I often suggest to clients that they add new content to their website on a regular basis – usually in the form of news. Some heed this advice and add great articles to their websites (or ask me to do it as part of their website maintenance plans).
Some clients fall between two stools. They want to update their site, but they aren’t sure how best to put a news story together, or they aren’t sure what constitutes “news”.
So I wanted to take a real-world example from one of my clients to show what a news story might look like, and how you can up that word count with relevant information, useful links and properly optimised images.
The fire marshal news story*
* some names have been changed to protect the innocent
Here’s the news story in full…
We have a new fire marshal!!!
John Brown is now our fully qualified fire marshal. Congratulations to John.”
OK, so where do we start? First of all, is this a news story? Absolutely it is. Yes! It’s an event that has happened to a member of staff in your company that’s to do with work. It shows a level of commitment to safety procedures and lets people know that, as a business, you are committed to improving your staff members’ work lives and the general safety of those in your company.
But it’s literally 18 words, including the headline. That’s not a news story; that’s a Facebook post. How, then, can we go about beefing it up to get it to around the 250-word mark, make it interesting and informative for any humans that come across it (or that get directed to it by your social media posts or newsletters – hint hint!) and make it appealing to search engines that have come back to your site to index any exciting new content?
Headline-wise I think it’s fine. You don’t have to try to outdo the tabloids by writing one of the world’s greatest headlines. Your headline should really just give readers a heads-up about what’s in the story, without giving too much away. In this case, “We have a new fire marshal!!!” seems to me to be enough to arouse enough interest. Perhaps lose at least two of the exclamation marks, though.
The basic content rules for a news story
So it’s on to the content. In my time as a journalist we were always taught a news story should contain the following: who, what, where, why and when – and if there’s space, how? But this is the internet where word counts don’t exist, so there’s always space.
After a basic introduction, we can move on to answering those questions in more detail.
We are pleased to announce that John Smith, our junior engineer, has completed his fire marshal training with St John Ambulance, which means we now have a dedicated fire marshal on site.”
We’ve got a who – John Smith. What else can we say about him.
John has been at our company since he left school in 2012. He started working as an apprentice and went on to study for his <relevant qualification> in 2014, which he passed with flying colours a year later.”
The “what” seems obvious – John’s become a fire marshal. But how does that process work? Do you just write off to someone and they send back a badge? Presumably some amount of training was involved; either on site or at a place of learning. Bonus: we can also get the “where” in this one.
As well as working full-time in our busy warehouse five days a week, John found time in his schedule to travel to <a place> to attend the half-day course to go through the training required to become a fire marshal. While John says the course was challenging, and really brought home how important fire safety is, it was also fun and he would definitely recommend it to people from other companies similar to ours.”
When we approach the “why” we can start to go to town on why you, as a company, feel that fire safety is important. You could maybe include some facts and figures on how much business can be lost as a result of a workplace fire, or how some firms can wait weeks for insurance policies to pay up in the event of a fire and subsequent investigation.
Part of our manufacturing process involves our staff working in high-temperature environments with a lot of combustible materials. It is vital both for the safety of our team and for the continued operation of the business that we take fire safety seriously. Having a dedicated fire marshal at our warehouse means we have a member of staff dedicated to ensuring that proper procedures are followed and that our business remains a safe place to work day in, day out. We’ve also found that our insurance premium will go down as a result of this training, as it proves that we have a nominated person to deal with fire safety.”
The “when” and “how” perhaps seem a bit superfluous, but you can use it to link to the training company and perhaps explain how you applied for the course.
We chose to organise our training via St John Ambulance, who run regular half-day courses throughout the country. For larger businesses, they can also arrange on-site training. The certificate issued is valid for three years.”
Then close it up with the congratulations.
A massive well done to John on gaining his new qualification. Let’s hope he never really needs to use it!”
Personally, I might change the order of some of those sections, but we’ve now got a 300-word article with plenty of information and links to other websites that acts as genuine news, another piece of content to bolster your website’s optimisation and a bit of PR for what a responsible and forward-thinking company you are.
If you can get a picture of John in there, holding his certificate – and make sure you add some alt text to the image when you upload it, for maximum search-engine benefit – then you’ve done a good job.