Reactive content: Why we need it more than ever

By Lauren Judge • 22 December 2020 • 4 minutes reading time

2020 started well for most people. We all had exciting plans. Here at Evolved Search, we had some seriously good stuff lined up for our clients. Then, a global pandemic hit.

In six years of working in content marketing, I had never seen anything quite like it. The news changed daily and meant that campaigns that we had been so sure of before had to be amended to fit ‘the new normal’ – such as travel bans, working from home, hospitality restrictions and the like. And this is still continuing today as the situation continues to change.

We had to think fast. What could we do that would get the same results as larger campaigns but could be produced in half the time to fit the ever-changing news cycle? Essentially, we had to be more reactive than ever before to show that we were tapped into what was going on in the world.

What is reactive content?

Reactive content is exactly what you’d think. It’s content that reacts to a news story or a particular topic that is being discussed. Whereas larger campaigns can take weeks to produce, this type of content can be produced in days, even a matter of hours for a particularly time-sensitive story.

What does reactive content look like?

Reactive content doesn’t just fit one mold, it can take a number of forms.

Whether that be creating content on a topic in the news or even providing detailed, expert quotes – backed up with insights and data – to stories that are relevant to your brand.

An example of reactive content in the financial services sector - Evolved Search

Likewise, this type of content marketing can be based on seasonal events.

For instance, running surveys on what Brits think of bargain hunting in the run-up to Black Friday, or providing tips on how to create the perfect virtual Christmas celebration when the laws suddenly change regarding Christmas. Yeah, I went there.

Why is being reactive so important post COVID?

COVID has changed the way we think and react to the news, not just in the UK but the whole world. We are consuming more news than ever before, and our lifestyles are largely very different. Some of us might never have worked from home before, but are likely to continue doing so for the near future.

Most importantly, the news cycle changes constantly. What can be discussed one day might be out of date the next.

One example is a summer staycation idea we had for a client based on international travel bans at the time for Brits. However, some of the locations entered local restrictions after the release. So, we amended the strategy and looked at areas that offered the best social distancing for those heading outdoors, focusing on the locations you could still visit safely, which is information people were looking for at the time.

How has reactive content worked for us?

Reactive content is great for brand awareness for any brand. It shows that they are in touch with the latest news, trends and topics. Plus, the target demographic can see that the brand is talking about issues that are important to them, which is what we all strive for with our content.

But, enough of the talking. This is how it has worked for us during COVID.

Saving money is always a popular topic but, sadly, never more so than today. With that in mind, on behalf of thinkmoney, we surveyed Brits on their personal finances due to COVID. We asked if they have had to use their savings due to the pandemic, and found that almost half of the 1,000 surveyed had dipped into their savings to get by.

With that information, we then sourced six saving tips that could save up to £1,418. But, as so many people are time poor due to the pandemic, we recorded how long these tips would take to complete.

As we released the piece, reports were surfacing of people struggling to save. This made our content extremely relevant and helped us to gain 63 pieces of coverage within the first few weeks.

An example of reactive content in the financial services sector by Evolved Search

Another example of reactive content focused on energy saving for our client, Boiler Plan. We released our tips to saving money on your energy bills, such as moving your kitchen furniture, alongside the news that almost half of the UK’s workforce were working from home and, therefore, likely to use more energy.

As this information came from an authority within the industry, as well as a timely release, we gained coverage in our target publications – including Good Homes, Ideal Home and Heart.

Reactive content example - Evolved Search

Where to start with reactive content?

So, you know what it is, how it works and we’ve even shared some of our examples. That leaves one question: where to start?

Know your brand

This goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. Know your brand. If you are selling cars, a campaign on the ‘greatest Disney films in 2020’ isn’t going to work as well as a story on tips for getting back on the roads after lockdown. To produce effective reactive content, you need to know your brand and customers well to produce the right kind of content for your audience.

It’s important to create content and acquire links that your audience will click on and, therefore, become your next customer. If you don’t do that, your reactive marketing strategy is doomed.

Know your publications

You need to know who you are targeting.

If a publication that is extremely relevant to your site has published content on people struggling to save, and you have unique saving tips and come from a position of authority, then great. Go for it! Just do your research and know what they are talking about and make sure you’re targeting the right journo, too. My colleague, Steph, has some great tips on this and more in her recent post.

Read the news

Every morning, I have the news on in the background as I make my coffee. And, I’m a big fan of Phil and Holly, so This Morning is a staple in my house. Plus, I scroll through Twitter and the trending topics each day to see what people are talking about. I’m constantly consuming news and keeping abreast of current topics, which is a great kick-starter for inspiration.

The news is the best place to start your research. That way, you can see if a particular story is gaining a lot of coverage, is relevant to your client and is something you can jump on.

Take the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Each year, they release the list of the most popular boy and girl first names and it gains a lot of coverage. One of our clients, tombola, had recently published two campaigns on UK soaps: The Luckiest Soap for Love and Which UK Soap Offers the Best Chance of Hollywood Success.

So, when the latest baby name data was released, we used this to reveal the most popular boy and girl names, inspired by the most iconic soap characters. Surprisingly, Peggy and Bianca had seen the biggest increases… As this was timed well with Princess Eugenie’s baby news, the campaign landed placements in the likes of Hello, Ok! and MSN.

Bank ideas and topics

If your client is an interiors expert, bank a load of topics and themes they can discuss that you have seen in the news. So, this way, you can always be prepared should a particular story gain traction that is super relevant to your client. This should also help lead sessions on ideas, as you’ll have that all important bank of information that you can expand upon.

In that respect, the PR team can then refer back to those ideas if they see a journalist looking for a quote on one of your chosen topics. Team work makes the dream work and all that.

Check out existing content

One thing that has worked out well for me this past year is knowing what is on a client’s site. In particular, reading through their existing guides or blog posts. We all have a tendency to want to start fresh but your client knows their brand better than anyone else, so it plays into your hands perfectly.

If, for instance, they are a property solicitor and have an onsite guide on tips to moving during the pandemic, take a look over it. Can you repurpose it and add extra data to get coverage? If so, this could save you a lot of time in research and put more into promotion. Plus, you’ll be landing links exactly where their brand needs to be seen and heard.

There’s also plenty more you can do, such as creating a calendar of seasonal events to keep an eye on. Speak to the PR team regularly, as well. They are the ones contacting the journalists, so they’ll know better than most what is a popular story at the time.

If you’d like to read more about content (and why wouldn’t you?), check out our other Insights here.

Should you need a helping hand with your Content and Digital PR approach in 2021 and beyond, get in touch to find out more.

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