The definition of news has always been something unexpected. In journalism school, “man bites dog” was used as an example. Dogs bite people all the time; that’s not news. But a person biting a dog? We can’t help but wonder why. That’s news.
Social media has allowed more of these unexpected events to cross the line into becoming news, because news requires something else: an audience. Newspapers and television once owned the audience monopoly, but now social media has expanded news channels. Instead of editors determining what events qualify as news, the audience themselves decides with the power of a click.
As a result, news has expanded beyond the realm of press releases and publicists. Viral posts now compete – and often win – top spots in most read media lists.
Think of the viral videos last week that became news. Did you see the one about the grocery store clerk who allowed an autistic teenager to help stock orange juice? How about the parents who bought their child’s teacher a new car so she doesn’t spend hours commuting each day by bus?
In these examples, what made these events news were unexpected act of kindness that made people feel good. What a contrast to the political strife and natural disasters that dominate the rest of our news channels.
How can your credit union update its approach to news? Rather than spend resources on another rate sale or membership drive that will only capture the attention of those who happen to need your products and services today, what if you instead attracted attention with some unexpected kindness? Maybe it would make a world of difference to a single parent in your market if you donated a repossessed vehicle or even a foreclosed property. Or perhaps, as so many credit unions have done, your team collected home goods for a financially distressed retiree.
If done right, such an event has the potential to generate far more attention in your market than a traditional press release. Here are three key pieces to include.
1. Let somebody else take center stage as the good guy. Work with your local police department or school system to identify who would benefit from your kindness and allow them to deliver the goods. Make sure they mention that your credit union was the donor, but allow them to star in the viral video. Otherwise, it could come off as a sales pitch.
2. Make a video of the gift presentation. It doesn’t have to be high quality, but it must show enough to deliver all the feels. That means also interviewing the recipient afterward so they can explain what a big difference the gift will make in their lives.
3. Pack an emotional punch. If the thought of your gift doesn’t make you tear up, it probably won’t do the same for anyone else, either. It must be meaningful to be shared and go viral.
The great thing about this publicity strategy is it’s in alignment with the credit union philosophy of people helping people. It may not be what you think of as publicity, but that’s just the point. It will stand out from the rest.