A term that has lately gained currency in media relations is “newsjacking”. It is neither elegant nor particularly clever but it conveys its meaning well enough.
Newsjacking refers to the practice of co-opting a significant event and jumping on the bandwagon with an angle of your own that ought to be of interest to journalists and their readers. Some of these news stories will occur out of the blue (an IT security failure at a well-known brand, for instance), and will require agility in order to make the most of the opportunity.
Others are broadly predictable if you are “in the know” – for instance the ruling in a high-profile divorce case. In these cases, which may not be widely anticipated outside a small group of people, you have the luxury of time in order to develop angles for the different possible outcomes, and can be ready to go the moment the story breaks.
The third category are scheduled events such as the Budget (due on 22 November in case it is not yet in your diary). These have the advantage that you can comment in advance, on the day, and potentially for a few days afterwards (particularly, in the case of the Budget, if you have anything to say about tax that might play well in the Sunday papers).
The disadvantage of these events, however, is that everybody else also knows about them, so your message will face stiff competition for coverage. That said, the forthcoming Budget is not expected to be exciting so if you can find anything genuinely interesting to say about it then your luck may be in.
Below are a few tips for how to make the most of the Budget:
From national newspapers to trade websites, all kinds of publications will run previews of the Budget. However, unless you are one of the Big Four accountants or a Nobel economics laureate, you will struggle to get your press release containing the same five predictions as everyone else published.
If you have genuine insider knowledge about measures that may make it in then do not delay in making the most of this: more than a month in advance the great and the good of the pensions industry were already speculating in the media about possible changes to tax relief on contributions (as they do every year).
If you have no insights of your own, consider a survey of clients – if you have enough – or otherwise commissioning market research about attitudes to a possible change that could have an impact on your sector and its clients. An example of the output from this could be “75 per cent of existing pension savers would oppose changes to tax relief”.
Time is relatively short, so research of this kind needs to be carried out now and released during the week or so leading up to the Budget. “Trade” stories can have a longer lead time but anything intended for consumption by the general public is probably best kept until the weekend immediately beforehand.
On the day
Clear your diary for the day, and make sure relevant journalists know that you will be available to respond to their questions, should they have any, and that they have every conceivable phone number they might need. Then take a two-pronged approach.
First, watch the Chancellor’s speech and, if anything leaps out immediately, draft a few short paragraphs outlining the issue you have identified and expressing a strong, quotable opinion with regard to the implications. This should be issued to relevant journalists straight away.
Second, read the relevant sections of the actual Budget document, which will be available on the Treasury website immediately after the Chancellor (pictured above) sits down. Look for the hidden details that will see your customers worse off if they aren’t properly advised – sections entitled things like “Fairness” are usually a good place to start!
Then summarise those details, their implications, and how your firm can help mitigate them in a press release and issue it as soon as possible – ideally before the end of the day or, otherwise, first thing the following morning. The evening of Wednesday 22 November is not one on which you or your PR team should make plans for a romantic night out – restaurants and shows will all still be there on 23 November but the chance to feature in the papers might not be.
In the days that follow remain available to comment and expand on the issues you have identified – it is a terrible waste to expend huge amounts of effort on Budget Day itself then be unable to take advantage of the opportunities generated by this work because you have scheduled a company teambuilding session for the rest of the week.
Tomorrow’s chip paper
One final word with regard to the Budget and similar events.
You may advise clients to look beyond regulatory and fiscal changes and focus on the long term, and therefore consider it terribly off-message to comment on the detail of Budget announcements. This position is laudable but will not get you quoted in the press.
The best advice, if you want to build brand awareness, is to play the game by the journalists’ rules and remember that a week later the potential clients who read your comments won’t really remember a word of what you said. They may well, however, remember your name and the fact that you said something.
Pic: Raul Mee
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