This is the second of a two-part series giving practical advice on reactive PR opportunities and responding to the rolling news agenda.
Part one reveals how you can provide compelling quickfire comment, and add your own data to ongoing stories.
Applies to: News you have advance warning of.
Opportunities to get a march on the competition regularly come up working with lawyers, policymakers and researchers but also apply to other sectors. Such as if you know about an upcoming industry investigation, a new development, likely deal or proposed regulation that will be newsworthy.
Example: The biggest news is often something someone somewhere doesn’t want people to know about, especially someone powerful. At the highest end think Panama Papers, or major political scandals, but the principle applies to more everyday stories too, for example if an investigation is about to be launched into an industry, or a company is on the verge of going bust.
If you know about such a story in advance and can tell audiences what it means for them the moment the story breaks, then journalists may well want to hear from you.
How to use this tactic:
Applies to: Just about any story, but especially one that invites strong opinion.
Easily overlooked in the digital comms world, letters are very much still with us and a great way of responding to either a news story or feature. The FT alone often publishes as many as 10 letters a day.
Example: In addition to letters from individuals whose professional or personal experience helps qualify them to comment on a particular subject, consider open letters and the power of banding together.
The Guardian recentlypublished an open letter to the BBC criticising the complaint against Naga Munchetty for speaking out against racism following Donald Trump’s Tweet telling four US congresswomen to “go back to the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came”. The BBC’s decision was naturally highly contentious and the letter, signed by 56 black people working in the media and broadcasting was featured at the top of The Guardian’s homepage.
The letter received particular attention because the signatories’ profession and ethnic origins made them highly qualified to claim that the decision amounted “to both a misunderstanding of the BBC’s editorial guidelines, and a form of racially discriminatory treatment towards BAME people who work on programming.” While the point that “racism is not a valid opinion on which an “impartial” stance can or should be maintained” is inarguable, and lends itself to a good headline. The BBC’s director general, Lord Hall, has since overturned the decision.
How to use this tactic: