Sourcing daily news stories

by | Nov 18, 2020 | Content

With everything going on in 2020, there’s been too much news to handle. We’ve had multiple businesses shutting down, high rates of redundancies and of course constant government announcements as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

So, when it comes to daily news stories for the PracticeWeb client newsfeed, I’ve been spoiled for choice.

Before I go into explaining the process, as I’m new to PracticeWeb, I should introduce myself: my name is Jasdip Sensi and I’m a journalism graduate from City University in London. I joined the team at PracticeWeb in August 2020 as an editorial assistant.

Before joining the team, I spent just under a year working in B2B magazines and as a freelance content creator and social media manager for multiple startup companies.

At PracticeWeb, among other functions, I’m in charge of sourcing and writing daily news stories for the feed which appears on client websites.

Choosing the right news stories is a fresh challenge every morning – here’s how I go about it.

Start with the Government

From reports on the constant changes in the UK economy, which affects every business in the UK, to surprise economic plans and brand new schemes being introduced by the Chancellor, the Government website is my first stop when it comes to sourcing daily news stories.

If policy has changed, your clients want to know about it – especially if it means a new source of financial support in trying times.

I’ll also look at news sources for current affairs stories and announcements that affect the accountancy industry, business owners and the finance sector.

This usually gives me a shortlist of three to four stories worth looking into. Researching each topic is the next step before making the final decision.

This step is about digging deeper into the story, finding additional relevant information alongside reliable quotes from industry figures, to make sure the coverage is not biased.

I always aim to find the original source, which is sometimes harder than you might think when Government ministers and officials brief news outlets directly rather than through official information releases.

Sometimes it’s as easy as copying and pasting the quote used into a search engine; sometimes you have to endure some suffering and wade through a massive report from Companies House or HMRC; and quite often, I have to use my contacts to get information directly from a departmental press office.

What about slow news days?

Sometimes, there just isn’t any suitable news. That’s been less of a problem this year but often, summer is particularly short on stories.

The only solution is to double down and spend more time researching, digging through press releases, reports and other credible sources, such as the Office for National Statistics and our sister site AccountingWeb.

Think tanks, business organisations, pensions providers and consumer bodies sometimes share interesting material on their investor relation pages and media centres, too.

What makes a good story?

Before starting the article, I ask myself “Is this story relevant?”, “Do I really understand the topic?” and “Does this apply to every accountancy firm, not just one section of the PracticeWeb client base?”

That last point is important. Unlike our bespoke blogging service, the daily news has to work for hundreds of client websites. That means adopting a neutral, objective tone suitable for a general audience.

Across the weeks, months and years, we also need to make sure the balance of stories is right. There needs to be some coverage of personal tax, business, mortgages, pensions, consumer affairs, economics and so on.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking – we want the story out as early in the day as possible.

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Getting started on a draft

Once I’ve found a topic to cover, dug up any original sources and found supporting quotes and stats, the next step is writing.

As with any article, as I was trained to do on my journalism degree, I start with the classic inverted pyramid method. That means leading with the most important and notable information – who, what, when, where, why, and how?

After the introduction, the next section consists of some more important information which will add to the reader’s understanding of the story.

A quote is the next thing to add. I always aim for something relevant, interesting and which, ideally, improves the balance of the article. If the story is based on a Government press release, for example, the quote might be from a business body offering reasonable counter-arguments.

Something which I have had to learn to add, because it’s not usual in journalism, is the call to action. These few words need to be versatile and relevant to all the clients we cover – what do we want a reader to do after they’ve absorbed the story? It’s often some variant on “Get in touch for advice.”

After finishing the article, it’s time to reread the copy and pick out grammar mistakes, typos and anything that does not fit within our house style. For example, cashflow is one word at PracticeWeb, not two (cash flow) or hyphenated (cash-flow).

Then I compare the copy to the source material to ensure it adds real value and, if possible, makes the story clearer for the reader.

Then all sources are added onto the document for accuracy checks by the rest of the experienced content team, who go through the story and make changes and suggestions.

With the okay, it gets uploaded to our clients’ websites via our content publishing system, ideally before 10am.

When we get comments like this from clients, it makes it all worthwhile:

“Your content package is an absolute godsend for our marketing! I can highly recommend it to any other accountants who would like a helping hand with their content. Just keeping up with the constant changes can be time consuming enough, having the facts summarised in a brief daily article means we can inform our clients quickly and easily by email or on our social media accounts.”

Then for the rest of the day, I keep my eye on the news, wondering what might be the big story tomorrow.

We are PracticeWeb – an agency that puts accountants and their clients at the centre of everything it does. We recognise every accounting firm is different, with its own characteristics, working with all kinds of customers.

For advice on making content marketing work for your accountancy firm check out our complete guide, or get in touch.

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