5 ways to freshen up an old story

Communicators often tell the same stories year after year. These tips can help transform a lackluster tale into a news gem.

Smart branding professionals are embracing brand journalism to tell stories directly from their organizations. What if your stories (and brand) feel stale?

Skilled brand journalists can take a ho-hum piece of content and uncover fresh angles that are relevant to their target audience. The result is media attention that often leaves communicators enjoying a new sense of creativity.

These tips can help you repurpose stories within your brand. (Editor’s note: The examples included below are all clients of MediaSource, except Buzzfeed.)

1. Know how to find new stories and sources.

When was the last time you assessed how and where you find stories? You might be looking in the wrong places.

Just as journalists must refresh their sources, you should consider looking to other departments or contacts to boost your creativity. A savvy brand journalist appreciates the tenacity and relationship building that’s needed to develop compelling content.

You can funnel stories from different departments and assign “beats,” similar to those covered by professional reporters. You’ll be able to reach out to different people for different topics within your company.

Download the free white paper, “How to be a brand journalist,” to learn how to tell your organization’s compelling stories.

2. Write in reverse.

If you think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, think again. It’s all about flipping things.

For instance, to promote your hospital’s cardiac services, last year’s story may have been titled, “5 ways to avoid a heart attack.” Now consider the topic from another angle, such as, “3 surprising ways you’re hurting your heart.”

Buzzfeed uses this tactic on a regular basis. Consider how they flipped a story on makeup tips. The first one, “21 beauty tips for makeup addicts in training,” was published in 2014. A new post on the same subject, “18 things you should never do when applying makeup,” went live last month.

3. Create company-owned data.

If your story seems like a broken record, use company-owned data. Most brands don’t have the infrastructure to conduct their own research. However, you can commission a third-party survey to document new trends.

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center implemented this tactic to create data about women and strokes. The hospital then featured results in multimedia content. An infographic for their company-owned channels also garnered widespread coverage.

4. Tie into news and pop culture.

A saturated topic often ties into breaking news or a trend in pop culture. If you pay attention and act quickly, you’ll probably be able to newsjack and culture-jack.

Once you identify a trending story that complements your brand, immediately contact journalists looking for sources and experts. Preparation is crucial; work to understand the issues you want to align with. Your content—and experts—will be ready when the story breaks.

Orlando Health used this tactic to promote its dieticians during Halloween. A candy quiz and guest blog on U.S. News & World Report brought sweet results.

5. Switch the style.

If your content was written in a traditional news style, repurpose it into a listicle or quiz. Use photos to tell your story in a slide deck.

Communicators at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center landed this msn.com story on the five exercises people are doing wrong. The hospital’s brand journalist shot and supplied high-quality photos of the exercises done incorrectly and correctly, which helped secure the story placement.

Have you tried any of the above tips? If not, use our suggestions for your 2016 editorial calendar and planning.

Lisa Arledge Powell is president of MediaSource, a public relations firm that specializes in brand journalism. MediaSource has been named Best Health Care Agency in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in Ragan’s Health Care PR & Marketing Awards. Connect on Twitter: @LisaArledge.

This article was created in partnership with MediaSource.

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