How to secure national coverage

Hannah Lawrence, Account Manager 

Boosting companies’ profiles is what we do – it’s our bread and butter.  One of the most effective ways of doing this is getting our clients’ names out in the press, helping to position them as thought leaders in their field and valuable sources of expert commentary.

Nowhere is this more powerful than in the national press.  But when it comes to securing national media coverage, smart companies and agencies know they cannot dictate the news agenda.  Instead, they must find creative ways of engaging with topical issues.

There are a number of essential elements that go into planning and executing this to make sure you have – with a bit of luck on the day – the best chance of success.  We recently worked with one of our clients, Skillsoft, to help it engage with an important national issue – digital skills training in schools.  By following this approach, we were able to secure coverage for Skillsoft’s expert spokesperson in a variety of national publications – including the GuardianBBC, and the front page of The Times.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

The first step is to identify the story that you want to engage with in the media.  We chose GCSE results day, but it could be the release of a report or the results of a national vote.  The most important thing is being one step ahead of the game – and the journalists – to ensure your client’s voice cuts through the noise.  This means getting to the data first and making your own analysis.

For GCSE results day, we looked at past trends to predict where this year’s news cycle might go, and which areas journalists might want to focus on.

We identified the trends that looked at the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, as well as the decline in students taking computing and ICT.  By going straight to the source of the published data and presenting the relevant numbers in an easy to digest way, journalists were able to quickly and conveniently see the headline for their story, as well as a supporting comment from our industry expert.

For instance, the Joint Council for Qualification’s press statement highlighted the growing number of girls taking computing.  But what it failed to mention was the huge fall in the total number of students taking the exams, or the fact that the gender gap is still huge.  By focusing on that angle, we were able to provide a contrarian comment and boost our chances for inclusion in agenda-setting news stories.

Researching past coverage will also help you find the journalists who might be interested in expert commentary and shows which themes could be the most popular.  This preparation will also help guide your analysis of the results on the day.

Write compelling commentary

The need for compelling expert commentary is perhaps obvious – but it can often be overlooked.  When drafting comments, you need to ask:

  • Is this fresh, unusual or edgy?  Being agreeable isn’t interesting, but you need to strike a good balance and not be overly contentious.
  • Does it add to the story?  There’s no need to repeat what happened, you need to move the story along and add perspective.

Be prepared on the day

Knowing when and where the raw data will be published and getting there first is crucial for getting ahead of the nationals, as they often set the news agenda with the first coverage of important issues.  By analysing the data and identifying the trends first, you immediately improve your chances of getting involved in the conversation.

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