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Your PR client has something to say about a big news story – will editors be interested?

Whenever there’s a big tech news story such as Google’s rebranding to Alphabet earlier this week, industry journalists are inundated with PRs offering comment from their clients in the hope they’ll get quoted in articles. When is it a good idea for PRs to try this approach? And when should you give it a miss?

PR news jacking – the PR technique that involves pitching client comment about breaking news stories – can result in high profile media coverage. But you can also waste a lot of time trying to make it work and end up with nothing to show for it. You might also p~*s off a lot of journalists who find their inboxes are under siege with irrelevant email pitches from PR people (see the Tweet below from an editor at Wired).

Tech PR newsjacking - Google Alphabet

Below I’ve tried to come up with a checklist to decide if I should or shouldn’t use news jacking when a big story comes up:

Am I early enough?
Timing is everything. If I can provide comment while a news story is still unfolding – or most of the media haven’t covered it- then I know there’s a good chance of success. But if the story is pretty much finished (with no fresh new twists and turns expected) and already written up by a lot of target media, why bother?

Is my client really a good source for this story?
In other words, why would a journalist want comment from my client bout this story. If any of the following are true then I know there is a chance.

*My client is an academic or analyst that covers this particular industry or trend

*My client has been through a similar scenario and can give insights from his/her personal experience

*My client is a leading light in the industry sector eg Zuckerberg (I wish)

*My client is directly affected (in a positive or negative way) by the specific news

*My client is close to the organization(s) involved. For example they are an important business partner

*My client holds a senior position in a relevant industry association

*My client has written a book that covers a topic related to the story

*My client has some kind of credible inside knowledge that is not public yet

Is my client going to go out on a limb, or sit on the fence?
Even if my client is a credible source, are they actually willing to say something interesting, different or controversial? Or are they going to say something neutral because they don’t want to rock the boat or offend anyone. Obviously you’re going to annoy journalists if the client ends up sticking to safe, vanilla comments. So worth testing this out before pressing the button.

Can my client react quickly enough?
If I do get an opportunity to arrange an interview or provide written comment, the chances are the journalist will be aiming to finish the article while the news is still fresh. So it’s worth making sure that my client is around and available and willing to act fast if I get some media interest. The alternative is to have some quotes ready and approved that you can pass on (although these may not answer the specific questions an individual journalist wants to address).