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Placing News Hijacking in the Tech PR Budget – Part 2: Being a Web Explorer

options-47081_640Welcome back! In the last blog, we began looking at how to make the most of a news hijack. Once you know what’s happening, and what your client can say, you can begin to turn that into scorching coverage:

Explore the angles

For PR to work, it has to offer something to the journalist, as well as the client. When writing up one of the biggest news stories of the year, your average journalist doesn’t need to be bothered by comments that add nothing to the story and are essentially just variations on “what they said”. Instead, they need to be given a fresh take on the news, or even better an angle that they hadn’t even considered. For instance, reported before the budget but buried as an off-hand comment in the speech itself, was a new tidal energy project in Wales. While moderately interesting at the time, when laced in the context of a drive for abundant, renewable energy for an increasingly hungry data centre industry, it became the germ of a comment that gave publications a new angle on the budget apart from endless comments on rural broadband and electric cars.

Move with the news

The downside to today’s 24-hour news culture might be that news stories never stand still, thanks to the need to keep filling an essentially infinite space. Of course, the upside is that, since the news never stands still, monitoring a breaking story can give extra angles and opportunities that might not have presented themselves in the beginning. For instance, with the budget, the real story wasn’t only the morning’s leaks provided to the press; it wasn’t even the speech itself or its supporting documents. It was the ongoing reaction to the speech, which helped spotlight the subjects that were really grabbing the audience’s attention; which messages were likely to fall a bit flat; and what everyone thought of apparently planning a £1 million anniversary celebration in order to make a couple of cheeky gags. This then helped us tweak our pitch and our targets to make sure we were sending a comment to journalists who would value it in the format that they needed.

Don’t stop until the day is done

Pitching is a fundamental part of the PR process. Just emailing out a comment or story to all and sundry might result in some coverage, perhaps even good coverage; but it will very much be in the same vein as a million monkeys with typewriters eventually pitching Shakespeare. Instead, pitching should, as mentioned, be focused and continual – making sure that journalists are receiving ongoing, updated comment to fit the reality of the news. PR should never rest on its laurels either: while not something to be repeated on every occasion, if a publication has covered part of the story, then depending on the situation, it can be worth getting in touch to suggest some extra content.

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Placing News Hijacking in the Tech PR Budget – Part 1: The Knowledge

NewsAs an agency, one of the things Spark has prided ourselves on is our ability to hijack the news; i.e. spot a breaking news story and make sure that our client’s message is front-and-centre in all relevant coverage. For instance, a security client could hijack new threats or major breaches; a data centre client could hijack new technologies and developments in the market; and God willing, one day I’ll have a client who can give hard-hitting views on the status of public art in Chesham, Bucks. However, for the meantime, events such as the Budget provide plenty of juicy opportunities.

To be honest, news hijacking tends to be one of my favourite parts of the job. The fact that you need to spot the story, race to complete comment and then convince the press that it’s worth covering before waiting for the hopeful deluge of coverage, all give a level of immediacy and excitement that doesn’t compare to other activities that will tend to be much more slow-burning. Of course, your average hijack isn’t just a matter of clicking your fingers and waiting for coverage. There’s a lot of work that has to go into a successful hijack, preventing the risk that, after all the drafting and chasing and pitching, the result in terms of coverage is a big, fat old duck egg. With that in mind, here are the first of my top tips for making sure your news hijack is more Die Hard and less Toy Soldiers.

Know what’s happening

It may seem trite, but the only way to hijack news is by knowing what the news actually is. This means monitoring for breaking stories. These could be announcements from analysts, the Government or other authorities; or stories that have just started to smolder in the news. Regardless, the more you know about a story in advance, the better your response can be. For instance, last month’s budget was a prime opportunity to comment on the tech-related elements that were bound to emerge – whether that meant investment in broadband, regional expansion or brand new Government IT projects. This meant keeping a close eye on developments; from seeing what elements of the budget, such as the abolition of the annual tax return, were trialled in advance, to monitoring the speech and responses to pick out every single relevant titbit.

