The 24-hour news cycle has given us many gifts (some good, some… less so), but one that is extremely useful to the PR world is a continued need for experts or interesting points of view when a major story breaks. Becoming involved in a breaking news story can be an excellent opportunity to gather wide exposure for your organization and reinforce to the public what it is that you do best. Consider this: every time a reporter calls you an expert, he’ll have to explain why. If the reason is rooted in your work, the resulting publicity can have far-reaching rewards.
But there are always pros and cons. Before delving into the fray, you need to make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Here are four questions to ask yourself.
Do I have something to say?
Just because you have expertise, your opinion is not automatically meaningful. Before jumping on a breaking news story, think about your perspective on the issue and consider what else is already out there. To get traction, what you have to say must be thoughtful, original, and in your own wheelhouse. No one will buy a point of view on an issue that is totally unrelated to your background and expertise.
Will this help my business?
All good media relations should be strategic, and responses to breaking news should be no different. The bottom line is that it's about the bottom line. What is the end game of media exposure? Will the resulting media coverage reach your customers? Will it sway them towards your company?
What is the best way to respond?
Not all breaking news responses are created equal. Weigh not just the response itself, but how it’s delivered. In some cases, it’s best to hop on the phone with a reporter to offer your insight directly for publication. In others, a blog post might be in order. Don’t forget the possibility of leaving a comment on an article, which is a great way to respond directly to an issue. Publications like Forbes or the New York Times highlight the best ones.
What will be the repercussions, and am I prepared for them?
Inserting yourself into a breaking news story is about risk and reward. An unbiased expert on something, like an uptick in airline fees, is likely to receive little blowback. But taking a stand on a polarizing controversy like healthcare can attract negative attention or turn customers off. You might be willing to lose them, but before pressing “publish” on that blog post, think hard about the business repurcussions.
Ask yourself these questions before getting involved in a major news story, but do it quickly. Another thing we have to thank the 24-hour news cycle for: it doesn’t take very long for “breaking” to become “old” news. For more on other ways the media (and thus PR) has changed, take a look at our infographic.