In PR, breaking news often represents an opportunity to generate media coverage for clients. Here at Affect, we call it Story Hijacking. And we do it a lot. While speed is crucial, it’s just as important to be thorough in your approach to avoid misunderstandings or other pitfalls. After Superstorm Sandy, Garance Franke-Ruta published a brilliantly “common-sensical” refresher on Tweeting responsibly about breaking news. Here are three other reminders to help PR pros keep calm and pitch on:
1. Keep your media lists current. Even if you’ve got a bulletproof pitch and a rock star spokesperson, you won’t get far working off a stale media list. In addition to making sure you have an updated master list of the usual suspects, keep an eye on who’s covering topics that are tangential to your or your client’s business; often, that’s where unexpected opportunities will surface.
2. Double-check your stats. In a breaking news situation, a reporter may not have time to interview your client or even follow up on your pitch. It’s not unusual (especially in the case of bloggers or reporters for online publications) for a contact to pull language or information directly from an email pitch and drop it into a story – so make sure you got it right before you hit send.
3. Confirm your spokesperson. There’s no faster way to burn a good media contact than to promise him or her a plum source for a breaking story, and then pull the rug out because your spokesperson is on vacation, stuck in meetings or otherwise unavailable. A quick phone call to your spokesperson (or his or her assistant) to get a read on his or her schedule before you begin outreach can save you a big headache later.
What are your top tips for pitching during a breaking news event?