Securing PR coverage by working with the news agenda
Don’t plan PR in a vacuum
When it comes to securing media coverage for your big new product launch/ opening/ initiative/ idea (delete as appropriate) it’s all too easy to spend weeks and weeks finessing your PR strategy or media plan, writing and re-writing your press release to make sure it reads absolutely perfectly and lining up your media spokespeople only for your media launch to end up being a complete and utter damp squib.
Weeks and weeks of precious time and work wasted with nothing to show for it. Of course you could always phone and ask the journalist if they got your press release. Maybe even phone them again if you didn’t annoy them enough the first time. Good luck with that. And whether you are working in PR in-house or at an agency you know that any minute now a company exec is about to start breathing down your neck asking you what’s gone wrong. Sometimes your story can be lost and it’s not your fault – for example by big breaking news or a dead cat.
Sometimes your big new announcement being lost in the media maelstrom is unavoidable. If a big news story breaks the day of your big announcement and the media’s attention shifts elsewhere there’s not much you can do about it. The backdrop collapsing behind the PM at Party Conference is a good example of this. It’s just far too entertaining for the media not to be reporting on it.
Sometimes a big story is lost because media attention has been deliberately diverted elsewhere. This is the infamous ‘dead cat’ strategy designed to shift the media’s interest from where it really should be. A classic media ‘dead cat’ example is when Boris said he thought a bridge between England and France could be a goer – classic Boris diverting the media from giving someone else (in this case President Macron who was visiting the UK) too much attention.
However, more often than not the reason a PR story isn’t making the news is not because of dead cats but because the PRs and company executives involved are so absorbed in what they are working on they think everybody else will be too. Spoiler alert: that’s not always the case.
So what’s the solution? Well, one solution is to work with the breaking news agenda, rather than against it. And there’s some great recent examples of work we did that achieved just that.
Case study one: Aspire Behaviour Management and the Education APPG
In June 2018 we worked with Burnley-based Aspire Behaviour Management to raise the profile of their work supporting young children who are in danger of being excluded from school securing coverage in local and national media. We did this by knowing about, and linking in to, what was going on in the news agenda – in this case linking in to George Osborne’s appearance at the Education Select Committee and the publication of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s Educating the North report calling for more education funding for the North of England.
There’s no doubt that regional media want local experts to speak about national issues – and we secured coverage including on BBC Radio Lancashire, the Lancashire Telegraph, Burnley Express and in Schoolsweek this way.
For an example of coverage secured see: https://www.burnleyexpress.net/news/burnley-education-hub-backs-george-osborne-s-plan-to-improve-education-in-the-north-1-9145927
Case study two: Universal Credit, a new National Audit Office report and the People’s Powerhouse
Our client The People’s Powerhouse wanted to speak out about the National Audit Office report which showed just how badly Universal Credit is failing many people – including those in paid work. We had a press statement from the People’s Powerhouse ready to go for as soon as the NAO Report’s embargo was lifted. In this case it was being fleet of foot in reacting to the news agenda that made all the difference. We immediately secured media interest – with offers to speak to Channel 4 News and BBC News. For examples of the coverage we secured see: