In some ways, breaking news is the essence of PR. You either want to be the one breaking the news, or the one benefiting from the crescendo of media attention.  The challenging bit is being poised to capitalize on the opportunity before someone else does.

I’m proud of our RHockstar team for really mastering this technique on behalf of clients – and honored by the Bulldog Awards, bestowed upon our agency for a campaign related to the wallet-less future.

So, what does it take to make the most of those breaking news moments?  Here are a few items for the PR pro’s breaking news checklist:

  1. Have an idea of what breaking news might look like, before it becomes news. Make a list of the kinds of stories to which you could contribute relevant insight, data or expertise.  Cyber attacks, natural disasters, government mandates, product recalls, tech innovations, earnings reports – these are just a few examples of stories that have created news super-cycles – and certainly will again.
  1. Know what you have to offer in advance. Imagine the story is breaking today – what is the unique, compelling perspective you can offer?  Do you have an expert who could be immediately deployed to do interviews?  Survey results or an infographic that could add context to the story?  Branded imagery or b-roll that could be featured in coverage?
  1. Set up an early warning system so that you can be first to comment. Being first often means owning the entire news cycle, as journalists like to cite the same sources.  An RH team member once discovered a bit of breaking news by monitoring key Twitter feeds – giving us the ability to alert journalists that a story was breaking and positioning our client as the initial source of insight. Our client completely owned the entire news cycle, even though there were at least 10 other competitors who would have loved to have a piece of the action.

When breaking news happens, swift action wins the day.  But, it is rare that it’s possible to capitalize without some early investment in these steps.

Congrats to my colleagues for their swift action on a breaking news cycle, which led to broad national coverage and new leads for our client, and a Bulldog award for RH Strategic – I am proud to work with this high-performance team!

Have some tips of your own? Let us know!

Leave a comment below, or tweet us at @RHStrategic with the hashtag #RHetoricBlog.


RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm providing strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, public sector and healthcare markets.