Reactive content: how to make the most of moments of opportunity

We hear from a lot of clients who want to know how to do better reactive or ‘newsjacking’ content. They want to take advantage of those one-off, unpredictable moments of opportunity, when their brand is mentioned or something happens in their marketplace, with fast, brilliant content.

Reactive content is seductive. If done right, it can drive awareness and relevance among your customers, and have a positive impact on your brand perception. Depending on your industry, it might help you to drive sales/ROI too. It can also be personally rewarding – this is the kind of content that the digital press writes about when it goes right (and wrong!). It can build your reputation, and that of your team and brand.

It’s a big challenge. There are four typical ways in which reactive content goes wrong:

  1. You find out about a perfect moment too late and miss the window.
  2. You find out in time, but don’t have resources to make your content in time.
  3. You find out in time, make your content, but it you can’t get it signed off in time.
  4. You find out in time, make your content, you get it signed off, but it sinks like a stone.

You need a framework and a process

The solution? You need a framework and process to enable reactive content within the narrow window of opportunity.

You need to know what your audience cares about, and how to reach them.

You need a process for responding fast.

You need a plan for spotting the right moment when it happens, or even better – before it happens.

You need guidelines and boundaries for ‘safe’ topics and messaging that need minimal sign-off.

Five questions for better responsive content

There are five questions you can ask yourself to help you work out how to create your framework and process for reactive content.

1. Will reactive content help you meet your strategic goals?
The first question is a big one. It’s easy to get drawn in by the lure of this kind of content – but is it going to have a meaningful impact? Will it meet customer needs? Does it fit your brand? Will it help you achieve your business goals? If it will, then you should think about what percentage of your time and budget you want to invest. 5-10% might be a good place to start, until you understand what works.

2. What makes a good reactive moment?
The second question is crucial too. You should think about the two different sides of what makes a good reactive moment:

  1. Audience: What do they care about? Where are they going for this kind of content or message? What kind of voice and tone resonates with them?
  2. Brand: What does your brand have to offer? What topics, communities and spaces do you have the right and credibility to speak in? What are your ’safe’ topics, messages and kinds of content? (Perhaps call in the help of your legal team to help you foresee the dangers.)

You will find your ideal moment at the intersection of these two sides. You’ll find flat content, or even worse, embarrassing mistakes if you veer too far away from it. (Remember Gap and American Apparel’s disastrous posts pushing their products during Hurricane Sandy?)

3. How will you spot a moment?
Ask how you’re going to find out about moments for this kind of content. You should think about the tech stack for this, like social listening and analytics. But you also need to think about the process and capability to make sure you spot and act on the data those tools provide. If there’s a spike in brand mentions or traffic from a new source, who will get a notification, how will they interpret the data and decide whether it’s a ‘moment’?

You also need to consider the more subtle, serendipitous, creative side of spotting a moment. It’s not just what people are saying about your brand, but what’s happening around to it. Can you come up with the keywords and queries to automate spotting those opportunities? What kind of creative approach do you need to make brilliant connections? How can you use your network to give you a tip off about something relevant? In my previous role at the price comparison site uSwitch, my team and I were often able to break the news about energy supplier price rises before mainstream media and competitors, because our network gave us an early warning. This meant we got much better share of voice and impact by being first.

4. How can you create a moment?
You can also think about how you can create moments for yourself. Think about what stories and events are coming up, and how you can plan ahead for them. This is perhaps the most effective way to do reactive content – by looking ahead, thinking about what might happen and being prepared.

adidas’s social coverage of the 2014 World Cup is a great example of this in action. The team prepared over a thousand images and videos of the key players, so that they could then react to any and every moment instantly, with fresh, original content. This meant that adidas was the most talked-about brand on Twitter during the tournament.

5. What needs to happen in the moment?
What will your step-by-step process be for planning, creating, signing-off, publishing, amplifying and measuring your content? You need to know exactly what needs to happen and who needs to do what to get content out fast. It’s a good idea to come up with a draft process before you need it. Be realistic about timelines and sign-off – time is of the essence. Factor in content formats – what can you turn-around fast, either within your team, or with the help of a partner? You also need to think about how your team will communicate and work together. Many brands that do this kind of content on a regular basis opt for a newsroom set up, with the team all together in one room. Digital communications tools and instant messaging can play an important role for spread-out teams – they can be a ‘bat signal’ sending out an urgent SOS. Write your process down as a flowchart or checklist, then follow it when your first opportunity comes up. Reflect on how it went and refine it to make it better for next time.

So to sum up, if you want to be able to capitalise on moments of opportunity, you need strategic guidelines and strong creative to make great content that really resonates, and you need the process and operations to make it happen. Get in touch to find out more about how we can help you build them.