Gaining media coverage is difficult or even impossible when important news is breaking – mostly because reporters become obsessed with the current major event. Getting them to consider your story pitch at such times is, well…challenging. (Add other descriptive terms as appropriate.)
Besides being ignored when big news is breaking, making the wrong pitch at the wrong time can damage your reputation as a source for good stories. Reporters seldom forget such transgressions.
The right pitch during the heat of a major breaking news story, however, can get your executive on the front page or in front of TV cameras.
Pitching to the media at opportune times during the news cycle is much like newsjacking, the technique of injecting your brand into a breaking news story, although PR and marketing pros typically employ newsjacking practices on social media. The term sounds pejorative, but newsjacking is an accepted PR and marketing practice and can be successful when implemented with sensitivity, mature judgement, good timing and creativity.
Experts advise these best practices to successfully navigate the news cycle and win media coverage when major news is breaking.
Offer an expert. Reporters want quotes from an expert on the topic, not someone who is merely a company representative or an executive, advises tech PR firm Write2Market.
Understand the news cycle. Breaking news typically follows a standard path. Initial coverage is chaotic as journalists strive to ascertain the facts. Then they seek experts to explain issues in non-technical language. Then they pursue opinions and more in-depth analysis. Timing is critical. When to pitch depends on how your expert matches the story’s current state in the news cycle, advises Write2Market.
Become familiar. In the first stage of the news cycle, reporters typically seek experts they already know since they’re worried about making mistakes and pressed for time. Therefore, it’s helpful to introduce your expert beforehand if possible. Try to have your expert vetted through the guest bookings process in advance if possible.
Immerse yourself in news. Scan both print and online news headlines daily and listen to newscasts such as NPR. “Even if you read or listen to a few key highlights, you’ll take note of new media contacts and it may even get you thinking about ways you can weave your client’s expertise into the news cycle,” advises Liz Drew, account manager at Shift Communications.
Subscribe to a media monitoring service. Media monitoring is essential for PR teams. Subscription tools like Glean.info can help identify trending news, competitor news, and interested journalists to better position and target your stories. The services also provide better coverage than manual searching and save staff time by automating the search function across all media and they integrate clip storage and management tools. Advanced measurement tools for PR provide greater insight into media results.
Be sensitive to tragedies. For instance, avoid “fluff” lifestyle pitches during the middle of news coverage of mass shootings.
Stress availability. Pitch your media statement with an “available for interview.” Then follow-up with several phone calls to key influential journalists on your media list, advises PR consultant Simon Mossman.
What to offer. Media outlets seek information and perspective, especially on their major story of the day. Fit your client’s expertise into the news. Pitching an obvious promotion is a major mistake.
Prepare. Because news breaks suddenly then quickly fades from attention, planning is critical. You need to anticipate certain types of news events, based on your executives’ expertise. You need to prepare your experts and the anointed expert needs to be instantly reachable and ready to talk on very short notice.
Bottom Line: Taking advantage of the news cycle can produce enormous favorable publicity for your brand and provide a significant advantage over competitors. Understanding the news cycle and providing knowledgeable experts at the right time is essential for success.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.