Know what your client can say 

Of course, when monitoring the news, you can spot the most incredible, man-bites-dog story ever. However, if your client can only talk about dog-bites-man then its relevance swiftly disappears. It’s another truism of PR that knowing your clients is crucial. When news hijacking, it means you can quickly identify the precise stories clients can comment on and, just as importantly, what they can say. A major trailed part of the budget was the decision to abolish the tax return in favour of a new online system. Thanks to knowing our clients, we knew what they could say on this new Government IT project whether it was on the ongoing march of digitalisation, dealing with the complexities such a huge undertaking could entail, or the need for adequate planning and understanding to avoid (yet) another Government IT sob story.

That’s all for part 1 of this blog. In part 2, we’ll cover how to turn that knowledge, of the story and the client, into red-hot action.

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Coverage Cup round up w/c 20 April 2015

Coverage cupThe General Election is only a week away, but here at Spark there is only one vote worth winning and that is the Coverage Cup! This week the Spark team gained coverage for Tier-3, ViaSat and Bit9 + Carbon Black by hijacking a story about the security concerns surrounding the Network Rail upgrade, this included coverage in The Register, Infosecurity and ITProPortal. Following that up, the Elsevier team secured placement of a two-part byline in E&P regarding the importance of data in finding new oil and gas reserves. Elsewhere, HCL’s Senior VP, Sukamal Banerjee gave his thoughts on Industrial IoT regulation following an interview the team secured with Land Mobile. Finally, the SAP User Group, achieved a number of pieces, including diginomica, Computer Weekly and ComputerworldUK, following a survey looking at the challenges facing organisations when it comes to optimising their SAP landscape. 

Below are the nominations from last week: 

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Top 5 Client PR Traits

TipsLast week, we ran through some of the traits that successful tech PR pros need, but how about clients? The relationship between PR agency and client, be it a quick fling for a project or a marching down the aisle long-term retainer, is a two-way thing.

The best clients, and so those that are most successful, understand this and will work with their agencies to provide them with the knowledge they need to hit their shared objectives successfully. Here are five traits of top PR clients:

  • Don’t be a jack of all trades: And a master of none. You know your business and your customers better than anyone, the most successful clients know exactly what they are qualified to comment on and don’t try to comment on every passing trend.
  • Trust us: We’re not doctors, but we know what we are talking about. The best clients trust their PR advisors when they give them advice and don’t just go it alone.
  • Spend money: Now, we’re not just saying this, but PR is important – don’t neglect PR and invest in it where you can, the results will pay dividends down the line.
  • Content is king: Very often, clients produce lots of great content internally or for sales purposes that can be useful for external PR. And then they forget to share it with their agencies! Don’t forget to send us that whitepaper.
  • Think about what is important: Do you want to be in the channel press, do you want to be in the tech press, do you want to be in the business press? Having a few ideas about what outcomes you want from PR before you start is crucial.

The world of technology throws up lots of different types of clients, from small start-ups developing innovative solutions to established companies supporting customers with legacy technologies. Wherever you are on the spectrum, having or developing, these traits will ensure that the relationship you have with your PR agency is a fruitful one.

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Coverage Cup round up w/c 13 April 2015

Coverage cupThe last week has seen the Spark team firing on all cylinders and racking up some really impressive coverage for a number of clients. First of all the release of Verizon’s 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report saw a fantastic 29 pieces of coverage including The Guardian, BBC and FT. Coverage covered a wide range of angles from the relatively small danger of mobile malware to the staggering speed that phishing emails take to ensnare victims. Verizon were closely followed by Egress this week, who managed to secure 14 pieces for from a Freedom of Information request detailing the lack of cybersecurity employed by top law firms in the UK, with stories appearing in The Register and Computing amongst others. Next up, JDA had some excellent hits including The Independent, Retail Week and Internet Retailing based on the findings of the company’s latest retail CEO study. Finally, Ampersand’s Head of Content Strategy Rebecca Martin had an interesting byline on Marketing Tech looking at about the impact of the sharing economy and personalisation on marketers.

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