This week, the IBA team attended a webinar by Roxhill Media on the dos and don’ts for pitching to broadcast TV. Former Head of BBC Somerset and TV news veteran, Clinton Rodgers, led the discussion and his talking points got our PR brains ticking back to a blog we wrote this time last year, and whether our hot take still rings true today: is news only news when it appears in “print”?
TV reporters are a bygone generation, they are now correspondents who work across TV, radio, and social media. They are looking for news stories and our job is to try and feed them with a story that is good for our client, but in particular is what the correspondent is looking for.
You can’t set the timing – but the correspondent can. So here’s a couple of good takeaways:
- The best spokespeople aren’t always the “suits” of the company (CEOs or directors) – consider those who are good public speaker and are charismatic about the storyline
- Much like in the print world, embargoes barely ever apply (Harry’s book?). As we know B2B companies are obsessed with embargoes and deadlines, pre-pitching, release timings – one time globally which usually means Asia-Pac is having supper and the East Coast of America hasn’t yet had its first espresso, or more importantly you’ve missed prime time breakfast. Unless your story is ‘material’ in a financial sense, take a leaf out of the TV correspondents note book. If you can get in on a slow news day then you might grab the headlines. Although it might look and feel “here and now” even some TV news segments are filmed weeks before! But beware of being gazumped by breaking news -an international crisis (earthquake in Turkey), or something much simpler – IBA experienced its own no-show with the BBC a few years back when a high profile footballer was injured at a World Cup!
We’ve all been there as good B2B PR pros and marketing managers – you’ve been working with a blue-chip customer with global appeal. You’ve drafted a press release that’s been through double-digit rounds of approval, from your own account managers, subject matter experts, corporate comms right through to client sign-off.
Or you might be planning a critical company product announcement, it might be the biggest launch in the history of the company, the meticulously drafted press release is ready to go. You might have even mobilized a company event to promote the launch.
This release has more than likely been a labor of love for your whole organization over a number of weeks, months or years (yes, years when you factor in approvals from the biggest brands in the world). Then comes the next question. Suddenly there’s a buzz about timing – the day, the hour? Then follows a corporate request to pre-pitch, provide daily coverage reports and the pressing email that senior corporate executives have cleared their diaries ready for interviews around the day of the launch.
A different perspective on company news – it will still be news tomorrow
Unless you are a huge stock exchange listed company and the story is ‘material’ to your share price, then calm down.
Your organization is approaching two extremely powerful company announcements from the inside-out, not outside-in. You need to get as much coverage as you can for the stories.
But IBA has had a mantra since the days it first published B2B trade and technology magazines that still applies today – “news is only news when it appears in print”. The marketing department’s job is to get it in ‘print’, and tomorrow is fine, or the day or week after.
You can draft the perfect press release and put it on your company website, but don’t get too introspective. Only you, your executives and a handful of your social media following will find it there. The true impact of a press release comes when it’s been read, processed and posted by a target technology or industry journalist – something IBA has previously highlighted can often be overlooked in the press release process.
Expedited distributions and pre-pitching – what’s the rush?
Let’s take a look at the journalist’s inbox. They receive hundreds of releases on a daily basis, and with the immediacy of digital news, the idea of getting something on their radar as a pre-pitch a week before the release date is losing you and your company credence. The media ‘embargo’ is going the way of the dodo. We’re digital now and once a release is sent there is no taking it back, and no way of enforcing that embargo if its published sooner. Ask a national journalist from the Mainstream Media. There’s also no way to guarantee a busy journalist will even remember to publish the piece at the correct date and time!
Is timing really all?
Yes timing is of the essence – there is always a good time or indeed a good day to bury bad news.
But as I said earlier, unless the news you have is material in some way, your release will enter maelstrom of news that crosses a journalist’s desk. Once a release is distributed the media will run their news in their time, not yours. That could mean publishing immediately if they see value in communicating to their audience straight away, slotting it into an upcoming issue to match editorial calendars, or reaching out with more questions if they wish to discuss the story in more detail.
As for their readers, and your customer and prospect audience, they’ll see this in their own time once it’s communicated in the media outlet they visit or read on a regular basis – i.e. when they see it ‘in print’!
You see this borne out in mainstream media
We witness this in our everyday lives with consumer media. Think of some of the highest-profile stories doing the rounds, including the infamous Partygate at 10 Downing Street that have dominated the UK media headlines in recent weeks. The gatherings took place in 2020 but are only just coming under the media spotlight now!
Time is relative in PR and marketing – exploit the opportunities it brings
It seems like the industry is beginning to understand the difficulty of delivering critical company news. Cision stats show a major press release challenge for 42% of PR pros is ensuring messages reach the right audience, while 36% worry about making releases stand out in a sea of pitches.
Simply putting a release on the company website, blasting over the newswire amplifying on social is too inward looking. Organizations need to look at their key company announcements from the outside to truly realize how their messaging is received by journalists, customers and prospects alike.
Your corporate ‘news’ has a shelf life – exploit it.
Jamie Kightley is Head of Client Services at IBA International.
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