Riding the wave – how your brand can capitalise on breaking news

When a major news story breaks, sometimes, your business will be able to piggyback off the trend for some sweet traffic and brand awareness. But how do you cut through the noise to capitalise on it?

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A major news story breaks.

Everyone is talking about it.

And crucially, it’s relevant to your business.

But how can you join the conversation in a meaningful way that will get your brand noticed?

Unlike jumping on the bandwagon, where brands see a topic or event trending and join in the conversation just because it’s popular *cough Pride*, this is an opportunity to create and share content curated to potential customers who may not have come across you before who are already involved in the discussion.

Why keeping your finger on the pulse is important

According to research conducted by Mark Irvine, Data Scientist at Wordstream, social trends influence search trends dramatically.

This highlights the importance of tapping into social conversations and acting quickly to respond across not just social media, but other marketing channels, too.

Where can you discover what’s hot, and what’s not?

There are lots of tools that can be utilised to keep tabs on or discover what people who may be interested in your products and services are talking about.

Google Alerts

Set up Google Alerts with terms relevant to your business and demographics interests with the setting ‘as soon as it happens’ so that news stories hit your inbox as and when they are picked up by Google News, or more broadly, the entire web.

If you’re used to getting just a few results a day, and suddenly see a massive spike, there’s a good chance that something newsworthy has happened in your niche.

Pro tip – for queries of more than one word, put it in quotation marks. If I hadn’t, my example would have shown me news and recent posts about ‘DIY’ and ‘punk’, not just ‘DIY punk’.

Google Trends

Another handy free tool, Google Trends gives a nice overview of what has been trending recently, with the opportunity to drill down into specific search queries.

In this example, a news story broke about a shortage of HRT in the UK. As a direct result of that, while less significant of an increase, people are actively seeking alternatives.

If your query is broad enough, check out the top and rising related searches as well.


Social Media

Bit of an obvious one this, but it never hurts to take a look at social media a few times a day to see what’s trending. Bear in mind that social media is personalised, so it can be a bit of an echo chamber. What’s trending in your feed might not be in someone else’s.

For Twitter, check out https://twitter.com/explore and drill down to https://twitter.com/i/trends for a more extensive list of what people are talking about. You can turn off location and personalisation in the settings if you want to see what’s trending more broadly.

Look out for ‘trending with’, which shows related content associated with the root trending term. You can also use the advanced search and set date parameters to find what you’re looking for, or enter the topic, hashtag, or person and select ‘Latest’ to get an idea of how frequently new posts are being published.

For more B2B-focused trending topics, LinkedIn shows ‘Today’s news and views’ in the top right-hand side of the platform, with the option to also follow hashtags.

Reddit can also be a great place to discover what’s currently popular with your audience. To get started, begin following some subreddits and keep a close eye on what is getting the most engagement (upvotes, downvotes, comments).

Facebook is fairly useless for checking in on what’s popular after it did away with its Trending Topics feature last year, so good luck finding newsworthy stories on their platform!

Publishers with lists on what’s hot

Buzzfeed and indy100 both use lists to show what’s trending amongst their readers. They’re generally pretty clickbaity, though.

Paid social listening/monitoring/sentiment tools

There are loads of platforms available to automatically alert you when something you’re tracking is trending. Some are better at aggregating and updating data than others.

Buzzsumo has a ‘Trending Now’ feature, which can be set to a window of one hour for hyper-up-to-date topics. You can create a ‘Trending Feed’ to specify the news stories you’d like to monitor and have the option to set up alerts, too. The ‘Monitoring’ tool is also excellent for identifying when search interest and engagement for a specific keyword changes.

So now I know what’s trending, what can I do with it?

Let’s look at the HRT shortage story. Since the news broke, many women have been concerned about not being able to access the medication they need for alleviating menopause symptoms.

One of our clients offers treatments that can help with menopause symptoms, offering an alternative to HRT.

This presented the perfect opportunity to join the conversation, raising brand awareness, while also providing advice that will be valuable to those concerned about what their options are if their medication becomes unavailable. So, what action did we take?

  • Conducted keyword research and trends analysis to see what keywords were related to the root keyword ‘HRT shortage’
  • Created PPC ads targeting HRT shortage, HRT alternatives, and other relevant search terms pointing to their menopause specialist landing page
  • Published a blog post explaining the alternatives available to help manage menopause symptoms if the HRT shortage continues
  • Compiled a target list of social media influencers/people who are concerned and the hashtags they used to raise awareness of the story
  • Joined the conversation by sharing the blog post, and engaging with people talking about the topic
  • Pitched gynaecologists and other specialists at the clinic to provide quotes on the alternatives to major news/women’s publications

What else can be utilised?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. And what’s more, nearly two-thirds of the population are visual learners. So consider creating images, charts, or infographics that summarise the key points of the story. This works especially well for news based on statistics or other findings. Create one good enough and it could end up being shared extensively, or picked up and used by publishers (just make sure they credit you if they use it)!

Videos can be used to break down a complicated story into something easier for users to digest. This is a great choice if you have an expert who can explain something complex in more simple terms.

Timing is everything

The biggest consideration you need to make when launching a campaign in response to a news story, no matter how big or small, is whether you can dedicate the resources needed to respond quickly. If you miss the boat, you may as well have not bothered at all.

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