Building a Brand Newsroom in 2016: Finding Content Themes

March 3, 2016

Written by NewsWhip
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Brands are becoming publishers. No longer are brands some faceless entity—they are now expected to have a distinct personality, participate in social media, and even create their own content to bring value to the social sphere.

Red Bull, GE, Coca Cola, Barney’s, Xerox, Reebok—all of these brands are setting themselves up as publishers, who happen also to sell products.
According to the Content Marketing Institute’s report this year, content marketing is becoming more vital to brands. 76% of brands will rely on content marketing in 2016, and 50% of brands plan to spend more.
But brands aren’t getting the results they want.  77% of brands say that they will produce more content in 2016. However, they’re not getting the return they’re hoping for. The top challenges cited are: producing engaging content, measuring content effectiveness and ROI, and producing content both consistently and variably.
How to get there? It’s time to fully embrace the vision of your brand as a publisher. We’re going to show you how to act like a publisher, set up a brand newsroom, so that you can:

  1. create more engaging content
  2. better understand what content is effective, and
  3. find ways to repurpose and revitalize the content you already have for more engagement

Let’s find your brand’s voice and translate that into a steady drumbeat so you can emerge as a thought leader to your audience.

Step 1: Identify Your Brand’s Core Themes

What the core themes that encompass your brand’s personality and expertise? We need to identify the topics and conversations we want to start, participate in, and talk about as our first step, otherwise we reinvent the wheel each day.
Every morning, the digital and social team at MasterCard comes together for a daily huddle to look at the developing stories that are relevant to them as a global brand and leader in financial technology. They save time by already knowing their themes, which include:

  • Financial Inclusion – shows a commitment to ‘saving the world’ and access to credit for business and personal life for all
  • Safety and Security – important for stakeholders and banks
  • Innovation – opens up engagement with Silicon Valley, establishes MasterCard as a cutting edge leader
  • Global Cities – keeps MasterCard in the conversation as a worldwide financial leader

According to Bernhard Mors, VP of Worldwide Communications at MasterCard, “It’s absolutely critical to understand what our stakeholders care about, what they talk about, who and what they engage with, what their questions are.”
By knowing their core themes, MasterCard can quickly and efficiently better serve their global audience.

So how do you pick the potential core themes for your brand?

Your themes need to be authentic, real, and linked to your core mission.
Whatever your themes are, they must allow you to engage in multiple worlds—don’t cluster on a single thread or channel of media. You want to be able speak to multiple audiences and groups, and build them out.
The themes should expand beyond your brand. This isn’t the “me me me” show. You’re setting yourself up as a potential thought leader, a voice that’s adding value to the conversations out there instead of noise.
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Red Bull is a brand that’s done this really well. They’ve become a producer of content that embodies adventure, daredevil stunts, and fun. Their stunning visuals, powerful storytelling, and distinctive voice set them apart as more than “just a beverage brand”. Reebok is another example of best practice in this regard.

Test the potential core themes

We can check if these themes work by tracking their social signals. NewsWhip Analytics lets us see if the engagement around the topics are seasonal or regular.
Food brands like Ben & Jerry’s are big on staying ahead of what’s important to their consumers. With health-conscious food being a longstanding trend, they might want to follow terms like ‘superfood’ to see where there’s the most engagement over a year.
Superfood term spike

The term “superfood” saw a huge spike in shares in January 2015, and a lot of traction in the summer months. Seems like a good fit for an ice cream brand!

We can see what other brands are already participating in these topics, if any. What are the type of stories getting shared and talked about in this theme? Can you visualize your brand joining in?
Our brand clients are using our tools NewsWhip Analytics and Spike more and more similarly to the likes of BBC and Huffington Post. The strategic benefits of real-time and historical social signals let us see which themes are already working, and guide our content planning.
We can check if there any cross-culture or cross-language possibilities, and whether to pivot to include them. Or we can focus on a more local market, or only English speaking.
Sports brands like NHL’s Montreal Canadiens focus on both an American and Canadian audience, adopting a multilingual approach to their content.


