As PR professionals, our job requires us to be experts on a little bit of everything. Here at Hope-Beckham, our clients range from law firms to movie studios to nonprofits, so keeping up with industry trends across the spectrum is part of the day to day. However, consuming news in a time of information overload and a 24-hour news cycle can be a daunting task. Not to mention, staying relevant on a majority of industries to better service our clients. PR professionals can take a few steps to streamline information sources in order to save time and efficiently scan the news for important opportunities.
The first step of sifting through an endless news cycle is focusing on the highlights. Another way to put it--determine which stories are filler fluff pieces and which are valuable news. An easy, convenient way to do this is subscribing to news briefing emails such as TheSkimm, CNN’s 5 Things or LinkedIn Pulse. Morning emails such as these get you up to date before you can finish your first cup of coffee. Subscribing to general news digest as well as industry or topic specific rundowns is a great way to stay up to date on current events and trends in your client's sector.
Another thing to be wary of when skimming the news is media bias. Even though journalists are careful to avoid personal bias, publications all fall somewhere on the spectrum of left to right, as demonstrated in the diagram below. It’s our job as PR professionals to not only be aware of where each outlet falls on that spectrum but to try our best to read across the spectrum. It’s also important to know the quality of reporting and how factual information from these publications is.
As you can see on the chart, Associated Press is one of the most neutral, fact-based publications while Infowar.com and Patribotics fall on either side of partisan lines bordering on fiction. In order to maintain a solid reputation as a PR firm, securing coverage for clients in reliable sources is key. It’s also important to keep in mind where your client’s target audience falls on this spectrum as you brush up on the news. For example, if your client is a Christian-based nonprofit, a liberal leaning news source may not be the best fit to pitch a story to.
No matter the news focus, it’s important to keep abreast of local, national and international happenings in order to better serve client needs. Landing coverage in a widely read national outlet is always a big win, but steady local attention on a client can be critical to their reputation and prominence within their own community. Additionally, trade publications, blogs and podcasts can be informative for communications professionals looking to secure client coverage on more niche topics. Helping an organization gain recognition among its peers in its industry can elevate the brand as much as a major national news story.
The more news you consume, the more you’re aware of what people and journalists are talking about. Reading, listening or watching the news also improves writing skills. This gives PR professionals an upper hand when developing media plans for clients and pitching journalists. With only so many hours in the workday, having a news gathering process in place can simplify your job significantly.