Darcy Pohland was known for her ability to dig up stories like few other reporters in the Twin Cities television news market. Bound to a wheelchair as the result of a swimming pool accident as a teenager, the late WCCO-TV news veteran had some physical limitations, and yet she dug up stories with relentless resolve and determination. Darcy, who passed away in 2010, worked her beat, developed reliable and trusted contacts, and worked them on a daily basis. Darcy knew how to mine for stories, how to source stories, and ultimately, she could then craft that information into the lead story of the evening newscast night after night. Her commitment to uncovering stories was her gift and a trait that content marketers should steal if they struggle to uncover their own company stories.
What Are You Known For?
Before you start creating content, understand what you’re known for or what your client is known for. Like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse is known for exceptional steak, what is your business known for? Or what do you want to be known for? In the news industry today, some networks are known for their stance on political issues. It’s broadly believed that CNN represents a more liberal perspective while FOX News represents a more conservative style. While your organization is probably not political, it most certainly has a perspective on your industry. What is it that you want people to know you for?
Become a Student of Your Beat
If you’re going to write a lot of content about any subject, you have to understand the industry about which you are writing. This goes beyond reading a website or a brochure. It’s about studying and understanding every aspect of your industry, or the industry of your client. When you know the angles, issues, problems, and solutions, everything else comes easy. If you don’t know much, become a student and make it your beat. Read industry trades, follow industry thought leaders on Twitter and LinkedIn, read their posts, articles, books and watch their videos. Make it your obsession.
Differentiate New Information from Junk
You know the phrase, “that’s old news?” Of course you do, it’s referring to information that’s already available in other places. And yet, content creators are writing content every day that can be found in other places. One of the reasons this happens is that many content folks are laggards when it comes to understanding their business. When you know your beat, you start to lead and report on innovative ideas, products and services. Become a resource for people who are looking for fresh information and news, not junk.
Develop Sources Who Know More than You
Reporters become “in the know” not because they just inherently know a lot about their beat (although this does happen over time). They become knowledgeable because they learn from people who know more than they do — these are your sources. Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein had suspicions and hunches during Watergate in the 1970’s, but they needed “Deep Throat” to give them reliable information. Creating remarkable content doesn’t always mean sharing the stuff swirling inside your head. Some of the best content comes from people who are closer to the action than you. This is what reporters do — they don’t make the news, they report it. On the other hand, if you are the “mover and shaker,” share your original thoughts and information with those whom you can help.
What’s the News Peg?
As you vet your story ideas, ask yourself who cares about this information? We talk about this a lot, and it’s worth hammering home more — who is the audience and why do they care about your story idea? In newsroom editorial meetings, reporters are often challenged to present the “news peg” in the story. Quite often, new bloggers will fall in love with an idea they came up with after learning something new. They may be the last person in the world to learn it, but to them it’s new! However, there’s no news hook. They are the only person who cares about the story because it’s new news to them and has no value to anyone else.
Here's the catch: it's not easy. Creating remarkable content that people will read, share, and care about requires some work. However, here's the payoff: taking a news-styled approach to writing compelling content will separate your posts from the "listical" information that is filling the internet.