Here’s a way to develop content that’s sure to catch the attention of potential clients, and give them the information they most want to know, right now. That way, you’ll build your reputation for offering relevant information on the topics that are top of mind for them. You also have a powerful tool for building trust among the people you want to reach.
The technique is called ‘narrowcast newsjacking.’ Let’s first explain the ‘newsjacking’ part. This is a growing term in content marketing, and it means finding a piece of news that matters to your market, and tying your content to it. You’ve heard of ‘hitch your wagon to a star?’ That’s what this is about.
Newsjacking means watching for news developments that matter to people in your market. Then, you move quickly to develop content that adds value. Maybe you analyze the news event. Maybe you make recommendations about it. But if you include the right search terms about the event, your content gets pulled up in online searches when people search on those topics. Because your content is new, it tends to be listed first in the search-engine rankings. This means that people learn about what you have to offer.
As an example, a lot of bloggers will rush to do reviews of the latest Apple i-Whatever, because they know that there will be a lot of people searching on that topic. Or maybe it’s an election result, or other news event. But the key is to pick a news event, prepare content quickly analyzing it, and then make that content available.
So, that’s newsjacking. “Narrowcast newsjacking” is a sub-set of this, and it’s particularly relevant to you if you are a business professional with a tightly-focused area of expertise. This involves avoiding the ‘broadcast’ news items that everyone else is covering, iWhatevers or whatever. If you’re focused on a tight market, find news that is relevant just to that market. You don’t need to reach everybody. You probably don’t want them either. If you’re focused on a narrow market, you need to find information that’s specifically relevant to those people. It’s hard for them to find relevant news, and harder yet for them to find someone who can give them informed analysis telling them what they can do about it. So you be that someone, and you’ll have a friend -- or at least a client -- for life.
This is because in the case of highly targeted products and services, the news that matters to the people you want to reach isn’t shouted from the rooftops of Huffington Post, wallstreetjournal.com or Yahoo News. It’s relevant only to a small number of people, so it tends to not get covered by the mass media. Those outlets are more focused on celebrity breakups and baby bumps than they are about the kind of information your clients want to know. So, what kind of news?
People in tightly-defined markets want to know about new government regulations, legal judgments, laws, disruptive technologies, the results of studies and surveys, and other information that’s relevant to them. That’s the key: relevant to them. Something that they need to know about because it might hurt them, cost them money, help them earn money, or impact them in some other way.
Here is an example of narrowcast newsjacking in action
It goes back to 2010, to a call I had from the Minneapolis office of one of my environmental-science firm clients. It was from two engineers who focus on air quality issues -- mostly about industrial emissions to atmosphere, helping their clients meet government regulations. That’s a very narrow but important niche. And their market was equally narrow -- small to midsize electrical utilities, maybe for a city.
What they told me was that the US Environmental Protection Agency had changed the way it calculates the maximum permitted level of emissions from some diesel engines. The engineers told me that the EPA used to calculate emission levels based on annual averages. Now, they’d be based on the engines’ hourly emissions averages. And of course, the engineers were happy to explain.
They said that many utilities use diesel engines as backup power generators whenever there’s a shortage of the power they can usually get from the main grid, or when they need to meet a sudden surge in demand. Diesel is easy to turn on and off quickly, so it’s great for meeting changes in power demand and supply. But diesels also pollute a lot, and the EPA was getting concerned about that. So that’s why the EPA changed the emissions levels -- to cut down on diesel emissions.
But as my engineer clients explained, this change by the EPA was going to hit small and midsize utilities like a freight train. Many of the diesel engines at the utilities were old and inefficient, and wouldn’t be able to meet the EPA’s new requirements.
This meant that with one stroke of a pen, the EPA had made much of the utilities’ equipment obsolete, and their business plans unworkable. It was a news item that most Americans wouldn’t have noticed, but it was a huge deal to the power utilities my engineer clients worked with. So, this was for sure a ‘narrowcast’ news item -- it was big news to a small number of people.
The engineers in Minneapolis wanted to let utilities across the United States know about the EPA changes and what they meant for utilities. The engineers also wanted to show their abilities to come up with solutions that would work for both the utilities and the EPA. To do this, they wanted to write an article that would reach the narrow but lucrative market of power utilities across the United States.
So I looked for a publication that would reach this market. There is a huge universe of narrowly-focused media to reach markets such as utilities. Some of these are printed magazines, which is still an excellent way to reach business clients. There are also websites, influential blogs and other media that clients already rely on.
