If you’re a brand journalist, or aspiring to be one, you need stories. Lots of them. News and analysis, engaging features and other relevant storytelling give your organization a clear voice and showcase your expertise.
Of course, generating a lot of copy means having enough people to crank it out. Ask communications directors what they need most, given all they are asked to do, and most will respond the same way: Give me another writer. Two would be even better.
Even with an extra hand, we urge news teams to work our 5 Easy Pieces into their editorial mix. Best of all: These stories can be reported, written and posted in a single day.
News happens every day in your industry, and much of it lends itself to newsjacking – the simple idea of inserting your experts and insights into a breaking news story, or localizing a national story for your market or industry. Here’s how it works:
- Start once a week. Ask everyone on your team to attend a morning news meeting to pitch stories that could easily be newsjacked.
- A story makes a good newsjack if it is newsworthy and relevant for your audience, and when it lends itself to comment and insight from your experts.
- After a brief discussion, the managing editor chooses the story for the day and assigns it to a writer, who should link to the original story while giving it your organization’s angle.
You could newsjack every day, but we don’t recommend it. Brandjo teams can easily fall under the spell of doing everyone else’s news and not enough of their own.
The best newsjacks are national stories that have a special relevance to your audience. That’s how the editors at Blue Sky News, the brand journalism platform at Pittsburgh International Airport, reported on the sudden death of Steelers great Franco Harris.
Use this technique especially for stories where you have established your organization as a leading voice on the topic. Case in point: Metropolitan State University of Denver, a long-time leader in providing education for undocumented students and members of the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
MSU’s brand journalism site, RED, has covered the issue extensively. In November, when DACA was once again threatened by the courts, RED covered a university “teach-in” of economists to explain the consequences of ending the program.
Follow-ups work when you actually have something to follow up. Don’t force it. Too many organizations decide they want frequent coverage on big stories even if there’s nothing new to report. Construction projects are a great example of newsworthy follow-ups.. Mark the milestones along the way, with stories, photos and video.
3. What’s this week’s Big Number? You see this feature all over the news media, so why not make it your own? Your organization is awash in data, and some of those numbers are newsworthy.
You can build a story around one number that stands out in the news, as BOK Financial’s The Statement did when available homes for sale in the U.S. dropped to a 40-year low.
Another way: Pull a number out of available data in your industry that represents a trend, as Politico Nightly did with airline travel after Labor Day last year.
4. How Does That Work?
These are easy stories because all your reporting can be done from the inside, with help from one subject matter expert. Readers love to be taken behind the scenes of your operation. Show them what it looks like. Tell them how something works. Answer their questions. These features inform, enlighten and entertain.
Omaha Public Power’s The Wire does this really well.
Actual news is easy because it’s very clear how to write it. Stop writing press releases that are all about how great you are and publish breaking news that shows what your organization is doing – and why it matters. Break you own news instead of hoping that the news media will pay attention.
Kim Polacek, one of the editors at Moffitt Cancer Center’s Endeavor, has been doing this for years, filing timely stories direct from medical conferences and meetings that break news in cancer research and treatment.
Here’s her story from a New Orleans meeting in December.
Jim Ylisela is the co-founder of Ragan Consulting Group. He loves working with news teams to round out their coverage with the 5 Easy Pieces. Is brand journalism the right fit for your communications department?
Schedule a call with Kristin Hart to learn how we can help you improve your communications effort with training, consulting and strategic counsel. Follow RCG on LinkedIn and subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.