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The Art of Media Relations: Rapid Response

Posted on: October 30th, 2013 by Casey Cardinal | No Comments

Media relations is an evolving art form – it changes every single day as the media landscape does. The needs of reporters change, as do the approaches in which we connect with them. Rapid response is one of my favorite things to do with a client. You can be sure that when I get wind of breaking news, I will be running over to Lisa Mokaba’s desk to high five and iron out our plan of attack. From there, I remind myself to “stop what you’re doing and listen.” Yes, I picture Ron Burgundy drop his robe and announce he was “handed an urgent and horrifying news story” that turned out to be an epic cannonball in the movie Anchorman.

There are a lot of moving parts in any PR program and I like to think that it all comes to a head during a bout of rapid response – your buttoned up media list serves as your reference point, your knowledge of the industry and its key players allows you to easily identify how to package your client’s PoV and where to pitch it to and your team helps you every step of the way. While I don’t advise stripping down and doing a cannonball when breaking news that your client has a solid PoV on is unraveling, I do think it’s wise to stop what you are doing and listen. First, listen to what’s already being said and ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Do I know when to speak up and when to shut up? InkHouse Principal Beth Monaghan did us all a favor when she wrote a blog post back in 2011 to list the breaking news events that must be left alone 99.9 percent of the time. Refer to this list if you have any questions or doubts around your next rapid response voyage.
  2. Are the client’s competitors talking about this? Their top media targets? If yes, it’s time to gather an informed, controversial point of view from your client and pitch it broadly. Before you get too excited, refer to my next question…
  3. Do I know whether this person has written about the news yet? Please do not blast pitch your press list. While it’s ok to share commentary with a reporter who has already written on the topic – as often times a second day story or a piece with a different angle is warranted – you run the risk of looking, to put it frankly, dumb. This is the biggest mistake you could make in the heat of the moment. You not only risk looking like you don’t know what a person’s coverage area is or what they’ve already written about, you’re attaching your client’s name to that stupidity. My advice? Take a moment to see who has covered the story, reach out with your opinion on their coverage thus far (it usually helps if it’s something positive, reassuring or encouraging) and like always, tailor a pitch specifically to that person while offering up a new angle and resource.
  4. What else am I responsible for accomplishing today? Check your to do list, rack your brain to make sure you don’t miss anything and rely on your teammates. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A breaking news story will often take priority over your everyday responsibilities, but you can’t just let things fall through the cracks. Ask someone if they can help you by taking a few tasks off your plate while you’re busy pitching.

Do you have any other tips for mastering a day of rapid response to secure client coverage? Any questions you ask yourself before embarking on that journey?

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