By Simon Corbett, Managing Director of Jargon PR
Over the past few weeks our inboxes have been full of emails from journalists asking for comment on everything and anything related to the election result. Questions like ‘What does the result mean for social enterprises/ tech companies/ IT resellers/ new startups/ old startups...etc’ were coming in thick and fast.
Last week the topic was immigration, with journalists asking to speak to businesses employing migrant workers. Getting comment into high profile publications on issues like these is all well and good for some, but brands need to question when exposure in these features is going to deliver real business benefits.
News hijacking, the process of issuing comments about a current news story to position an organisation or individual as an expert, is a useful tool in the PR arsenal, however, it's frequently overused. There are brands out there that aim to comment on any news story they can get their hands on. Getting in the national press is great, but if you’re a tech company discussing UK government policy on an irrelevant issue to your business, you’re not going to do yourself any favours. Think about who’s going to read your comments, would they buy from you and would you invest sales resources in contacting these people?
The story of the boy who cried wolf could not be more applicable to PR. To build awareness and a reputation that will ultimately drive sales and increase the value of your investment in a communications campaign, you need to ensure that your opinion is being valued. Only talk about issues that are relevant. Moving too often from your organisation’s core expertise risks threatening your credibility when you do have something worthwhile to say, whilst taking precious time that could be better invested into reaching your real audience.
That’s not to say that commenting on something like the election is a bad thing. Far from it. If you have a specific expertise that you can lend to an election debate, go for it. If the current news agenda isn’t relevant then why not start a debate that links to your industry yourself? Commission some research and write a hard hitting piece of opinion.
News hijacking is one of the most valuable aspects of many campaigns we run, but only because its done right. We sit down with our clients, evaluate what we want to comment on, build up issues bibles of key areas for comment and then approach our relevant media contacts. This leaves us safe in the knowledge that the time invested into joining a debate is going to be beneficial. News hijacking should aim to position a business or individual as an expert in their field. Keeping this aim in mind will ultimately drive sales and make you the in demand expert.
In short, keep your comments focused and don’t be the brand that cried wolf.