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HOW TO CREATE NATIONAL HEADLINES IN A CHANGING MEDIA LANDSCAPE

April 30, 2015

By Harriet Scott

The past decade has brought some of the most rapid and major changes to the media landscape.

The emergence of new media platforms and the evolution of existing ones has meant PRs have also had to evolve – and fast.

We are swimming with the tide, constantly adapting our story-telling to a wider audience because we now have access to every demographic of society via an ever growing number of channels.

With this comes increasing client pressure and expectation – to deliver messages to infinity and beyond. The content we create and deliver must be attractive to online and print publications, to the young, to the old, to the stay at home mum, to the body-conscious, to the man with a mid-life crisis who is contemplating buying a new motor – to whomsoever our clients’ need to reach. We must be the masters of “all media” and we must deliver.

News generation remains one of the toughest gigs in PR. We’re talking here about taking a product or a service away from the comfort of specialist and trade press and creating a real-life national news story which not only mentions the brand, but positions the brand as an authority within its sector.

Getting stories up on UK and international news sites like MailOnline is tough in itself, but on top of that clients still want and expect national print coverage.

We work with many of the UK’s largest brands and agencies and there is still a much bigger demand for print than online. If a story has made MailOnline and a couple of national newspapers – you pretty much have a happy client.

With the downturn in newspaper advertising, there are now fewer pages which means fewer stories make the grade. We are fighting harder for a place than we ever have done before. Sending something out on a wing and a prayer just isn’t going to cut the mustard these days as news desks are under huge pressure to make sure that every story counts.

With this in mind, TEAM GINGER (a gang of ex national newspaper hacks and news gen / polling specialists) have put together some top tips on making the most out of your news generation campaigns…

DO RESEARCH WELL

A robust and cleverly executed survey based release is still one of the very best #PR tools – however the tide has changed in terms of what journalists and news editors are looking for.

Read the newspapers and online news sites every day and realise the trends. A strong list (top 20, 50 or even 100), some clever, lifestyle based research which either challenges or reinforces a stereotype, a gender comparison, a female angle, a strong top-line fact or figure.

Poll different groups, 2,000 women, 500 tradesmen, 1,000 parents; people will always be interested in niche groups of society in terms of what they feel, think – and what they have to say.

Use a reputable research partner and don’t cut costs by commissioning cheap research. You usually find you pay for what you get. Think quality rather than quantity.

It is better to undertake 2 strong, well thought out pieces of research for a client in a year then chuck out a load of nonsense on a regular basis – it is easy to put journalists off your brand if you don’t think carefully about what you want to say and how you want to say it.

Remember your audience. A poll to reveal men’s secret sex habits may make the Sun or Star, whereas the Telegraph, Mail and Times may use a more lifestyle based piece of research.

Think about the who, why, what, when and where of a research story and always have your end story in mind before writing your questions.

Make sure your survey has a beginning, a middle and an end and isn’t just a load of random questions. The stats are the spine of your story, they are what make it stand up!

Remember that big studies and “white papers” can be a very expensive way to get no coverage. Have big ideas, but don’t get carried away. A newspaper will use a poll of 1,500 / 2,000 Brits if it is written well and delivered properly

BE SMART WITH YOUR PICTURES

Picture stunts can be the most expensive way of getting zero coverage.

To cut through the tens of thousands of images that land on a picture editor’s desktop every day the idea has to be pretty special.

Try to keep one eye on the news agenda and find a nice angle that you can amplify with your picture.

As a general rule branded/logo heavy shots are unlikely to work (unless you can afford to pay Kim Kardashian to wear a bikini in the foreground) and it goes without saying the idea has to be clever.

Taylor Herring’s Polar Bear in London for Sky Atlantic’s Fortitude was a masterclass in a great PR stunt.

If a story is research based, use an infographic or a video – bring the stats to life, it keeps people on pages longer and adds to engagement levels which is all news sites are looking for.

SELL-IN EFFECTIVELY

When selling in to a national news desk try to call early.

After 9am the desk will be preparing the News Editor’s list for conference with the Editor and the last thing they want is a call from a PR.

Before you call, have a clear idea of what the story is you want to place.

You should be able to tell the story in one newsy paragraph, if you can’t then the chances are the journalist on the other end of the phone will have lost interest and you’ll be asked to send your release through to the news desk email address (the bin).

Don’t introduce yourself. Simply say you have a story for them. If you went in to Tesco and the check-out lady introduced herself to you and gave you a brief outline of what she did, you would be slightly alarmed. Supply and demand. They are busy and you have something to give them. Simple.

BE CREATIVE

Take the time to think of big IDEAS.

Don’t be lazy and do something which worked four years ago. Use formulas and recognise trends, but be original. Come up with a different angles and slants on winning formulas.

Outsource or crowdsource creativity – don’t be too proud to ask for help. Sometimes you can be too close to a brand or a product, it becomes difficult to see the wood for the trees.

Interact face to face in brainstorms – there is nothing creative about email or messenger. Get together, go for meal. Go to the pub for one or two but avoid getting smashed and waking up with no recollection of any of your ideas – or even who your client is for that matter!

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