ITL #287 Riding the news vs writing the news: what PRs need to know2 months, 4 weeks ago
Although piggybacking on a story already making headlines and setting your own news agenda are different approaches, both present opportunities for building brand reputation and driving commercial success. By Laura Hindley.
We live in a world of ever-changing communications channels. Whether that's a news publication, social media, or even a podcast platform, the growing number of routes to consumers has created more competition in the market.
Targeted and engaging content that is fit for purpose is one way to differentiate yourself from your main competitors, whatever industry you operate in. Simply put, this involves distributing the right message, at the right time, to the right audience.
So, how does this work in a media relations capacity?
Riding the news
Piggybacking on a breaking news story, done correctly, can generate a huge volume of media coverage. And quickly, too.
Getting your narrative spot-on is important for this type of outreach. Instead of generating hot-air news releases that only have tenuous links to the topic in question, providing context and/or a brief analysis is much more useful and effective.
Agility is a key component of successfully riding the news. Formal processes that involve drafting your standard press release, including many revisions by various stakeholders within the business, are time consuming and by the time you've got something ready to go to press, the news agenda will likely have moved on.
Instead, identify key spokespeople within your business and build a trusted relationship with them. When it's time to send out a comment or two to press on the back of a developing news story, short and snappy soundbites are more likely to get picked up. Journalists will follow up if they want to explore the topic further.
And what of collaboration with marketing colleagues? Once you have the content, why not use it within other areas of the business to maximise its impact? While it's challenging to plan for an evolving 24-hour news agenda, there are steps you can take to make the most of your corporate digital channels. On social media platforms, especially Twitter, quote cards that mirror messaging in your distributed note to press have the potential to get picked up by journalists who follow the company's account.
Top tip: Ensure you have live blogs on your media distribution lists. The increasing popularity of live blogs – such as those on the FT.com, BBC News online, and The Guardian – is likely due, at least in part, to consumption of news via mobile devices and tablets. With millions of eyes eager to read quick-fire updates throughout the day, aiming to get your company quoted on these platforms is something you should be thinking about when drafting content.
Writing the news
Writing the news, or setting the news agenda, derives from a social science theory. According to Maxwell McCombs and Amy Reynolds (2002), agenda-setting theory describes the "ability [of the news media] to influence the importance placed on the topics of the public agenda."
Therefore, guiding the narrative of a story – with a new report or thought leadership piece – will reaffirm your company's authority. The idea here is to secure the first quote in an article, the "kicker quote" or, when you've hit the jackpot, have the entire news story pegged on your press release.
Before you distribute a press release that's been weeks in the making, however, it's important to pull the correct media list. Who is your intended audience for this campaign? What publications do they read? Are you targeting the people who sign off on purchase orders? These are all important questions that should be considered when looking to write the news, which is an approach to media relations that works best with campaigns.
It's important to note that campaigns don't work in isolation. Integration with marketing colleagues is essential for a campaign to really take flight. Whether you're working with the creative department to develop a series of engaging visuals, planning posts for social media with the designated team, or encouraging campaign managers to use media coverage in their mail-outs to existing and potential clients, employing a cohesive approach, where each cog in the marketing machine fully realises the part they have to play, is essential.
Top tip: Ensuring your campaign is fully integrated across a variety of media channels, including print, broadcast and online, will strengthen its overall impact. Reach out to broadcast journalists who cover your sector in advance of the planned report/press release distribution date and include an embargoed copy of the content, along with a short bullet-pointed list of key themes or findings. This will give them time to follow up with questions they may have and arrange any pre-recordings or live slots.
Each media relations department works a little differently, so a "one size fits all" approach is pretty useless. Despite these variances across companies, both riding the news and writing the news can have a significantly positive impact on your brand's reputation and commercial success. As a result, companies should be deploying both strategies, in the appropriate context, to enhance their presence across an assortment of media channels.
Laura Hindley has just over six years of in-house PR experience, having worked within a variety of sectors, including natural resources, financial services, and education. She studied psychology at university and is passionate about applying her educational experience to the day-to-day job of a PR. She is currently Global PR Manager for natural resources research and consultancy Wood Mackenzie where she focuses on chemicals, metals & mining, and power & renewables.
Laura Hindley has just over six years of in-house PR experience, having worked within a variety of sectors, including natural resources, financial services, and education. She studied psychology at university and is passionate about applying her educational experience to the day-to-day job of a PR. She is currently Global PR Manager for natural resources research and consultancy Wood Mackenzie where she focuses on chemicals, metals & mining, and power & renewables.mail the author
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