It can also be unique – something people haven’t heard about yet but would be really interested to know.
Suppose you were this guy who tweeted the photo of the Sainsbury’s 50p challenge and you wrote an accompanying blog post. Instant virality!
You need a ‘news peg’ for your idea to be newsworthy
News pegs are the most common way of giving a story a hook. Look at what is happening in the news right now and craft a story that relates to it. Finding a unique angle on what is already on people’s minds – or using it as a starting point – can help bring in new readers.
Where else do hooks come from?
Press Releases. They are a good start and a good PR agent will tease out the hook for you in the release. Sign up for lists like PR Newswire and Gorkana. Get in touch with brands you like and ask to be put on their press list. Do this and you’ll get the news before other bloggers do!
Wikipedia. You can find out what’s happening on any day of the year, just by typing the date into Google. It allows you to start thinking ahead. Anniversaries and celebrations make great news pegs because they help people see that what you’re writing has a place in the here and now.
- Example: Seventy years ago on November 18 the Popular Socialist Youth was formed in Cuba. If you’ve been to Cuba, you can write about your encounter with a member or discuss how it has changed the country.
Google News. Google News is where you can find the hottest topics in your industry. I find it especially useful for coming up with blog post ideas in the business and tech industries. Look for patterns in how ideas are discussed and find a new angle on it or figure out the information that’s missing.
Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends. If there is a topic you are interested in writing about, take a look on Google Trends to see when searches for the topic peak.
- Example: People will search more for ‘Caribbean holidays’ in the dead of winter – every January like clockwork. Save that ’10 Places in the Caribbean You Definitely Want to See’ post for around that time.
Newsjacking. Inject your ideas into the day’s news stories to draw attention to your content. It can make your content go viral – and that may be for better or for worse.
How to Newsjack
You can set up alerts through RSS feeds and Google Alerts, but the place to watch is Twitter. Follow the right people and keep an eye on what’s trending. When the news breaks, write your story quickly and accurately. It should be relevant to whatever the news is.
- Example: You see the photo of Sainsbury’s 50p challenge. Write a story about how much you love/hate shopping at Sainsbury’s. Or write a post like “5 Things You Can Learn About Social Media Marketing from Sainsbury-gate”
There is a caveat to this: Don’t do this with sensitive topics, you don’t want to end up like Kenneth Cole. Though in all fairness, what they did certainly ended up newsworthy!