The best reporters and editors are those who can step outside what they think is important and focus on what their readers care about most.

It’s a basic lesson but one that’s frightfully hard to keep in mind, whether you’re doing content marketing or covering Hurricane Sandy, the supposed “Frankenstorm” hitting the East Coast today (October 29, 2012.) As of 11:12 AM, an hour after my local paper said the “most damaging winds” were supposed to hit, I’m seeing only light rain and mild breezes out my window.

What happened to the storm, besides a healthy dose of hype? A look at a weather map (above, which I had to drill into the New York Times site to find) shows the storm took a sharp left turn and, it seems, will pass to the west of Boston.

Whoever was updating the Globe Web site could have looked out the window at the calm scene, realized, “Gee, it doesn’t look so bad,” and written a lead something like:

“With Hurricane Sandy taking a sharp left turn inland, Greater Boston should miss the heaviest winds and rains, with the storm hitting 12 hours later than originally thought, forecasters said Monday. The area is expected to still get winds gusts as high as 75 M.P.H., but not until late Monday or early Tuesday, forecasters said.”

Your customers and prospects are caught in a hurricane of their own: Wind-driven hype and torrents of blog posts, white papers, Tweets and news stories about the technology they need to do their jobs. Just like a homeowner wondering if they should bring in the lawn furniture, all they care about is the latest news and how it affects them.

That means your content marketing efforts should tell them:

  • What just happened: New regulations hit small businesses; the iPad gets traction among business users; a critical flaw is found in software that controls many industrial systems. Each of these stories passes the “Gee, I didn’t know that!” and tells the reader what steps they should take as a result.
  • What it all means: Explain what a news event means to your customers or prospects and the resulting action they should take. A great example was a pitch from way back in 2007 explained the implications of Microsoft’s release of Windows Vista for its Network Access Control. Here, the pitch told me as an editor something I didn’t know and what it meant, at least according to one vendor.
  • And not just what you care about! “Jambo Software today announced an OEM agreement with MegaSystems under which Jambo’s IP-Sec enablement module will be integrated with MegaSystems Wasteful ERP solution. `We are pleased and honored to be included in MegaSystems’ industry-leading scalable, robust platform.” Explain instead what a Mega Systems customer can do as a result of this integration and you have a story.

Before posting that content on your blog, promoting it on Twitter or teasing it an email, look up from your screen and out the window at the world your customers are seeing. Make sure everything you do in text, video, podcast or Webinar is not only new, but most relevant to their immediate needs.

And, no, as of 11:51 AM the winds still haven’t picked up.

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email or call me at 508 725-7258.

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