ViewPoint

Dec 02

What Can theSkimm Teach PR and Content Pros?

By Katelyn Holbrook

At V2, we consume a LOT of news – daily newspapers, glossy magazines, technical trade pubs, endless newsletters and, depending on where you are in the office, the quiet hum of NPR, The Today Show or a cable business network. And this doesn’t even take into account our social feeds, competitive coverage reports or beloved Google News and Talkwalker alerts.

Amid so many different channels keeping us informed, one has recently emerged as a favorite in the office: theSkimm, a daily email newsletter that provides somewhat snarky and irreverent summaries of the day’s top news. Though initially targeted at young, 20-something women when it launched in 2012, the newsletter now has millions of subscribers and is a must-read for many in the 30-plus crowd in our office, as well as a number of celebrities such as The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, author Jodi Picoult and Oprah.

In an age where many brands are moving away from the often-oversaturated email channel and trying to find new ways and places to engage audiences, the success of theSkimm could very well usher in a renaissance for email newsletters. But email isn’t the only marketing channel that can learn from their success, as several of their strategies also apply to PR and content teams.

Most notably, theSkimm solves a problem, which is that keeping up on news can be tough for busy people leading hectic lives. Those of us charged with developing marketing or PR content should always ask: “What problem does this solve for my audience?” It may be as simple as educating them on a complex topic or issue in their industry, as theSkimm has essentially done, or helping them decide on a particular product to buy. Starting with this question will alleviate a lot of what we like to call “random acts of content,” which is a major problem as our industry looks to show meaningful value of and return on PR and content programs. It also offers a host of other relevant lessons:

Be Relatable: A huge element of theSkimm’s success is attributable to the way it is able to simplify complex and often-confusing topics and put it into language that its audiences–many of whom are millennials– can easily consume, in terms of length, language and tone…and they do it in a way that isn’t condescending to the audience. That was best exemplified by the late October lead story that was explained as, “Venezuela’s got 99 problems and its president is one,” to help set up a story on the growing protests and trials against the country’s controversial president Maduro, and this tweet of a recent Quote of the Day that playfully references a theme song to a popular 2000s kids’ show to point readers to a piece on President-elect Trump’s interaction with one of the US’ most important allies. For PR and content pros, this translates at a tactical level into writing a press release that avoids the alphabet-soup acronyms and industry buzzwords that turn media off, or avoiding the trap of developing content that is too simplistic or potentially offensive to audiences, such as playing off of the “For Dummies” instructional books (which has been known to backfire).

Time is of the Essence: theSkimm arrives in inboxes around 6:45 a.m. each day, just as most people are starting their days–and many, like myself, read it before even getting out of bed. It hits right when audiences want and need to know what’s happening in the world. If it came in even just a half hour later, it would already be irrelevant to many who, in the meantime, may have turned on their local news on the TV or radio or delved into other news sources from their social media feeds. This applies most to PR and content pros in thinking about trendjacking campaigns– if you really want to succeed with, say, an eBook explaining how to prepare for a new regulation or getting client commentary into follow-up stories in a breaking news cycle, the ability to act quickly is of the utmost importance.

Don’t Just Create, Curate: Though theSkimm team writes a daily newsletter, the content incorporates links to existing, more detailed news stories. It is, essentially, a curated look at the most important and interesting headlines of the day, with some pithy analysis to make it more digestible for its audiences. Panjiva, a company that provides global trade intelligence and insights, is a B2B brand who has been able to master this model with its daily newsletter that companies its proprietary data with analysis on what’s hot in retail, economics and trade.

Distribute Across Channels: theSkimm is best known as an email newsletter, but that just scratches the surface of how they get their content to the masses. The brand also has over 165,000 followers on Twitter, where it shares links to and graphics based on their newsletter, and it posts each morning’s newsletter to the 600,000+ people who like it on Facebook. It is an example of the COPE strategy (create once, publish everywhere) at its finest.

For even more, check out 11 PR and Communications Lessons from theSkimm on Ragan.com.

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