Responding to rolling news has always been key for comms teams, but the nature of reactive PR opportunities is constantly changing in line with media consumption habits.
One such change is the rise of live news feeds which now attract huge followings. A less obvious one is the tendency to devote a great deal of space to a smaller number of issues. Whether Brexit or Game of Thrones, some stories are looked at from every angle in response to how differently we read when searching and scrolling instead of flicking through a paper.
In this media environment those in a position to shed new light on a story can get their voices heard in a variety of different ways.
To help navigate the opportunities we’ve outlined four useful reactive PR tactics below alongside thoughts on how to use them.
So, if you’ve recently read a story you’d like to respond to, but are wondering how, this blog is for you.
Applies to: Big national or international news that huge numbers of people comment on in the knowledge journalists want interpretation and opinion.
For example: Obvious opportunities, which can be at least partially prepared in advance, include the Budget, annual events like A-level results day and major political news such as the latest twists in the Brexit saga.
Competition is fierce, raising the bar for both the quality and speed of contributions, but it’s worthwhile if you have a valuable perspective to add.
How to use this tactic:
Applies to: Any big story you can add a new perspective to with fresh data.
Example: I first saw how effective this technique can be at the start of the financial crisis when I was working with a stockbroker specialising in online trading. The week Northern Rock triggered the first run on a UK bank in 150 years we saw a spike in new accounts. A closer look found people were setting up accounts solely to buy the embattled bank’s shares convinced it would bounce. The Financial Times reported on this data (paywall) and continued to use the broker’s figures and commentary in follow up articles for weeks afterwards.
It works just as effectively with data which is deliberately collected to investigate a story. For example, Kings College London tested the air quality around Extinction Rebellion’s protest sites to show how quickly reducing traffic flows can cut pollution.
How to use this tactic:
Start with the data already available to you and what it has the potential to show. Once you’re familiar with the indicators at your disposal you can look for opportunities to build on stories.
Think about what’s missing from the conversation so far, what consequences or developments haven’t yet been explored?
Resist the temptation to lead the story in any particular direction and investigate with an open mind. How can your data shed light on what’s really happening?
Part two to follow next week.