During an election year, it can seem like the news cycles are constantly dominated by tawdry political scandals, controversial sound bites and mountains of op-eds and think pieces. It’s undeniably challenging to find the angles and appropriate timing to insert your client into news cycles riddled with campaign rhetoric, election-year topics and a consistent stream of election-driven breaking news. So how’s a PR pro supposed to grab headlines in a positive way amid massive election coverage? Here are a few pointers for keeping your client or your brand in the spotlight.
1. Understand the news cycle
It’s important to do your research and understand the political stories of the day. Maybe your client doesn’t have a direct link to fracking, Common Core curriculum or the Middle East, but in order to find an angle that works, you’ve got to be informed. Spend a bit of time each day reading up on headline news from an unbiased source, then see what each side is saying. This should help you discover an angle that might be your “in” for your organization. Once you find the angle, identify a protagonist and antagonist; this will help solidify your pitch.
Using the example of above, let’s hypothesize that the candidates have been debating fracking. Your client is a small business owner in central Texas whose business has nothing to do with drilling, oil, gas or fracking. In this situation, you’d want to research fracking thoroughly, because although there’s no direct tie, your client’s business is located in an area where fracking happens and is controversial. Your job? Connect the topics to a cohesive story line.
2. Find a nugget
You’ve got your angle—now it’s your job to find a side of the story that hasn’t been told yet. Tap into the heart of your client and tell a story that humanizes your brand. Not only will this provide a stark contrast from the no-nonsense news headlines cycling, but also you’ll have a unique storytelling platform. If possible, support your story with data. Whether it’s statistics, graphs or infographics, substantiating your position with hard data is important to your story.
For your central Texas client, maybe you’d want to talk about the effect fracking has had on the small business community in the area. Democrats are anti-fracking, Republicans are pro-fracking, but what would actually happen if fracking disappeared from central Texas? Would your client’s business suffer or increase? What about other local businesses? This is your bridge to the headlines: humanizing a topic seen as complex and making it something that the everyday American cares about.
3. Prepare for major events
There’s no shortage of debates, town hall meetings or media appearances during election season—in fact, it’s inescapable. Take advantage of the opportunity for your angle to be discussed and prepare as much as possible so you’re well positioned to pitch your compelling story both before and after the event.
Before each event, you should keep up your research and see what the fracking news of the day is. Discover where the candidates stand, and prepare for the topic to come up during a debate. This requires some planning in advance, so be sure to set aside the time for research and reading.
4. Have an opinion
Don’t be afraid to have an opinion, but keep it respectful and on topic. In order to break through the noise of the election, you’re going to have to take a stance, but bear in mind that your stance shouldn’t isolate any one group of people or create overwhelmingly negative feelings.
Is your client’s business going to decrease if fracking goes away? Say it! Will the business boom if fracking disappears from the area? Tell your story, and craft compelling leads and subject lines to draw attention to the client.
5. Offer more than one source
While it can be tempting to keep the story focused solely on your client, chances are that the reporter or news source is going to want a balanced piece. Offer several sources, utilizing other clients if possible. Each source should have a slightly different opinion, but all should be credible and qualified.
The white noise of election season can undoubtedly be deafening, but by breaking through the commotion to isolate an angle, share a well-researched and supported story in a respectful, well-rounded way, your client organization can make headlines and reinforce itself as an authority on a popular topic.
Jamie Izaks is the president and co-founder of All Points Public Relations, a Chicago-area public relations agency focusing on the franchising industry. He also co-founded the Northern Illinois Franchise Association.