You snooze, you lose: how a rapid response to breaking news wins top-tier coverage

BreakingNews

Responding to events in the media as they break – or newsjacking – has the power to reach wide audiences, build reputations and establish business credibility, so it’s understandable that it forms a core part of many PR thought-leadership strategies.

Ever wondered how your business competitors always seem to say the right things at the right times in all the top titles? Or why, despite your expertise, no journalists ever call to ask for your thoughts on the burning issues of the day?

It’s no coincidence. The talking head who pops up with the perfect soundbite every time their sector is the focus of media attention will, more than likely, have a PR standing right behind them, antennae whirring, pre-approved comments and content at the ready, media contacts on the line.

Responding to events in the media as they break – or newsjacking – has the power to reach wide audiences, build reputations and establish business credibility, so it’s understandable that it forms a core part of many PR thought-leadership strategies.

Despite how effortless and slick the finished result might look, however, it actually takes a lot of time and preparation to appear that spontaneous and responsive. Newsjacking needs to be timely, relevant and compelling, so planning is crucial in order to anticipate trends so that PRs are in a position to capitalise on news when it breaks.

So, what are the key benefits, and what’s the best way to go about scoring such valuable coverage?

Be part of the zeitgeist

Aligning a business with a relevant news story can do wonders for boosting its reputation and making it seem more relevant in the eyes of prospects and consumers. Recently at Midnight we jumped on the controversial P&O Ferries story, where 800 workers were sacked with no notice via Zoom, for two of our legal clients, Mayo Wynne Baxter and Trethowans. The resulting coverage in iNews, the Mirror and The Guardian positioned them both as experts in employment law – a key aim of their PR strategies.

We also work closely with alternative fuel specialist WKE, signalling them out as thought leaders in the global energy debate. When The Guardian published an article about why nuclear energy should be at the heart of the UK energy story, we had a response on the editor’s desk within hours, which appeared online and in print.  

When you’ve secured great coverage, it’s important to make it work as hard as possible, which is where sharing and commenting on social media comes in. There’s nothing like a newsy topic to get a debate going with responses and likes pouring in.

Plan, plan and plan again

PRs make a habit of keeping on top of what’s happening in their clients’ sectors. Before going through emails or planning tasks for the day, all the relevant news sources and sector titles are scoured for intel. Developing a solid, consistent understanding of what’s going on in our client’s key sectors helps us to predict trends, and make sure that we have comments or even full opinion pieces ready to action.

A good PR will also have an instinctive understanding of what any given journalist will be looking for, the section they’ll be aiming to fill in response to breaking news, and which side of the argument they’re likely to back. In order for all that to work, lots of effort is put in behind the scenes with clients to establish key messaging and turn copy around fast.

What about the pitfalls?

Aligning businesses or brands to news events requires sensitivity in some situations, especially if they’re controversial. So be careful.

Responding to divisive subjects like P&O Ferries’ mass sacking or anything to do with fossil fuels and fracking, for example, could cause more harm than good if handled in the wrong way. Again, having a trusty PR on hand with a comprehensive understanding of all the issues and the prevailing mood, will ensure that the messaging remains on point and you don’t wade into choppy waters.

Contact us today to find out how our expert team can help develop and implement your tailored PR strategy…we also offer inhouse media training to give your spokespeople confidence when speaking to journalists.

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