Compelling content is key to a successful PR campaign, and an important part of maximising PR spend. And when in the form of a by-lined article, it builds a spokesperson’s profile so as to realise the ubiquitous term ‘thought-leader’ so often featured in a PR brief.

However, commenting on breaking industry news is a valuable complement to thought leadership nirvana. Like the by-lined article, it allows you to step outside your product set and take a position on a key industry issue. What’s more, you can think laterally, so as to differentiate your response sufficiently from the usual party line.

To take a financial sector example, if ESMA decides to restrict HFT under MiFID II, you might expect HFT firms to comment. But a technology vendor would equally be in a position to comment here. Naturally, they speak to many end-users every day, and could give a strong view on market sentiment. Indeed, given that technology must stay a step ahead of market needs, it’s down to them to forecast the impact of upcoming change as far ahead and as accurately as possible to allow the necessary product development.

The benefits of commenting on breaking news are fourfold:

  1. Building brand awareness. More people are likely to read, circulate and debate an article on the hot topic of the day than will pick up your latest press release
  2. Demonstrating you understand the industry you’re in. Sounds obvious, but so often the conversations you have are sales-focused, meaning you don’t always have the opportunity to explore the issue fully (or freely) to demonstrate this industry understanding
  3. Providing succinct comment and useful information quickly to journalists when they need it most helps strengthen the relationship. Not only are they likely to come back to you as a reliable source, but you’ll be front of mind next time round, and they will be much more likely to engage with you when they are generating and researching their own stories
  4. You might be talking about something that does not relate directly to your organisation, but there’s no reason you can’t subtly put across your own message too

Get strategic with your rapid response

So how do you go about responding to breaking industry news in a strategic way? As with every other PR opportunity, the likely input must be measured against the benefit before a decision to proceed is made.

  • Identify the broad areas that you are (and are not) willing to comment on, and from the former, identify those that have the greatest potential cross-over between likely readership and your target audience. These will be the highest value opportunities
  • Track the media closely for developments in those stories or areas, where possible, pre-empting key announcements. If you can flag a likely development or outcome in advance and pre-empt your competition with incisive comment, it will really help a journalist (and your organisation) make headlines
  • Ensure spokespeople are willing and available to speak. When news is breaking, journalists need comment quickly – either via email or an interview – and the spokesperson must be available at the drop of hat
  • Move quickly. If the story’s in the right space and the spokesperson’s available, don’t wait. Your competitors won’t! 
  • Provide extra info. Do you have a background report or some supporting data you could make available? Extra resources are always welcome and would earn you greater kudos with both journalists and their audience 
  • Be sensitive to the needs of the journalist. If they’ve just written about something, there’s every chance they won’t be returning to the subject immediately. That said, some online publications update stories as they develop. Try to establish what information would be most useful to each journalist and don’t swamp them, otherwise key messages could be lost.
  • Don’t forget about social media. Not only will an active social media presence make it more likely you will be able to anticipate breaking news, but it also gives you a great opportunity to articulate your position and let people know you have something to say. We know journalists use Twitter to source stories, and that’s a trend that’s on the up

Set expectations

Above all, it is important to set spokesperson expectations when commenting on breaking industry news.

Coverage is never guaranteed, and this truism applies just as much to breaking news as it does with any other form of PR that can be affected when a journalist is reassigned or a story dropped at short notice.

Despite these considerations and challenges, the results can certainly be impressive.

The following Aspectus PR examples speak for themselves: Renée Colyer, Forefactor, in City AM Duncan Sinclair, Redpoint Energy, in Bloomberg Mike Bignell, Omega ATS, on BNN  

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