There is an endless number of topics that start trending, either on a periodic basis or as cultural events occur. The Super Bowl, a rise in cryptocurrency price, Christmas flight travel volume, the Stranger Things finale — the list goes on. Content marketers can capitalize on these by creating material that readers are craving.
So, how do you know if you can leverage these topics as they arrive to the news cycle? There are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind before deploying your team to cover the latest trend:
1. Angle: Can You Add Something Unique to the Existing Discussion?
Just because something is being discussed online doesn’t mean all additional relevant content will be successful. A rehashing of what has already been written will likely be a flop. The most effective content marketers recognize a need by discovering what information is missing from the current conversation, and then they provide it. This will look different depending on the topic, of course. Marketing material around the latest class of MLB rookies, for example, will take a different form than content around Disney World travel strategies.
Consider the example of Christmas flight travel volume. It’s one of those topics that is covered in the news every year without fail — a high number of travelers plus winter weather always leads to delays. Is this something marketers can use as material Absolutely — your campaign just needs to tell readers more than what is already known.
It’s not a surprise that airports on the East Coast experience flight delays due to winter weather, but drilling down into the details or analyzing what’s known in a different way can lead to compelling content. A unique angle could be to analyze which of the airports is “best equipped” for the weather. Comparing storm severity by airport location to each one’s delays would give readers a new perspective on Christmas travel news.
2. Appeal: Can You Make the Topic Interesting to a Wider Audience?
In some cases, there are national discussions that interest nearly everyone. However, there are many more topics that are covered only by certain niches or news beats — real estate, sports, local interest, parenting, food, etc. Some of these are large enough that content tailored specifically to them can be very successful. However, marketers can maximize a campaign’s effectiveness by widening the scope of interest. A lot of times, topics within a certain category can be expanded to be relevant to many more readers.
Airbnb rentals, for example, are often discussed at length. Stories focused on this company’s earnings by market and local government regulations are coming out each day, and they are generally tailored to the real estate news beat. A way to leverage this conversation in content generation could be to determine how much money is earned, on average, by Airbnb hosts in cities across the U.S. Not only does this provide a data set not yet available, but it also widens the pool of readers who would be interested. Now, those interested in personal finance or those located in the cities analyzed would find your content relevant — in addition to those who already follow the real estate/housing development beat.
3. Timing: Can You Launch the Campaign When Appropriate?
Everyone has heard the phrase “15 minutes of fame,” and it sums up how the news cycle generally works. A topic’s newsworthiness, just like someone’s fame, doesn’t always last. Appropriate timing is essential for trendy content to be effective. With too late of a launch, you risk no one being interested anymore. Too early, as in the case of upcoming topics like annual sporting events, you risk no one being interested yet and your material seeming out of date by the time the event occurs.
For topics that become unpredictably trendy, such as cryptocurrency, you’ll want to launch your content as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the higher chance there is of the news cycle moving on or someone else providing something similar before you do. For topics that you can predict, such as the Olympics or Black Friday, you’ll want to make your content available as the news cycle starts heating up. Post-event marketing content — e.g., a post-Olympics medal analysis — tends to be less successful than content launched before the peak of news coverage. By looking at when coverage peaks historically, marketers can determine the ideal launch date for their type of content.
4. The Topic Itself: Do You Want Your Brand to Be Associated With It?
There are headline-maker topics that are undoubtedly at the top of mind for many consumers and news outlets. In other words, there are plenty of people ready to digest new content around these topics. The question for a marketing organization is: Do you want your company name embedded in an article discussing the topic?
Consider two examples: the latest political scandal and NFL draft predictions.
Political drama lends itself well to comedians looking for new material, but it does have a generally negative tone. A brand creating a marketing campaign or online content around it — like a US heat map of corruption — may be interesting or comical, but this could potentially cause readers to associate your brand with negativity. Worse, it could be perceived as your brand taking a political position in this specific case. An alternative and much more positive focus would be to highlight the most influential leaders in politics or across a variety of fields.
As for the NFL draft, it’s not exactly a simple, fun sports story. As many know, the past NFLA season was infused with controversy surrounding player protests during the national anthem. If you decide to create a marketing campaign around the upcoming draft, make sure your content leaves readers engaged and positively impacted. Mapping out past draft picks’ hometowns against where they ended up could be a fun piece that wouldn’t produce negative backlash. However, an analysis of how sponsorship deals have changed for players who protested could produce such a backlash.
Marketers can sometimes get caught up in high-level strategies and forget their ultimate purpose — to reach and positively influence consumers. Always consider how your marketing content will be received and by whom. With these four guidelines, you can maximize the effectiveness of your next campaign on a trending topic.
Maddi Salmon is a senior content marketing associate for Go Fish Digital, a full-service digital marketing agency.