When big news hits in your industry and there’s a flood of coverage, do you ever find yourself frustrated that it always seems to be a competitor that’s being quoted or cited? It probably drives you nuts (I know it drives me nuts). Today’s news cycle is extremely unpredictable and it never stops. If you want your brand to be a part of that constant surge, your PR team needs a solid strategy in place when it comes to rapid response pitching (aka newsjacking). That means creating a system that includes evaluation and filtering of real-time news, organizing and developing responses, and understanding what “value” is for a journalist.

Whether your PR team is already engaged in rapid response pitching, or you plan to grow the program, here are some tips that will take it from good to great:

Does Your Team Have Their Finger on the Pulse?

A rapid response program is only as good as its ability to identify breaking news or other trending topics. As a result, your team needs to be able to wade through large amounts of information, often at unpredictable times. There are several tactics to accomplish this, but a single source of truth unfortunately doesn’t exist. This means your team needs to leverage several tactics, including:

    • Setting up automatic Google news alerts (or other search sources) on competitors or relevant keywords within your company or industry should be considered basic tablestakes. If your team is not tracking based on a set of keywords and a competitor list, change that immediately.
    • There are also a variety of other monitoring tools like Meltwater, Cision, Muck Rack, and more, that allow teams to create extremely detailed alerts. These sources often also have newsletter formats so your team can share the news with other teams (or even company-wide). You can even take competitive RSS feeds and place them into these resources to automatically aggregate announcements in a dashboard for you.
    • Be sure your team has a clear understanding of the top news sources or blogs that often lead the news cycle in your industry. Monitoring these every morning can really keep your team ahead of the curve. Often this can be accelerated by finding your industry aggregator (for example, in the cybersecurity space, NewsNow does a tremendous job of surfacing the top breaking news).
    • Don’t forget to sign up for free online newsletters from target publications related to your company. These are often sent out on a daily, weekly, or in real-time basis, covering top news from the industry. This is a free way to monitor the topics and trends being covered by journalists that matter the most to your brand.
    • Finally, your PR team can tap into the real-time news cycle through a variety of services that journalists use to get real-time information from experts. Two of the best are called Help a Reporter Out (HARO) and ProfNet. The journalist queries usually provide specific guidelines, a prompt, and a deadline. Your team can subscribe to relevant topics and then simply write a response and submit it for possible inclusion in the article. HARO features queries from more than 55,000 reporters and 800,000 sources. Make sure to follow HARO on Twitter and monitor the hashtag #URGHARO for real-time queries to ensure the best results.

Is There an Inability to Turn and Burn?

Rapid response pitching is called rapid for a reason. The turn and burn of information is critical. In fact, HARO reports that journalists typically decide what source to use within one hour of posting the query, even if the deadline is further out than that. And, since breaking news is time sensitive, reporters will often take responses on a first come first serve basis (and then by quality). To accelerate your responses, consider these three tips:

    • Compile a media repository of pre-approved quotes from an expert at your company. This saves time and allows you to quickly respond to reporters instead of scrambling to get approvals from a subject matter expert (SME).
    • Create a more detailed PR handbook that includes a wealth of information on various topics that can be used as resources for rapid response pitching (when your team needs to fabricate the SME quote for their review). While creating something like this can take a lot of time and resources, it pays off in the long run by enabling teams to respond quickly, and by kickstarting the quote creation process. If you host this in something like Google sheets or Dropbox you can give global teams around the world access to the latest perspectives.
    • Know your go-to data. Have the PR team create a statistics document of approved data on hand to help back up the brand’s opinions. Reporters love perspectives tied to data.

Is Your Team Prepared to Read Minds, Sort Of?

Albert Einstein said, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” When it comes to rapid response, you need to not only know what’s hot, but be able to understand what the journalist thinks is valuable information. This requires your PR team to understand your landscape, be surgical, and deliver value to the target. Consider the following tips:

    • When a trend hits or you have new data, don’t go blasting the entire media list. Make sure the publication(s) your PR team is pitching will find the news relevant and interesting for their audience. And customize the pitches accordingly.
    • If it’s a new journalist, verify they truly are a good target for the topic. This can be done by checking out their LinkedIn or Twitter bios (and most recent coverage). Most reporters have their job title and publication included in their bios. Your team can also look on a publication’s website in the ‘about’ or ‘contact’ sections to see if their staff is listed.
    • Spend some time reviewing a target’s writing. Do they include vendor quotes? Do they allow product plugs? Do they tend to require data? Is it only executives quoted? All of these elements can impact what information you send, and have a major impact on whether you’re included.
    • Don’t just rely on email to reach a reporter in a breaking news cycle. Find what social tools they use and capitalize (for example DM on Twitter, or try texting their cell phone).

Rapid response pitching can position your company as an industry leader and expert. And when committed to the tactic, it can have a rolling thunder effect not only on results, but on excitement within an organization. But, this can only happen if you actually secure the coverage (which is easier said than done). Consider having your PR team use some of the aforementioned tips and you could find your rapid response program exploding with success.