August is traditionally known as ‘silly season’. Parliament goes into recess and therefore less ‘serious’ content is generated for broadcasters and journalists, and there tends to be an increase in frivolous stories in the papers. In the past, the month was seen as an opportunity for PR consultants to secure stories in the media that perhaps might not have been strong enough to be picked up in the face of tough competition from column inches around education policy and tax brackets during the rest of the year.
Here are my tips for PR agencies to make the most of the relatively quiet period and maximise the opportunities offered when MPs are on their annual break:
· Plan in advance. Incorporate your campaign into your annual PR calendar to ensure it is not a ‘last minute’ idea that may not prove successful. Research it thoroughly so it does not clash with any important and busy news days (i.e. exam results days).
· Don’t use the time to pitch frivolous stories only. Just because there is less organic news, it does not mean journalists don’t want to print serious news. They will no doubt appreciate a serious news story, such as a report, survey or launch that will be of interest to their readers.
· However, if relevant, use the opportunity to ‘piggyback’ what is happening in the wider news agenda. While GCSE and ‘A’ level results are a busy time in the media, if you have a client that is relevant to the education sector, it may be worthwhile planning a PR campaign hooked to these events, when journalists will be looking for a new angle.
· Think about providing an exclusive story. Rather than sending out your press release far and wide, a good way of developing strong relationships with journalists is to pick your ideal contact and offer them the story exclusively. Compile a list of targets and tier it as to your preference before approaching.
· Research the frequency of publications over the summer. Trade magazines will often drop from weekly to fortnightly, or fortnightly to monthly in this quieter period, so be aware that there may in fact be more increased competition to secure press coverage in these double issues, and that putting your resources into online PR may be more lucrative.
· Use this relatively quiet period to try and forge closer relationships with your key contacts. Face-to-face meetings are less common these days, as editorial teams have shrunk and time pressures are acute, but now is a good time to try and set up coffee or lunch with the media. It gives you the chance to fully brief them on all relevant clients and topics, and ensures you are front of mind when they are looking for future assistance.
· Think about the end game and evaluate success. Whilst securing column inches is a priority, what is your over-arching objective? Is your success measured by increased inbound calls, a rise in product sales, or a general ‘buzz’ on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook? Make sure you agree with your client from the outset what they want from the campaign, rather than just doing it for the sake of it.