In August, the solar eclipse was visible from parts of the United States – including partially from where I live in Iowa. There were clouds, but it was still a pretty decent view.
People were excited and the event was taking over social media, allowing us a short break from political rants and posts.
And then as I was minding my own business I ran across a Facebook post by Marcus Sheridan (a.k.a. the Saleslion) that read: What do the solar eclipse and content marketing have in common?
But when you click over the article, it says…Nothing. And that we should stop making marketing analogies for everything that’s happening in this world.
Mark Schaefer made a similar statement a while back when he shared his story about how he stopped the British rail system.
“This is the point where you expect me to tie this all together with some pithy observation about business and marketing. But, there is no lesson here except that sometimes it’s more rewarding to make fun of myself rather than trying to be smart every day.”
I’ve noticed this myself, actually. It seems like we’re trying two things
- Tell stories
- Tie them back to who we think our audiences are (most likely marketers)
Of course, both of these are good to pursue to help differentiate ourselves within content marketing. Telling stories that are in turn meaningful to our audiences can grow our audiences, communities and customer bases.
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And I’m guilty as charged as I’ve done this before myself. The process usually looks like this: Here’s something that happened to me in real life; let’s blog about it and then tie it back to marketing.
Sometimes I think I’ve done it because I wasn’t so sure whether or not I should be sharing a story to begin with. And then that gave me a reason to share it for my marketing minded readers. Of course, that was early on in my storytelling career. Today if I have a story I think is worth sharing, I’ll just share it.
The one thing to take from this storytelling strategy is that’s much easier to share stories from our own experience then from unrelated, or at worst, made up experiences. But then, don’t try to artificially tie it to something highly unrelated.
Obviously, there could be analogies drawn between the eclipse and content marketing, but they would likely be a stretch. Hypothetically, there could be analogies drawn between all kinds of things to digital marketing, from dead deer on the side of the road to how we park.
My storytelling formula
So here’s the formula that I recommend as you share publicly the stories that happen in your organization, and/or personal life:
- Recognize that the story is kind of interesting and might be worth sharing.
- Determine what angle your readers might care about. This step is easily over-thought and can lead to stories not being shared when they actually should be. So, don’t do that.
- Determine what the story has to do with your overall strategy.
- Share the stories!
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I love analyzing why something is working or not working. I also love processes and scaling storytelling processes in organizations. When done well, it’s beautiful and organizations share better and more useful stories.
But, let’s not force connections. Not everything out there has a connection to what we do as a business. Even when people are reading that currently hot topic. No need to tie ourselves into everything that’s happening. Now, sometimes it’s okay to respond to and insert ourselves into breaking news events. But not always.
When we should respond to breaking news
It’s totally OK to respond to and insert yourself through your blog and social media into the discussion surrounding breaking news events from time to time. Some people call this newsjacking, which sounds kind of negative to me, so I don’t use that term.
It should be about adding something meaningful and useful to what’s going on out there in the world, beyond what’s reported through (traditional) news media.
This is what it can look like:
- News event is publicized
- You decide that you have something to say about it, something in addition to what’s been reported. Restating or saying “I agree with that” usually doesn’t add much value.
- Blog post is published and distributed and content is reformatted through social media posts.
Perspectives shared can lead to a good-sized audience and sometimes even earned media coverage.
To get to any kind of outcome – just like any kind of blogging – the content you share has to be:
- Not promotional
Depending on the breaking news situation, it can also totally backfire. Most tragedies are best to avoid blogging about, unless you have some true expertise to share. For example, media relations organizations can most likely offer their expertise and analyze how an organization performed or didn’t perform with their media relations during a disaster.
There’s certainly the additional question on whether or not we really want to critique somebody else’s performance.
I’m a fan of responding to breaking news, when we can do it in a way that’s meaningful to our audiences and non-promotional.
Some things to consider before deciding to participate:
- Why do you want to?
- What’s in it for the organization?
- Are there any obvious drawbacks?
- What unique angle can you offer?
- Is the author prepared to talk to the media?
- Are you prepared to answer people’s questions? (That doesn’t mean we have to prepare answers to 5,000 possible questions. It means to be aware that people might have questions and you are willing to answer them.)
- Can you get your content written quickly and get it published soon? Let’s say the next two hours?
Sharing our knowledge and expertise is what content marketing and authentic storytelling are all about. That can be during a breaking news event or during regular weekly blog posts. Either way, it’s about adding value. Content marketers sell without selling by being useful with their information.
Adding valuable information to breaking news events can be part of the content marketing plan.
My take-away from their reminders really comes down to this:
Keep telling stories. Keep sharing them. Tie them to something that’s meaningful. But don’t force it. Also, Marcus’ post was super short and I saw all kinds of people sharing it. So, great example of how sometimes shorter posts are better than longer ones!
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