The Montreal Canadiens show their confidence both on and out of the rink.

One of hockey’s most prestigious teams, the Canadiens have seen success by sharing content that appeals to their multinational audience and goes beyond the game. Their content humanizes the team and allows fans to form a deeper connection with their brand.

Now that you’ve run your analysis and tested what will work, choose your themes

By now, you’ve identified several core themes. We can begin to flesh out where the brand’s voice and personality will shape itself around these themes, and the value we can provide.

Step 2: Build Out Surroundings of the Core Themes

Now we can build out the universe of our core themes. Let’s stay on our MasterCard example, and say we want to see what the top financial companies are saying about our core themes.
Using Spike, we can identify the writers and influencers who are driving the most engagement around these themes right now.
If we look at our “Top Financial Services Companies” panel, we can identify who the influencers around the finance sector have been in the past 24 hours. Which influencers are trending and seeing the most retweets?
We can also see what the publications of repute are for our core themes. There can be some surprises, so it’s good to get an overall scope of the landscape.
Let’s view the top publications that include both those financial companies and the keyword “FinTech” over the three months in NewsWhip Analytics. We can get extremely granular to see which publications are driving the most Facebook shares.


We can view these Facebook shares as both a pie chart or a table, to get a more complete analysis.

From identifying these major players of influencers and creators, you can begin to build media contact lists so you know where to push stories.
We can also figure out, from our engagement timeline, if there are seasonal events or occurrences that evolve around our themes. Any real-world events?


A look at the December 1st 2015 – March 1st 2016, with the top financial companies and keyword “FinTech”.

By analyzing the keyword “FinTech”, keeping in line with MasterCard’s theme of innovation, we can find if there are any seasonal trends. We can see a spike right before Christmas, and another right in the middle of January. We can use Analytics to highlight that timespan and find what content drove that spike.


A focused look at the financial companies mentioned prior in correlation with the term “FinTech”, over mid-to-late January 2016

The most shared articles on Facebook were mostly about the changes ahead that FinTech is bringing to the industry. This is a trend that many industries see at the beginning of each new year, rounds of predictions of what’s to come, especially new innovations like technology.


The content driving the “FinTech” spike in January. Click to see full-size image.

Fueled with these insights, a skeleton of an annual content calendar emerges. We can identify the times of year to focus on certain trends around our core themes.

Step 3: Build a Physical Space

Ideally, you need a room for your brand newsroom.
Many of our public relations and brand clients begin their days in much the same way:

  1. Morning team meeting around HUD screens
  2. Identify and discuss opportunities as they apply to each of their clients
  3. Allocate research to team
  4. Pitch and execute the ideas
  5. Report back to client on outcomes

What information do you need every morning to make informed decisions for your brand’s content themes? You want to make sure you’re saving time and surfacing the most-engaging content relevant to your brand first.
Social tools like NewsWhip Spike allow you to do that.
Major brands, across markets as varied as banking, credit, and technology, are using Spike to bring a real-time edge to their content marketing and communications.


The newsroom at the Irish Independent uses Spike to monitor trending news. (Plus, an appearance from Apple’s Tim Cook!)

At some of the biggest communications firms, they’re already implementing these tactics. Whether it’s a newsroom setup that is driven by creativity, or a “war room” that brainstorms the best stories for clients and industries each day.
MasterCard analyzes developing stories online around their themes during their daily huddle. They check out the current news cycle, trending hashtags, and what opportunities there are to engage that day. Each week, they use Spike to identify the top stories for the MasterCard brand and the industry.
Having the space to collaborate, identify, and visualize the best-performing content around your core themes is an essential part of the process.

If You Build It, Will They Come?

The stage is set. You have your core themes ready to go, and a space to bring them to life. You’ve tracked social signals and investigated the value your brand will add.
Next time, we’ll dive into how to start creating content in our brand newsrooms. We’ll look at maximizing engagement around our core themes and measuring that data, to make sure we’re learning and adapting around the impact our content has.

Try Spike now to start discovering the content themes that will boost your brand’s reach


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