HOW TO DEAL WITH AN ABSOLUTE B*STARD OF A NEWS AGENDA
August 4, 2016
By Harriet Scott
I absolutely love being in PR. We get to come to work in trainers and sit on bean bags and come up with ideas for a living.
The downside is that we are sadly at the mercy of this huge, crazy, wild, unpredictable beast they call the news agenda.
Sometimes the beast is not so mean. We can all, at times, bask in in the security of those blissful weeks where it is dead as a Dodo and the desks are practically BEGGING us for content.
But then there are times like this. Times when there is so much ACTUAL news – that even ACTUAL news isn’t landing.
I think we can all agree the last few months have been a somewhat challenging time in terms of placing branded news stories.
Talking to desks is not such a jolly experience when THEY are dealing with mass terror attacks and WE are trying to flog them a story about DIY.
But we must crack on. There must always be light to the shade and papers always need a balance. This is crucial to bear in mind when riding the storm.
If the agenda is largely doom and gloom, desks often ask us the same question – “Do you have anything light?”.
This can actually be a great opportunity to place a story that is fun or heart-warming – a story that will cut through the despair, maybe something with a positive lifestyle twist or a nice list.
Be mindful of how to approach desks when the news agenda is heavy. Keep your call short and to the point and don’t over egg the pudding. Maybe even mention you have something light for them.
It may sound obvious, but reading the papers and online news sites every day will help you gauge the tone of the news agenda. You can really get a feel and a sense for what will work that day.
If it doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to pull a story or to advise your client it should be pulled.
If there has been a plane crash and you had planned to sell in a story about holidays – maybe this isn’t the best day. So just hold on and ride the wave until it feels like the right time.
One thing we always advise against, is trying to piggy back on to the news agenda. It surprises me how many PRs still try and do this. There is usually only one story about a news event of the day – and while you may be able to sneak a quote or a stat into a spread on something current, it is always better to offer something different and fresh.
Remember, it is as much about TIMING as anything else. We have seen brilliant stories fall flat in the face of the news agenda. Similarly, stories we have not been so confident in have landed in every paper – simply because it was a really quiet day for news.
The most important thing is to keep calm and not to panic when faced with a no-show. Often a story doesn’t land the first time, but with some space (maybe a week or so), a bit of a re-write and a fresh top-line – you can still land it well.
Most importantly, keep your chin up, keep being creative and wearing trainers to work and sitting on bean bags.