Canadian Consulting Engineer

Newsjacking and Trendspotting

October 24, 2015
By By Carl Friesen

Advice on how consulting engineers can borrow the latest marketing techniques to develop strong relations with clients.

From the October-November 2015 print edition, p. 90.

When it comes to acquiring new business, many engineering firms are hearing the message, “You have to show your expertise through publishing content. So “Blog! Tweet! Publish articles in the publications your clients read!”
But what do you talk about in this published “content”?
It’s best to select topics that are pressing on your clients — or better yet, on organizations you want to have as clients. The idea is that by showing potential clients that you understand their reality, you are showing that the work your firm does will suit their needs.
There are two main ways to find content for articles — through “newsjacking” and “trendspotting.” These are terms borrowed from the world of content marketing, which involves developing articles that are offered freely, and without a sales pitch, to demonstrate the author’s expertise. This way, the author becomes a trusted source of insight and information — and eventually, a trusted service provider.
With newsjacking you show that your firm is up to date on the issues that affect the client’s market. The news might involve a regulatory change, perhaps new federal, provincial or territorial regulations on anything from indoor air quality standards to asbestos management. It could also be a non-government change, such as a new ISO or ASHRAE standard. Whatever the topic, it must be one that will have a significant affect on your clients and prospects.
Your article should start by describing the news event, and then describe what it means for people in the market. Then, give your informed opinion on how the change will play out in the near and longer term. Finally, give your recommendations on how to either avoid a problem as a result of the change, or how to gain a benefit.
Trendspotting shows your firm understands the big picture. Sometimes, there’s no sudden news event — just a gradual trend — and one day your clients realize that part of their world has changed. For example, in many jurisdictions there has been a gradual reduction in allowable emissions for hazardous substances such as arsenic and mercury. Companies may find that their production facility that met emissions requirements a few years ago, can no longer be used unless it has expensive upgrades.
Trendspotting content should be about a change that is outside  your client’s usual information-gathering areas. So, think of trends that might blind-side your clients unless they take preventive action, hopefully by commissioning your firm.
Trendsetting content starts by describing the trend, perhaps offering statistical evidence of its reality: “Ten years ago annual average daily traffic along this highway was 45,000 vehicles. Now, it’s twice that.” Like newsjacking, trendspotting content should give the author’s informed opinion on how the situation will develop, and make recommendations for avoiding problems or reaping benefits.
In developing your content, think of how it will be found online. Think of the search terms, including the long, multi-word terms many people use today, and be sure to include those terms, particularly in the headlines.
Many engineers naturally think “text” when they consider ways to develop content. However, electronic media are increasingly easy to use, including video shot with a standard consumer camera. Videos can be easily edited through programs such as iMovie, and then posted to YouTube.
Because creating content can be time-consuming, it is important that the work be done by the right person. Busy senior professionals can assign junior staff or a marketing person or freelancer to ghost-write the content based on an interview with a knowledgeable senior person.
Carl Friesen is a freelance writer based in Toronto.


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