Guide to riding the wave of a hot meme

by David Spark on July 15, 2009

Michael Jackson 1958-2009I just wrote a story for Mashable entitled “5 Ways Companies Used News Trends for Business Success.” The piece presented five successful examples of companies who rode the wave of hot trends and news stories. If you’d like to do the same for your business, I’ve put together this short guide which asks a series of questions to determine whether your business is also ready ride the wave of the latest trends.

Step one: What is everybody talking about?

Sit down and create a list of the top five news stories and trends.You shouldn’t need to use any of the trending services to figure that one out. If you’ve been watching or reading the news, you should be able to rattle these off quickly. For example, now I’d say the top five stories and cultural memes are “Michael Jackson,” “Jon and Kate Plus 8,” “Judge Sotomayor confirmation hearings,” “Iran election/protests,” and “healthcare debates.”

Step two: What is your audience talking about?

First step asked you to look for the universally popular stories. Now ask yourself what are the top five stories and trends in your industry or locale?

Step three: What’s your relevant take on the issue?

Think of yourself on a roundtable talk show. You’re one of the panelists and you’ve been introduced with your current job title and company. The host turns to you and asks, “You’re the CEO of Widgets International, what’s your take on this story?” Your job is to now look at all ten stories, five general and five specific to your industry or locale, and answer that question with respect to your company. Sometimes it’ll be a stretch, and sometimes you’ll be surprised by how your business can be relevant to these big issues. But you’ll never know until you actually conduct the exercise. Go ahead and give it a try.

President Obama Speaks At Macomb County Community College In MichiganStep four: Is your audience connected?

Before we determine if you can connect these stories to your business, ask yourself if the audience makeup, both psychographic and demographic, is similar to your business’ audience. J.T. O’Donnell of CAREEREALISM discovered that the audience for the movie and book “He’s Just Not That Into You” were identical to her audience of career-minded young professionals.

Even if your audience and the story/trend’s audience isn’t similar, do you think this new audience would have an interest in your product or service?

Step five: Can that viewpoint somehow be connected to your business?

This is where you do some serious brainstorming and let ideas run wild. Sometimes the connection will be easy to spot, e.g. there’s a high demand for widgets and you sell widgets. For example, with, the connection to the DNC and Inauguration was very simple. There was a huge demand for housing which their business could provide additional much needed supply.

Unfortunately it won’t be that easy as those stories don’t come around as often. Instead, you’ll need to be very creative and think of unusual connections that strike a chord with the community. For example, in the case of the Jekyll Island Authority, they made an emotional plea for your business even though they know they’re dealing with a tough economy. As much as you think you can’t afford a vacation, the visitor’s bureau reminds you that “memories won’t wait for an economic recovery.”

Step six: What can you create quickly to make that connection?

What can you write, produce, promote, or sell that would connect your business to that story or meme? In the case of J.T. O’Donnell, she simply wrote a blog post drawing parallels between her industry and the popular movie as it was being released. publicly launched their business before they intended and reached out to the blogosphere and local news to let them know what’s going on. Mobile game developer Cellufun created a production cycle was so well honed that they could take advantage of hot trends to quickly turn around relevant games, such as the Bernie Madoff “Made Off” game.

Do you have a slow or non-existent production cycle? If so, you need to take a look at what you can do to speed that up or create it in the first place.

Step seven: What are you doing to get your relevant story out there, quickly?

You can’t wait for this to be successful. Timing is critical. Spend the money to hire a blogger relations team, PR firm, and marketers to get the word out quickly. News entities are always looking for new fun hooks for big stories, plus they’re looking for new stuff related to the big news story. Your job is to give it to them. Cellufun ran ads on mobile carrier decks, Jekyll Island Authority ran an ad campaign, and reached out to bloggers and local news outlets.

Step eight: What are you doing to keep tracking stories?

If you want continued success, you’ll need to keep tracking stories on a regular basis, and you may want to dig even deeper. Make time to revisit this exercise on a regular basis: once a quarter, once a month, or even once a week. Keep reading the news and take advantage of services like Google Trends or the multitude of Twitter trend services.

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