News breaks at lightning speeds these days. We are at war. Unemployment is high. Healthcare and social security challenges loom. Scandals abound. We watched the beginning of a revolution unfold on Twitter and YouTube. We have our first Latina Supreme Court Justice. We inspire the world. We disgust the world. The list goes on and on.
In fact, even mainstream media has its own news to report. Lowered advertising revenues, online competition and substantial changes in consumer reading habits have wounded the media industry, causing massive layoffs and, in some cases, notable restructurings.
In the mist of such turbulence, reporters have more and more information to cover in less and less time. The pressure to deliver timely and interesting stories has increased exponentially. Social media and user-created content tools (YouTube, Twitter, etc.) provide a medium for anyone, anywhere to report the news, which means traditional reporters literally have minutes to break a story and then just hours to follow up with a more in-depth feature article.
What does this mean for b2b public relations professionals? You must have a breaking news strategy. Here are five steps to capitalize on breaking news.
- Read the news. It sounds so simple, but many public relations professionals do not read the news. You must read news that is relevant to your clients. The only way to determine if relevant news is breaking is to follow the beat on a daily basis. One good way to stay on top of breaking stories is to identify a few relevant publications and then set up email alerts with those outlets.
- Know what your clients can handle. If you think that a breaking news platform makes sense for your PR program, it’s important to have a candid conversation upfront about expectations, time commitment and topics that they can cover with insight and confidence. Breaking news is fast and unexpected, so spokespeople have to understand that they may have to drop everything to do a last minute interview. It helps to identify a team of experts so that the burden is not placed on just one person.
- Know your experts cold. You should be able to read a headline and know right away if your client can add to the conversation and who the best expert would be to cover the topic. If you have a team of experts, it is a good idea to identify loosely which experts will handle different topics that are likely to arise. For example, the Retail and Consumer Product Practice at BDO Seidman has five practice experts who cover general retail news but, individually, each is also expert on a specific topic area, such as product recalls, supply chain, inventory management, bankruptcy, sustainability and consumer sentiment.
- Be helpful, not “pitchy.” Breaking news is not the time to “pitch” a reporter. If you want to be helpful all you need to do is identify the news, state what your expert can offer, include credentials and move on. If your expert is qualified and a good fit, the reporter will let you know right away.
- Close the deal. Once you have successfully teed up your expert and the reporter wants an interview, the clock starts ticking to make the connection happen. Get your expert on the phone as soon as possible in order to brief them, provide any guidance and/or research and schedule the interview. If you are late responding to the reporter, you will likely lose the opportunity.
These five steps will help you to secure breaking news opportunities and position your experts as thought leaders. For public relations practitioners, breaking news is an excellent way to build meaningful working relationships with the media because you will provide them information that they need, when they need it.
(photo by JWorld)