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Navigating today’s competitive news environment is a daily challenge for many PR pros. Journalists are increasingly busy and receive thousands of emails from PRs trying to pitch stories, often in quite clumsy ways!
Cast a glance at the social media feeds of many a frustrated journalist to find a myriad of stories about how PRs get it wrong! So PR professionals need to intelligently seize opportunities to showcase an organisation or individual’s expert view on the news of the day. That’s what reactive media relations is about.
Equally important as the proactive approach to media relations, reactive media relations gives organisations the opportunity to display proficiency and thought leadership in a wide range of issues. Media monitoring is key to this exercise, as it is what allows PR practitioners to identify key stories where their organisation has something of value to say – the end goal being to position the organisation as a highly respected and knowledgeable expert on a variety of issues. There are different ways to respond to a piece of news, and here are three of the most effective.
Reactive comment is a core part of the reactive media toolkit. It is about responding to relevant news stories with pre-defined messaging, to raise awareness of an organisation’s work and communicate a robust position. This requires access to multiple spokespeople who can respond quickly to an identified piece of news. Comment is ideally signed off and shared with the press within one to two hours to stand the best chance of inclusion. Comments that don’t make the cut can be used for letters and subsequent outreach. No content should get lost!
Statements are used in a similar fashion to comment, but seek to extend the news story, offering a pertinent or urgent insight, correction or evolution of a news story. These should be shared with the press the same day if possible and aim to generate next-day coverage. Although they fall under the category of the reactive media toolkit, in some instances journalists would go directly to a specific organisation for an expert view. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen all the time, it is therefore important that PR pros be proactive in identifying suitable statement opportunities for their clients so that they become top of mind for journalists. Long term, the organisation will be recognised as a highly respected leader in a specific realm and journalists will inevitably contact them to get their perspective on issues.
Letters are an often overlooked tactic to get a point across. Inclusion is far from guaranteed, but if responding to an interesting story, making a strong rebuttal or concurring argument, they stand the strongest chance of being included when from a business or from a well-known individual. As with other reactive media relations assets, they have the potential to put an organisation on the radar and help them demonstrate their expertise.
Although there is no such thing as guaranteed coverage, leaning on a robust media relations strategy yields great results. Using a strong approach to media relations, Allegory has succeeded in helping our clients’ work and message get the attention they deserve in the media and across complex networks of stakeholders.
PR has changed over the years – nowadays, the strongest and most proactive PR sets the news agenda, rather than merely responding to it. Long gone are the Ivy Lee days when sending a press release would suffice to spread an organisation’s message.
Although the press release remains a useful asset for getting the story straight and briefing media and stakeholders, today’s fierce competition for news coverage requires PR professionals to have many more tricks up their sleeves. For greater impact, it is essential that press releases are accompanied by active pitches to journalists exclusive interview offers, strong images (photo/infographic/illustration), videos or other pieces of engaging content that can make stories more attractive and relevant to editors. Interviews, thought leadership, opinion and features can also be successful.
Offering interviews to journalists is the way to provide questions to the answers organisations are eager to communicate to the public. They can serve multiple purposes and be delivered in different formats. First, they can be used to brief an identified journalist on an organisation’s context, its issues and upcoming projects (especially when that journalist has written about issues that of similar concern or relevance to the organisation in question). They can also lead to coverage of an organisation or individual’s expert commentary on external matters. In some cases, journalists will approach PR teams to have an interview with one of the organisation’s spokespeople as part of a larger story that would not necessarily be focused on the organisation but still help to spread their views to a wide audience. As with features, they work best in conjunction with new research/insight or a very strong point of view.
Features give organisations the opportunity to contribute to the discussion of a key industry issue or trend, usually decided by the journalist commissioned to write it. Inclusion is often alongside other complementary or polarised points of view, to articulate and explore different sides of an argument or issue. Features can be suggested to journalists if it’s to explore a new piece of research in more depth than a news article. Likewise, thought leadership can also be offered to journalists looking for an expert to weigh in on an important industry issue.
Opinion sits on the fence of Proactive and Reactive PR, as it can combine recent events in the news agenda, or PR professionals’ own news outreach, to summate a strong response to industry issues or outline what should happen next. A number of defined spokespeople can be used, depending on their area of expertise.
All the tactics mentioned above can help organisations stand out in a competitive market and position themselves as leaders and experts whose contribution is invaluable for the advancement of a specific field.
As opposed to opinion, thought leadership is usually evidence-led, insight-driven, and based on a strong progressive argument in a given industry context. This high value tool not only allows organisations to assert themselves by displaying depth and breadth on key issues, but it also helps them stand out in today’s competitive environment. In a typical PR campaign, news is used to generate the credibility that journalists need to commission or accept pitches for thought leadership opportunities. This should typically be centred around the core spokesperson of an organisation. Although thought leadership is substantially different from opinion, they are often wrongfully believed to be interchangeable.
These tactics have proven successful to secure top rate coverage for many of our clients, including the Open Data Institute, the Medicines Discovery Catapult and the Web Foundation. Not only do they allow Allegory to contribute value to a wide range of industries, it also leads to deepened relationships with journalists.
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With nearly 20 years’ experience in journalism and communications, Katrina Marshall is a
seasoned Barbadian journalist who cut her teeth in radio and television before moving onto
corporate communications and feature writing.
She demonstrates solid experience in producing content for all media for international news
organizations including the BBC World Service and the UK Guardian.
As a television presenter for Barbados’ Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation and as a news
anchor for regional news network the Caribbean Media Corporation, Katrina has handled
developing and break news items, interviewed industry leaders and heads of state with a sense
of occasion, grit and a touch of wit.
As a corporate communications and public relations professional her hallmarks are discretion,
attention to detail and fastidious dedication to preparation and research.
Most recently her career has seen her focus on writing long form features and op eds focusing
on social justice and diversity and inclusion in the UK, where she has made her home.
Katrina is well travelled and well read, with both professional pursuits and personal curiosity
taking her to Spain, Budapest, Cyprus and across the United States.
As a producer she has covered festivals, high level meetings of CARICOM Heads of
Government, state funerals, general elections and environmental crises, to name a few.
This natural born communicator retains and holds others to solid traditional news values and
keeps a constant “fire in the belly” for solid storytelling no matter the medium.
Her current pursuits see her move seamlessly between the UK’s communications and public
relations industry and strict journalism and feature writing.
Katrina is most comfortable both in front of and behind the microphone but can often be found
whipping up a sumptuous curry for friends, where the rum and laughter flow freely.
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