Are You On Top of the News? It Can Dictate Your PR

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One of the things I tell clients who want to get coverage in print and online press is that they have to read the news. If you want the print media to cover you, I think it simply helps if you know what it is they like to write about.

Part and parcel of my being a PR professional is to subsist on a vast daily diet of news digested the old fashioned way. I read newspapers and magazines, and at night and in the morning I watch a lot of television news programs, with a pretty even mix of straight-up news broadcasts and “talking head” panel shows.

My chief strategist calls that “old school.” He still reads the equivalent of two newspapers a day and he watches news broadcasts and talking head shows, as well – but he does it all online in smaller bites. He has a lot of hands-on PR work to do each day, so he can’t devote hours upon hours every day the way I do.

His solution is to use the Internet to get a condensed snapshot of the news. That still gives him the general idea of current trends in the news cycle, while still affording him the time to get his work done. In speaking with him about his process it dawned on us that many entrepreneurs and C-level executives may have the same quandary – wanting to stay on top of news trends to guide their PR campaigns without having enough time to do so.

He shared with me his process and I wanted to pass it onto you:

  • News Aggregators – On the Internet, there are three primary news aggregators – Yahoo, MSN and AOL. Between these three sites, you will find most everything you need to read regarding national headlines. Moreover, you will be able to discern how important each story is in the media. The beauty of these aggregators is that they place the news in “at a glance” style boxes so that a quick perusal of the front pages tells you the major stories of the day.
  • Trending – Until now it has been difficult to tell what people care about in the headlines, but Yahoo and a few other smaller sites have added a section to their front page called “Trends” or “Trending.” In these sections, they list the names or topics that are most searched. With these links, you can see who or what the general public seems to care about most. For instance, on any given day, a Washington policy initiative may dominate the national news headlines, but the number one story trending might be about Heidi Montag having more plastic surgery. This section can sometimes contain popular nuggets that might give you or your company something trendy to use as a launching pad for a story.
  • Local – In most every news homepage of these aggregators, there is a tab or a link that reads “local.” This tab will open your local news headlines of the day by inputting your zip code.
  • Category Links – If you go to the main news page on any of the aggregators, they will always include sub-links to major categories of news – National, Politics, International, Finance, Entertainment, Local, Odd News (like the wire story of the person who found a piece of toast with the impression of the Virgin Mary and sold it on e-Bay) and others. Think creatively about your company or industry, and check some of these categories from time to time to make sure that a good outside-the-box news peg isn’t waiting under the layers for you to find.

According to the Pew Institute for Media Research, about 85 percent of the news content that people read online comes from reliable print outlet origins. It’s simply been repurposed for online consumption. So, these articles are from the sources you respect – Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Washington Times – but they all appear aggregated in the same place.

Don’t feel that this is the only way to digest the news. Even understanding his method, I’m still fond of doing it my way. I can’t even imagine starting my day without my morning cup of coffee in one hand, newspaper in another while at the same time watching the morning news shows!

At the end of the day, the key thing is to read the news, whichever way fits your schedule and your needs. It will not only help you guide your PR campaign – it will simply keep you more informed.

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