One of the most significant changes today’s connected, digital information marketplace has wrought upon marketing and PR teams is in timing. A few years ago, an organization’s communications calendar was dictated by the company, according its schedule of events, partnerships and product launches. The audience consumed the messaging the company pushed, and the message was conveyed via specific channels, such as industry media or a big trade show.

Today, the audience has seized control of much of the timing. They are able to select their information sources, and frequently tap friends and peers for information and opinion. They research their purchases on their own timing, often tuning out brand messaging until they’re ready to engage. In many cases, the brand doesn’t initiate the first touch with the prospect. Instead, that first touch originates with the prospect, in a social network or via a search engine. As a result, brands need to evolve to being ‘always on,’ rather than relying solely upon episodic campaigns.

Additionally, search and social are good relevancy filters, which creates another challenge for brands. In such a fluid environment, how does one gain credible attention that is relevant to audiences and can keep the brand top-of-mind? Put another way, how does one drive ongoing discovery of a brand?

Content marketing, newsroom-style

Adopting a newsroom mentality can help you surface timely content opportunities for your brand (tweet this.) Simply put, it means allowing trending and timely news stories to inform your content calendar, and calibrating your organization to deliver responses in near real time.

To start, get cozy with your friendly neighborhood PR team, or pay attention to the stories you’re seeing in the same media your brand is targeting in media and ad campaigns. In particular, note which stories are the most popular on those different web sites, and model your editorial calendar accordingly. If the top stories are all trends or tactics pieces, that is a clear signal that you should steer clear of (or at least, de-emphasize) theory, for example.

In addition, you’ll find other sources of ‘breaking story ideas’ within other areas of your business. Here are a few possible sources:

4 sources of ‘breaking’ content ideas

  • Responses to legislative or industry developments. Monitor industry trends, pending legislation or regulatory developments. Round up experts and issue your responses. If you’ve taken a multi-channel approach toward publishing your responses, such as issuing the official response via a press release, publishing a thought piece on your blog, creating a video or infographic offering a look into specific details and supporting all of the above in social networks, it will be difficult for anyone searching for related information to miss seeing your message. Example: Bankrate: Mortgage Rates Post Mixed Results
  • The story you wish that reporter would have told. It’s happened to all of us. You pick up a magazine or see an online article that is strongly related to the brand you represent – and yet, your brand is absent from the piece. Once you’re done with the obligatory gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair, you can start to formulate your brand’s point of view, filling in the gaps you wish had been filled, and offering your brand’s point of view in the process. Pro tip: Interview a few socially connected industry influencers, to deliver additional credibility, and further amplify your message, as chances are good the quoted influencers will share the content.
  • Events and seasonal opportunities. In the summer, corporate types start thinking about their budgets for next year. Families wrap up vacations and start making back-to-school plans. Football enthusiasts count the days until the first game. These things happen each year, and can provide news hooks and ideas for content that is relevant and useful at that moment. A B2B company can survey customers, and release a report on trends, ahead of budgeting. A company selling to families can find numerous angles for their back-to-school stories. A fitness company could translate pro-football moves into a workout for fans at home. Example: Hotwire Unveils Top 5 Sleeper Cities for Labor Day Weekend
  • Social conversations – a new barometer of public opinion, and a new way to inject “man on the street” perspective. We all know that we need to keep an eye on social channels. However, instead of simply monitoring brand mentions, keep an eye on topics that are emerging (and growing legs) within your business segment, and which topics garner more attention amongst social network denizens.

These tried-and-true tactics are borrowed from the public relations playbook. PR pros use them to fine-tune the relevance of the stories they pitch, according to media outlet and journalist preferences and beats. Employing these tactics to inform a content strategy will similarly help marketers develop timely and relevant content that resonates with the audience and keeps the brand top of mind.