It’s an everyday PR conundrum. You get into work with a busy day of activity planned only to pick up your morning paper while drinking your first of many cuppas to find an oh-so relevant comment opportunity for your client, one which simply can’t be missed. Say there’s a new report released on house building rates which would be perfect for your developer client to provide opinion on, or, maybe The Sun has featured a story that being amongst nature is good for reducing stress. One for your new camping client, no?

But what about that new product release you had planned to write? And those forward features lists aren’t going to create themselves. Not to mention the various bits of client admin you still have to do. You may feel suddenly overwhelmed at the thought of having to reshuffle your priorities, when the reality is this should be perceived as an exciting opportunity to delight and wow. Here’s why….

As we all know, we are operating in an incredibly crowded marketplace. Ten years ago, journalists might receive a few dozen press releases a day. Today this number is more around the 100 mark, and you can add another zero to that for some of the big nationals.

So if you really want to grab their attention, it’s important that you have something that they are going to be interested in, like really interested in.

This is where newsjacking, the relatively underutilised art of leveraging trending news to elevate your brand’s message, really comes in. It’s a boon for us PR folk because it can help create cut through, grabbing the media’s attention while generating brand awareness.

To give an example, at Whistle PR one of our clients, a vehicle testing expert, recently announced the construction of the UK’s first autonomous vehicle parking facility. Did we just issue an announcement release followed with a hard media sell? No. Instead, by keeping an eagle-eyed watch on the news agenda, we took a tactical approach – targeting journalists we knew were following the evolving driverless car debate, providing them with tailored insights and responding to relevant stories with rapid response commentary. The result? Widespread media appeal, with hits in The Times, ITV, BBC, an interview slot on Radio Four and multiple trade exclusives. More so, our client is now very much seen as the authoritative voice of the industry in this emerging market. Result!

In this way, newsjacking can help reach a much larger audience. In the instance that your client hasn’t got the budget for national campaigns but still requires a wide consumer reach, newsjacking, done well, can enable national media appeal without the need for big research studies or celebrity advocates (although these, of course, will always help).

Plus, it’s a great way to create new news during quiet spells. When there is little in the way of NPD, initiatives or other company happenings, drafting content based on the news agenda provides apt opportunity to re-sell prior products or brand messages.

In terms of client relations, it can work wonders too. In our role of PR consultants, after all, it is our job to consult; going beyond planned activity and making informed recommendations based on the changing landscape in order to elevate comms, constantly. From my experience, clients are always hugely responsive to newsjacking suggestions. Even if they don’t want to go ahead, it shows that you are not just on the pulse of the news (and so you should be!) but wider industry happenings too, and in real time.

Of course, that’s not to say newsjacking is at all easy. As with any PR tactic it requires a strategic approach, investing time in determining the areas your client is willing to comment on and the appropriate positioning. At Whistle, we’ll often run newsjacking workshops with clients to determine the keys areas where they feel comfortable leading the conversation.

And this should be supported with full client-buy. Generally speaking, these types of pieces require a rapid turnaround (24 hours ideally) or they run the risk of becoming old news, while ongoing commitment from all involved parties is vital to ensuring consistency of message.

As a final point, it’s worth mentioning that newsjacking doesn’t always need to be off the cuff. Where possible, it’s always good to operate a degree of ‘planned spontaneity’ whereby you know something is coming up and you’ve got your content ready to go. A great example of this is with annual calendar dates and planned events such as royal weddings and births.

So, to summarise, with benefits that include cut through, an elevated brand profile and wide media appeal, when it comes to newsjacking there really isn’t anything not to like. Surely then, next time you’re reading your morning paper and spot a story, you’ll see it as a brilliant opportunity to develop your knack for newsjacking?

Lyndsey Trengrove is a Senior Account Director at Whistle PR which offers a range of integrated communications services including strategic consultancy, PR, social media and internal communications. For further information email info@whistlepr.co.uk or contact us here.