There’s an old maxim in public relations that to make the news, you need to know the news. It remains true today—and it requires you (or your PR agency) to have a reporter’s mindset when looking for earned media opportunities.
Living in an era of clickbait stories makes the work of a PR professional and the clients we serve more essential as we find ways to help reporters help us by delivering fresh insights through data and unique angles that build on the day’s headlines. To do this well, we’ve got to understand the goals of the writers and content producers to whom we’re pitching.
Have a newsroom mindset
In newsrooms, reporters have to think of the next aspect of the story to stay ahead of breaking news. If the city just got hit with a snowstorm, they want to know what the forecast is for future snow so they can report how it will impact traffic, business, and city resources, or when stores or schools will be re-opening. This way of reporting is nothing new, but what has changed in the last two decades is the speed of the news cycle, as news organizations have transitioned the delivery of news from nightly network programs, to 24-hour cable channels to global websites. Helping reporters keep up with audiences’ never-ending desire for more information is where PR professionals can find targeted opportunities for positioning brands as subject-matter experts.
Be ready to newsjack
If your client’s offering intersects with the story of the day and you’ve done the pre-work to develop relationships with the media, your organization is positioned to work with reporters as an in-the-moment expert. This concept is called “newsjacking” and, as promoted by David Meerman Scott in his book, Newsjacking: How to Inject your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage you can use newsjacking to not only accumulate media mentions for your brand, but establish your organization as a source for insightful and trustworthy perspective.
“Skate where the puck is going,” a quote from hockey great Wayne Gretzky, describes newjacking perfectly. Savvy PR pros have a sense of where the story is going next, knowing what could be the follow-up or adjacent discussion. This can be particularly effective when you have a local angle on a national story that you can pitch to regional outlets. When there’s news in your marketplace, reporters will be looking for experts to comment and they will welcome a timely email reminder of your brand’s connection to the story.
For example, when stock market futures started tanking at the moment election night returns indicated Trump would win the 2016 presidential election, I knew local reporters might want to talk to experts who could explain what was happening with the market. I quickly arranged interviews for my client, a leading Cincinnati investment firm, who had thoughts on what Trump’s victory would mean for the stock market. The coverage was great, and not only helped build the firm’s reputation as a thought leader, but provided reporters a local angle they were clamoring for.
Use social to build relevance
With the digital tools to do our homework for us, there is no excuse for not having a solid grasp on what matters to the reporter, editor or outlet to whom you are pitching. With nearly 60 percent of reporters on Twitter (according to the Columbia Journalism Review), we have intimate, real-time perspective on what reporters are talking about, investigating and what matters to their audience. Yet, at every media day event I attend, there are several reporters who complain that they receive a weekly barrage of irrelevant pitches. If you are using all of the social media tools at your disposal, you’ll know what channels reporters find most valuable and what topics matter to them most because you’ll be following along and engaged in their daily conversations.
This year promises to offer more challenges for both journalists and public relations pros. Using the proven media relations strategies outlined above will make it easier for both sides of the media relations mix.