We subscribe to seven different publications in my apartment. They range from the daily Wall Street Journal to The Economist and New York magazine to Food & Wine and Fast Company every month. I also follow countless blogs and am signed up for daily e-newsletters. You might call me a content addict. And I’m not breaking the habit anytime soon.
As marketing communications strategists, we help our clients become part of a story (or even create the story itself), whether it’s a single article or a larger narrative about an industry, trend, or movement. We do this by crafting original messages that aren’t being talked about yet, which means we have to know – better than anyone – what is being talked and written about, so we can come up with fresh ideas for the media.
When junior employees start at BlissPR, the first thing we tell them is to read. A lot. It starts with diving deep on the publications our clients care about, whether it’s a financial services magazine or human resources trades, as well as the national dailies. We push them to read with a purpose in mind, and always ask questions: How could our clients fit into that article? What’s the flip side of that story, and how do we tell it? This kind of “strategic reading” helps generate ideas that can break through the clutter journalists receive every day – which is essential for a successful media relations campaign.
The ability to do this comes with experience, but any professional, no matter their length of tenure, can start doing the same thing with a little guidance. I’ve broken down my approach to strategic reading below, which can also be applied to other types of content.
- Look for what’s not there: When you finish reading an article, take a minute to think about what it didn’t cover. What questions weren’t asked? Who else could have been quoted to round out the story? If you give some thought to this, you’ll likely come up with an interesting twist on the story that could be your next big pitch idea.
- Consume content that has nothing to do with your clients: Inspiration can strike in unlikely places. While it’s imperative to keep up with publications important to your clients, it’s equally important to stretch your brain a bit and see what kind of ideas you can derive from unrelated sources. Even though we serve B2B clients, I’ve gotten ideas from consumer PR blogs, lifestyle magazines, and the metro section of the New York Times.
- Go beyond reading and watching: Journalists are curious by nature, so it only makes sense that they like connecting with other people who like ideas. Next time you read an article that pushes your thinking, take the next step and send the reporter a short note. Ask questions or commenting on stories (with no pitch involved) can often spark conversations that lead to meaningful journalist relationships – and interesting dialogue!
We all process a ton of information each day, and it can be tempting to do your reading for clients and simply check it off your list. But you will have a much easier time generating creative ideas and turning those ideas into key placements if you take some time to apply the advice above.
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