In this case, I focused on a publication I’ve written for before, for power utilities and industrial generators, called Power Engineering, based in Houston. Nobody outside the business has ever heard of this magazine, and the content would be thoroughly boring to anyone outside the industry. But it’s vital to those who are in the industry. And we can see this in the fact that Power Engineering is able to charge over nine thousand dollars a page for advertising. So you can see, it’s very influential among a narrow market of people, who just happen to have big budgets to spend.
I presented the idea to the editor, who said it sounded interesting and we should go ahead and write it.
I worked with the engineers in Minneapolis to ghost-write an article for this publication. I’ll tell you the points we covered, because it’ll give you an idea of how you can design your own narrowcast newsjacking content.
We started by describing the EPA’s rule change about diesel emissions, and that’s the first step of doing any newsjacking content. You need to tell people the news.
Then, you say why it matters to them specifically. For the ‘diesel’ article, I put in some information on why it’s important for utilities to have a source of backup power, and the ability to meet peak-power needs. It’s important to spell out the ‘why it matters’ part in detail, in terms they’ll understand, so you can be sure you’ve got their attention. You want them to say to themselves, “This is important to me. I’d better pay attention to what this person is saying.”
The third point in newsjacking content is to give your projections on what’s going to happen as a result of the news event. In the ‘diesel’ article, the engineers talked about how the rule would play out, including the phase-in period, and when the EPA was going to get serious about enforcing the new rules.
Fourth -- and this is the whole purpose of the content, to show your ability to get results. You need to make your recommendations on what the reader can do to avoid a problem or gain a benefit. The engineers talked about how some diesel engines could be fitted with scrubbers, or maybe just a higher stack, to meet the new rules. Other utilities would be better off switching to another power source, maybe gas turbine.
Of course, there’s an unstated message under all of this, and that’s to say that your firm is able to help them deal with the issues. My engineers in Minneapolis clearly showed their understanding of their clients’ world, and that they could get results for them. You don’t need to make it a sales pitch. The reader or viewer will get the idea.
While the EPA announcement wouldn’t qualify as ‘news’ on mainstream media, it was a huge deal for some utilities -- and that happened to be exactly the market my engineer clients were pursuing.
The strength of narrowcast newsjacking comes from exclusivity. Any number of bloggers will prepare content around big-news events. But narrowly-focused developments give your firm a chance to show its ability to offer solutions.
It’s powerful positioning. Clients need to know that their service providers have ‘got their back’ and can protect them from new developments that could harm them. They also like the idea that they can count on your firm to let them know about new opportunities.
Narrowcast newsjacking shows your firm’s understanding of their world, and of the issues they are facing. It’s a really strong way to show that you care about them, and can get good results that are tailored to their needs.
So how do you make this happen?
First, you need to be sure that you’re made aware of news that affects your clients. If you don’t have a clear idea of the issues your clients are facing, it’s time you got better acquainted with them. You need to go to their conferences and association meetings, read the same blogs that they do, read their association websites and their printed publications. As you do, you’ll come to understand the developments in their world, so you’ll come to see what they’re about. This will also help make sure that the solutions you recommend to your clients fit with their reality.
So, make a list of what issues and concerns are relevant to them. For example, the head of staff development might be interested in new training technologies; the environmental compliance people want to know about new environmental regulations, and IT people may want to know about new ways to make bring-your-own-device to work.
Next, you need to build a ‘machine’ that will notify you of new developments that affect your clients. Some of this will be what military intelligence systems call ‘human intelligence’ -- networking with colleagues, customers, vendors and others to find out what’s happening. Some news will come from your own scanning of the trade and business media, social media and traditional news channels. And you may find that some information comes to you through the Alerts you’ve set up on keywords in which you’re interested.
When you hear of a news event, you need to take action quickly to generate content that’s relevant to people in your market, using the four-point outline we talked about before.
News analysis content is a good way to improve a firm’s Google rankings. If the content contains the right keywords and key phrases, it is likely to come up in searches under that topic. This means that acting quickly is important, if the content is to catch the relevant news cycle.
Sometimes, you can do the same as the mass-market content developers use -- tying their content to the launch of a new product. But this probably won’t be a mass-market i-Whatever. It’ll be a more narrow kind of product -- like maybe an improved device for measuring air quality, or for ground-penetrating radar to check a building’s foundations, or a new kind of roofing material. It’s whatever would be of interest to your clients. Maybe not so much to you, but your clients will want to know about it.