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Ahead of her MozCon Virtual 2021 presentation, Amanda Milligan walks through three components that can make your content newsworthy enough to attract links: data, emotion, and impact.
Don’t forget to grab your ticket to see Amanda’s full presentation — A Live Guide to Finding & Filling the Gaps in Your Link Strategy — along with our other incredible speakers!
Hi, everyone. I am Amanda Milligan, the Growth Director at Fractl, and today I want to talk to you about how to make newsworthy content. My career has been in marketing and communications, but my degree was in journalism. So this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.
So my MozCon presentation is actually on how to perform a link gap analysis, which basically means how to find out who your competitors are getting links from and then how to brainstorm how you can get similar links. Well, when it comes to actually building those links, newsworthy content is the best way to do that. I’m going to talk to you about some of the elements that are really important in creating that type of content.
So first, data. Data is really crucial to this process because most of us do not have breaking news operations or full news rooms for our brand. We are not actual reporters.
This is not our full-time job. So we can’t be just reporting on the newest thing that’s happening. We almost have to create our own news by digging in and investigating topics that are interesting to us.
So original data is a great way to do that. You can start with seeing if you actually have any internal data at your company that would be of interest to relevant publications. A lot of companies overlook this aspect.
Obviously, you have to have permission to do so. But you might have information that would be really interesting. Or maybe you have an email list or an audience that’s pretty active that you can survey or poll and find out some information that would be appealing to people. So that’s a good place to start.
Otherwise, there’s public data available. The government alone has tons and tons of publicly available datasets that you can use and even combine different datasets to see some really interesting things.
An example of a combination of that is for our client Porch.com. We looked at information about how much different household chores, no, not chores, but home improvement projects cost, and then we surveyed people to ask how often they did those home improvement projects. We were able to see the cost of home improvement over many years of time. So that’s an example of using two different datasets combining for new insights.
Thirdly, surveys and other types of data collection are great if you don’t have the answer and data yet. Maybe you can run a survey. Maybe you can scrape social media. Maybe there is another way. We’ve done germ swabbing. Anything you can do to collect data. Basically a good way to think about it is ask yourself a question that’s interesting to you and would be interesting to your audience or think about what’s interesting to your audience.
If there is no answer, ask yourself how you can find it. Then this piece will make the rest of the process exponentially easier, because when you go to pitch a reporter, you’re going to say, “I have exclusive research, new data that no one else has really talked about before.” That is hugely appealing to the media.
The second component here is emotion. Is what you’re working on going to make somebody feel something? Now I actually have a sample headline down here from TechRepublic. This is actual coverage from a piece that we pitched.
It says: “Your Zoom background may not make you look as professional as you think.” Now you read that, and you’re like, “Wait. What?” We’re all on Zoom. That’s not good. So that has an element of surprise to it, right? The reason why I say to think about this, it comes sometimes inherently, when you’re coming up with ideas, we all tend to think of things that are going to have some kind of an emotional resonance.
But if you think about this stuff from the beginning and you imagine maybe what a headline might look like or what’s going to be the interesting takeaway from something, you can really focus in on the interesting parts of a project. You can also see here — so this headline is from a survey that we did I believe — more original data. So they’re able to say some new claim that they weren’t able to say before.
So emotion. If you are not really sure which direction to go in, try surprise, focus on surprise, because a lot of journalists like to focus on things that are new and unexpected. Also we did a study many years ago, I think 2013, where we looked at all the viral images of that year, and we polled people on what emotions were most present.
Surprise was the most present one. So it’s actually very prevalent in viral content. But we’re not even talking about viral content. We’re talking about anything that does well in digital PR. Surprise is a really great way to do that. So as you’re creating a piece of content or a project, ask yourself as you’re doing it, like what do you expect and did the results come back that way.
Obviously, you have to work with what the data gives you. But if you found it surprising, odds are someone else is going to find it surprising. Make sure that’s highlighted in the results. When you pitch it, make sure it’s highlighted in the body of your pitch.
Thirdly, impact. Impact, it has some other names. Sometimes we talk about newsworthiness.
Prominence is one of them. Basically, is it actually affecting the audience? When a journalist decides what to write, they want to know: Does this impact my readers? How does this affect their daily lives? So if you look back at this headline example, TechRepublic, their audience most likely has been on a lot of Zoom calls in the last year or so.
So they know, when they saw this pitch, this is going to be interesting to a lot of people. This is more in the general audience bucket. You can do projects and I have another video about tangential content, which you can check out, that’s along these lines. But you can think, “What impacts a wide audience?” If you’re trying to get national news coverage or appeal to a pretty general audience, you have to think about what’s going to impact a lot of folks.
What do we have in common? What is something that we’re going to be able to all relate to? Or you can still apply this in a niche perspective. You don’t always have to appeal everybody. But if you’re going to do that, then you need to focus in and think, “How is this going to impact that specific person that I have in mind, that set of people?” If you’re able to do that and explain in your pitch to the journalists I think this insight is interesting because XYZ, and they see that it has an impact for their audience, they’re going to be more likely to cover it, because it’s in their interest not only to get their audience to click on these stories but to inform them about things that they might be interested about.
In this case, it’s that they might not look as professional as they thought. I put this headline here because it’s an example of all three of these things. We often like to think we have our digital PR perspective involved from the very beginning of creating content. You don’t want to have them separate. You don’t want to create something and then have somebody pitch it later and have no idea kind of where it came from or why you went that direction.
Think about: What is it that we’re trying to get out of this? What’s the question we’re trying to answer? If you have a thesis, is it correct? Are you proving it wrong? Those are going to be the interesting bits that are going to lead you to getting the coverage like this. So I went through a lot very quickly. The whole point of this is if you come up with something newsworthy, if it’s appealing to a certain group of people, if it’s original information, and it has a lot of emotional resonance, you’re going to be able to pitch that to the media and hopefully get media coverage for your brand, which not only gets you brand awareness and a very authoritative positioning, because your brand is being mentioned alongside original research that your brand did, but also incredible backlinks, which again ties into the whole backlink analysis side of things.
SEOs are really always looking for ways to get excellent links, but you have to earn those links and you have to earn it through creating newsworthy content. So thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate you taking the time and best of luck out there.