The etiquette of news hijacking

Juliet Francis – Account Director at Spreckley

“Following the news as featured in Adweek that the PR industry is officially dead (1), Spreckley, one of the UK’s most established PR agencies, has offered comment that proves that there are strategic tactics that continue to allow PR clients to remain at the heart of the media coverage.”

Whilst the content above is fairly diabolical, it does highlight how selecting the right content and having a substantial angle to contribute to evolving news is key to news hijacking.

It is important to know the difference between appropriate efforts that are perceived as public service and inappropriate efforts that are demonised as capitalising on bad news.

The idea that a PR rep opens his eyes and rubs his hands together in glee at the prospect of using the opportunity to garner media coverage for a client is of course considered disrespectful, and only serves to heighten the love / hate relationship that some businesses and consumers have with the PR industry.

We scan the pages on a daily basis sourcing opportunities that might be of relevance for clients. With a portfolio of healthcare clients spanning hundreds of treatments and specialities, there are plenty of opportunities to hijack a piece of news on behalf of a client, particularly as journalists frequently seek expert opinion from certified specialists.

With respect to a sensitive subject such as healthcare, raising awareness of a particular condition, how treatments have developed, and how to spot symptoms, can literally save lives. However, there is a fine line between expounding on healthcare knowledge, educating readers, and simply using the recent diagnosis or passing of a high profile celebrity to reach or grab the attention of journalists. Sometimes those lines do get blurred, since it is through such events that further enquiry is made into a condition, issues are raised as to its progression and development. It is often the case that celebrities who have announced the tragic news of their recent diagnosis are avid campaigners in raising awareness of the condition. This is shown in the reports relating to comedienne, writer and actress Caroline Aherne who spoke publicly to the media about her cancer diagnosis speaking highly of the medical profession that supported her.

The key to news hijacking is to question whether the news release or commentary being issued actually adds value to media commentary. To simply take a subject and furnish it with information that is already featured in the media, with the only difference being that a client’s brand is mentioned, only serves to the diminish the reputation of the client since journalists can quickly detect whether there is any news value in a media alert.

There is no way around an effective media alert other than to understand three things: the client, current industry topics and of course the media you are targeting.

(1) Read the article