How do you get media coverage if you have no news?
The ‘issues hijack’ is a great tool at PR’s disposal and can be hugely effective when wielded correctly, but dangerous when misused.
In essence, it involves jumping on an issue that is driving the media agenda and providing your insights. It can be anything from healthcare reform to an IT security breach but responsive, insightful and credible experts can be the media’s best friends.
A quick glance in the crystal ball suggests 2012 will throw up plenty of opportunities (the carbon price debate, economic growth, productivity, national broadband etc.) for senior executives to offer their perspectives in a constructive way that both raises the profile of their organisation and contributes to the debate.
As with anything there are right ways and wrong ways to do this. Issues hi-jacking is an excellent way to raise your profile with the national press, but if you’re going to say something, make sure it:
1. Is genuinely relevant to the debate and not a straight plug for your product or service (media and their readers will see straight through this)
2. Is different to what has already been said (“me too” is not news-worthy)
3. Expresses an opinion (a clear, defined point of view)
4. Is constructive (particularly if you are disagreeing)
5. Is consistent with your broader comms goals, messages and strategy (coverage for the sake of coverage is rarely productive)
6. Is backed by your credibility to offer an opinion. Vodafone would have little credibility talking about healthcare reform, but is a natural fit if commenting on telco restructuring.
Also, if you’re going to weigh into the debate, make sure you’re prepared to be available and willing to comment on the subject in the future. You need to have a consistent voice to remain credible and relevant; a “one hit wonder” comment will have limited impact and may even attract criticism. By saying something you’re also flagging yourself as a source of comment for media, and may be contacted in the future. The more responsive and relevant you can be the more your credibility rating with that journalist will increase, or conversely, decrease if you turn out to be a one hit wonder.
Obviously a measured approach needs to be taken upon deciding when it’s appropriate to comment and when it is not. By going through the process of deciding what your position is on a topic, the possible scenarios when you might be asked to comment, what you response would be and whether or not that is constructive and relevant, you can typically decide whether or not it’s a good idea to weigh into a debate from the outset.
Watch out for the second part of this blog post where we look at some of the big issues likely to be on the media agenda in 2012… coming soon!