The bill passed. The storm hit. The war is over — and you weren’t paying attention. Current events are the lifeblood of many conversations on social networks. But if you find out about a major event a day or more after it happened, it can be tempting to just let the issue slide. No one wants to be seen as out-of-touch, right? But even if you can’t break news or be the first person to react, you can still weigh in on the subject in a way that is thoughtful and relevant to your readers. It just takes a little bit of extra work to make up for lost time.
Of course, none of the options I’m about to give you are a complete replacement for being on top of the news and ready to respond when a major event hits your industry. But getting into the game a little late is better than standing on the sidelines forever.
The trick is to get involved in the conversation in such as way that it doesn’t a) look like you were caught napping or b) look like you’re being opportunistic. The key here is finding organic, relevant connections to your industry and your readers.
- Remind people why it matters.
- Offer a second opinion.
- Give readers a gentle nudge.
- Don’t take it literally.
- Play the aggregation game.
- Keep the conversation going.
Everyone has a friend or a relative who likes to loudly opine that they “just don’t get” why people care about politics — until an issue that affects them is on the table. Everyone knows someone who will proclaim that they “can’t see the appeal” of the latest gadget — until they’ve got it in their hands. Chances are, your audience isn’t so different. Some of them may need you to help them totally understand why an event is important — to their families, their jobs, their community. You have to be careful not to adopt a patronizing tone here. You’re not lecturing anybody, just pointing out a connection your readers may have missed. The goal isn’t to sound knowledgeable — it’s to leave your readers feeling like they’re more knowledgeable.
Sometimes the prevailing wisdom on a news event is just wrong. And you know it — so why not share that unique perspective? The shelf life for unorthodox takes on current events is longer than straight reporting on the topic, as people start to move from amazement to critical thinking. If you time it right, you can catch your fans at their most skeptical and give them a well-reasoned, insightful look at another side of an issue. Again, you don’t want to lecture, so much as give your readers a clever response to conventional wisdom the next time they’re at a cocktail party.
Sometimes a news event can be a powerful reminder of why your business or organization exists. Don’t be afraid to capitalize on those moments and encourage readers to get involved with your organization or take another look at the products and services you offer. People are emotional creatures and they’re more likely to be receptive your arguments when you’re piggybacking on their happiness, interest or worry. The trick to doing this well is to position it as helping people, instead of selling them something. You’re not making a sales pitch; you’re sharing your values.
Sometimes a news event doesn’t directly relate to your industry, but it can be a fun and easy way to explain an issue you care about — using an art theft to explain social media planning, for example. A few rules of thumb: 1) Don’t take the analogy too literally; 2) Don’t make an analogy out a sad story; 3) Know when an analogy is too much of a stretch and just leave it be.
When you fall behind on current events, it can feel like you’re hopelessly out of touch with the world — like you’re literally the only person who didn’t know. I’ll tell you a secret: No matter how big the issue is, chances are you’re not the only one who’s this late to the party. In fact, the bigger the issue is, the more likely it is that people will need help keeping abreast of all the important updates and perspectives. Don’t acknowledge that you weren’t tracking the issue from Day 1 — just pick up the conversation as you find it and provide regular updates via your blog or other social media accounts. If you can provide people with a digest of important information while an event is ongoing or a summary of interesting analysis after the fact, you’re providing a valuable service. I might be a little biased on this one, given who I work for, but I can promise you that quality aggregation is something people deeply appreciate.
Sometimes you won’t have much to say about an event — but your audience will. Instead of lecturing them, try to get them talking about what they care about. Ask how they’re responding to an event, where they stand on an issue, how they feel about the future. Who knows, maybe you’re be the one who learns something.
Current events are a double-edged sword. It can make your brand more relevant, but it can also open you up to controversy and criticism. If you decide to weigh-in on current events, do so knowing full well that at least one person will not like what you say. Then say it anyway. The truth is that opinions are something that only people have. Sharing a viewpoint makes your brand more human and it gives your brand a reputation and a character. Whether you’re looking to be an information source for your fans, a thought leader on a particular issue or just facilitator of interesting conversation, your fans will thank you for getting involved — even if you were a little late.