Eight Questions PR Pros Should Ask to Uncover News in any Sector

One of the conversations I, and I’m sure many of you, have regularly is when your boss or team excitedly sit you down to explain a new campaign or, on the agency side, an incoming client.

Reactions can be mixed. A new campaign or client can excite you. Potentially, though, there could be trepidation, particularly if the campaign or client exists in what is perceived as a dull sector or the issue in question seems highly technical.

Regardless, you need to perform well, generate media coverage and the many other things PR pros do.

It’s all about getting the executives you're working with to provide material you’re not privy to; having them come to you with ideas. Ultimately, they know their particular business better than you. Fine.

But what do you do if there’s zero direction, content or potential stories? Do your best to educate the parties about what content creators are seeking. You tell them to absorb media coverage, become familiar with journalists, publications and their tendencies. For your part, you research the sector and compile a list of content creators who cover the area of the new project/client.

Despite your best efforts, however, the resulting material coming to you is thin or nonexistent.

Below are some questions that can help spur ideas for coverage. You should ask these of the executives via phone or in-person on a bimonthly basis, at least.

“How is your business doing?”

This is more of a prompt question; it helps to start the conversation. After that, think like a journalist. With your understanding of what media is seeking, dig deeper with the following questions:

1. Have you hired staff recently?

People naturally are interested in who works where and when ‘big industry players’ move around between businesses. This often makes for news coverage. Make certain you know what publications cover personnel news. In addition, know the specifics. Some publications carry news about senior staff only.

2. Have you won contracts recently?

Readers in some publications want to know what businesses and suppliers work with one another. Talking about these new relationships can be a great way to showcase services and build links to media.

3. Are you planning to launch any services?

This indicates there must be a clear gap in the market to be filled. Something about the space has changed. Find out what and why. This morsel of information could be the basis for a trend story.

4. What are your expansion and growth plans? Will they involve recruiting staff?

Local media love these kinds of stories. A good angle to pursue is whether or not this means new jobs will come to town.

5. How is the business doing financially? Do you have strong stats we could talk about?

If conversations have been notably positive, it might be worth asking if the business has experienced record growth, or has any other stats to showcase its growth. Including a simple chart or graph with a story pitch often increases your chance of coverage.

6. Have you or your team spotted industry trends? Are you monitoring potential regulations?

This is a variation on question 3, above. Encourage executives to bring more heads together when you ask these questions. Staffers often have insider knowledge. It’s important for you to build relationships with them.

7. Do you have any interesting data to share?

This is a variation on question 5. Find out if staff has sales data or reports they can share. Data journalism is becoming a more popular. A story exists in numbers and information, it takes someone to analyze the data and come up with a narrative.

8. Do you have staff willing to put their name forward for PR efforts?

Savvy journalists want to avoid quoting the same sources over and over. Ask whether there are specialists willing to go on the circuit. Make diversity an imperative in your choice of spokespeople and subject matter experts.

James Watkins is a digital PR specialist at Impression