By Manya Chylinski published March 8, 2011

How to Mine the Press for Content

When it comes to finding ideas for your marketing content, you can easily run into a wall. To fill the pipeline, you need a constant source of relevant and usable ideas. You created an editorial calendar tied to company milestones, you found a way to repurpose existing content, you have a thought leader in your midst who likes to expound on big ideas, and you have identified relevant outside content to curate and publish.

If you’re still asking yourself these questions:

  • How can I find topical ideas for my content?
  • What can I do to keep the content fresh and exciting?
  • How can I engage the audience more?

 

it might be a good time to look outside your organization and industry for inspiration.

To find ideas in the press and in the blogosphere, you need to think like a journalist.

Here are five ways to start mining the media:

News

 

Find a way to change the scope of a news item and make it relevant to your audience. Perhaps you narrow a national story or expand a local one. Or you take a piece of the story and relate it to your company. Even if a story isn’t directly related to your industry or your market, you may find useful nuggets in the business press or local news.

Internet

  • Search the Internet, especially industry and governmental organizations, blogs, magazines, and other media
  • Set up alerts or RSS feeds for relevant organizations and topics
  • Set up alerts for news releases and newswire reports, working closely with your PR department so you don’t duplicate effort
  • Keep track of upcoming conferences in your industry and related industries and learn about the hot topics
  • Read newsletters from industry organizations.

Data

Find surveys, research reports, lists of the top companies, year-end reviews or the like. See what connections you find and if this inspires thoughts about content for your marketing program.

Competition

  • Check out your competitors’ websites to find out what is new
  • Read their press releases and press kits
  • Sign up for their newsletters or RSS feeds
  • Read their publications, white papers and case studies.

Conversation

Talk to the industry insiders you know and find out what’s on their minds. Chances are they will have good ideas to share or interesting stories that haven’t been told yet.

Now that you know where to look to find ideas and inspiration, it’s time to get creative. Here are the six questions to ask to get at the heart of the information and find the best story to tell your audience.

Who?

Think about how to make this story or idea relevant for your audience. Who is the target audience for this content? How can you change the approach to make it work for your readers?

For example, the marketing director at a software company reads about analyzing business data in a trade magazine and wants to create a white paper about their own software that addresses this issue. The original story was targeted to technology executives, but the company’s target market is front line managers and non-technical executives. The original piece sparked the idea and the final white paper reworked the story to focus on how their software solved the problems of their target market.

What?

Think about finding a different angle on the story, one that specifically meets the needs of your audience. Consider simplifying or narrowing the topic, expanding the idea, or changing the context so it is applicable to your readers.

  • What triggered this story?
  • Would changing the context of the piece help you create useful content?
  • Can the news item be more relevant to your readers with insights from your experts?

If the story is timely and deserves discussion with a media outlet, you may need to get your PR team involved.

When?

News stories are usually timely and very important right now.  Think about whether the story has relevance for a longer time, and how you can you rework it to take advantage of that. If the story is a continuing or evergreen story, think about the perspective you or your experts bring to the topic or consider recurring posts to keep your customers updated.

Why?

Think about why this particular piece of information is important. Why did this event or incident happen?  If the story includes or excludes certain information, consider how you might use what is missing to come up with a new story angle for your content.

Consider a government agency that finds a story about one of their partners and programs in the local paper, a local human interest story tied to the start of the school year. The agency took inspiration from the piece to create a case study focusing on the part of the story important to their constituency—the successful creation of a school supported program—to share the specifics with their partners, to help them create similar programs in their own communities.

Where?

Consider reworking a blog piece or news story about something that happened in a different state or country and connecting it to your audience. Or if you find a relevant local story, think about how to make it useful to a national or international audience.

How?

Think about the manner in which the news story came to be. How did this happen? What if you imagined different circumstances? Or took an opposing viewpoint? Or what if you shared the information in a different way? Consider how the idea could be told differently in another format, such as a video or podcast.

The goal of this exercise is to find content for your marketing program. Since you are not creating timely news pieces, you generally have a longer time horizon than your PR team. Consider these sources and different ways of thinking about them as another tool in your kit for creating relevant content for your customers and prospects.

If you have any insights about how you develop content, please share them with us.

Author: Manya Chylinski

Manya Chylinski is a marketing consultant and writer helping B2B companies create compelling content and share thought leadership and success stories. Founder of Alley424 Communications, Manya has experience in a variety of industries including technology, higher education, financial services, government, and consulting.

Other posts by Manya Chylinski

  • http://twitter.com/andjdavies andjdavies

    Sorry – surely the above are standard practice for most content professionals?

    We use dashboards that actually “mine” a huge range of sources to expose key trends, issues, and topics that are relevant to your audience and your brand. This significantly shortens the idea generation phase and allows editorial staff to focus on actually creating market-leading content.

    See – http://idioplatform.com/technology/back-office-products/editorial-dashboard/

    • Manya

      This is certainly a standard practice for many content creators, and those that do are creating market-leading content, as you say.

      However, I’m not sure this is standard everywhere yet. My experience with B2B companies is that some do not have an editorial calendar or official plan for their content; and when they do it is limited to ideas and content generated in-house. Something like mining the press on a regular basis isn’t on the radar screen. For some this may be resource allocation issue, not enough time or staff to spend on this. For others it seems it’s the culture of the company to be inward focused.

      Maybe this can serve as a good reminder for those who haven’t started the practice yet.

  • Jay Olson

    Manya, this is a comprehensive checklist for finding newsworthy ideas. And, I thinking looking for a “different angle that specifically meets the needs of your audience” is absolutely key. Good avice! Thanks for posting.

    • Manya

      Thanks for the comment.

      We’ve all read marketing pieces (and some of us have surely written them, myself included no doubt) that leave us scratching our heads and wondering who the target audience was, if there was one. I hope this is a good reminder of how important it is to write with the audience in mind.

  • Manya

    Agree with your concerns–we should all be doing this all the time, at least as part of a full content program.

    I think in a lot of cases it’s a matter of resource allocation, not necessarily due to a lack of desire for fresh content. It does take time to do all this research and consider how to create reader-centered content. Some companies may not have the staff, time, or budget to stray too far from their current method of creating content.

    • http://www.codrutturcanu.com Codrut Turcanu

      Hmm… they better be prepared. If they don’t have a staff, time and budget to create irresistible content on a regular basis, then why are they still in business? :)

      Internet is all about content, regardless the industry. Google want content, we want content, everybody needs it.

      P.S. Do you know of any particular niche where up to date content is not a must?

  • Manya

    Agreed. I like your suggestion about publishing weekly summary of relevant stories. These days we are all in need of trusted filters to help us find and digest relevant information. Since the basis of a good content marketing program is to educate customers, this is a great way to do that, perhaps a little more quickly than is possible with some other materials.

    And it is so true that people like to see themselves in the content. Thank you for that important reminder.

  • Renee Campbell

    I do like this post. As a matter of fact, we are using some of these ideas. Our local Community College has a Small Business Development Center that publishes a weekly business-related column in our local newspaper. I thought a recent topic on various marketing techniques would be interesting to our clients, so have submitted it for publishing in our next newsletter.

    • Manya

      Great to hear you are using some of these ideas. Your example of finding this topic in the newspaper shows that using the media as a resource like this can be a relatively simple process, too. It doesn’t have to be onerous. The small business development center is a good source to keep on your radar.

      Thanks for sharing…