High-profile news announcements – how to prepare, manage and conquer them

Connor Mitchell, Senior Consultant – UK Media Lead, Tyto

Proactively driving the news agenda for clients in a thoughtful manner is fundamental to effective public relations. However, there are occasions where, as PR professionals, we also need to manage and temper stories that have a very potent news appeal.

With a carefully engineered strategy, a bulletproof release and well considered timings, certain news announcements can really catch fire and spread – fast. This can be quite a rush.

With journalist enquiries flying in left, right and centre and when you’re getting pushed for a line on this and a quote on that, the need to delicately balance multiple time-sensitive requests is normally accompanied by a cocktail of adrenaline, excitement and the need for composure.

As PR professionals, not only are we judged on our ability to conjure up media interest, but also to position our clients as favourably as possible when the spotlight is on them and protect their reputations when necessary.

What’s the best way, therefore, to take stock, think rationally and execute with clarity when these frenetic stories consume every waking minute of a working week? Various members of the Tyto team have shared their top tips for doing precisely this.

Zoe Clark, Partner and Head of Practice:

“Amid the frenzy, keeping an eye on the bigger picture is absolutely critical.

Are the client’s messages coming through? Is the story landing in the right way? Are there any threats on the horizon that warrant changing tack? The client and the wider team are often heads-down dealing with the pace of the situation, so for team lead, you need to try your utmost to remain on the right path.

The next key consideration is mulling over what happens when the dust settles – i.e., how can we use the situation as a springboard to deliver even more impactful results?”

Lauren Armour, Senior Consultant:

“Treat each media briefing individually – as if it’s the only one to take place that day or week. In a fast-paced and high-pressure environment, it’s tempting to jump from one opportunity to another to keep the ball rolling and momentum building.

Hopefully the client will feel more comfortable as the day goes on, which is fantastic, but ensure you don’t lose sight of key messages or get complacent, as this is when mistakes happen. You can never over brief your client in this situation. Find time in between media briefings to refocus on the key messages and objectives.

What’s more, befriend the beast that is social media. Social media gives everyone a voice and enables conversation to spread faster than ever before, much quicker than traditional media. With high profile news, this means it can be both your best friend and your worst enemy. Monitor the conversation to get ahead of any new perspectives or challenges that your client should be aware of.”

Dave Turnbull, Client Services Director:

“Keeping your client’s goals and messages front of mind in everything you do, and in every media opportunity you evaluate, is hugely important. It can be tempting to take on every high-profile interview or comment opportunity that comes your way – and that may well be the right course of action – but we, and our clients, need to remain focused on what we’re trying to achieve.

Preparation is always vital when building up to these big media moments too. This means investigating potential issues, objections and questions that may come our way, and ensuring that we’re ready for them.”

My thoughts:

“Though it might seem as though you’re engulfed by hysteria, the most important thing I’ve learned is to mentally – and quite literally – put the kettle on. If anything, these are the moments when you need to be a picture of calm for your client.

Don’t let journalists rush you into answers over the phone when they have queries and control responses to questions that need to be kept tight by pushing for written responses where possible. Pre-existing content that has already been approved by all the key parties is your best friend and is always a great resource.

When advising your client, try to be confident, firm and clear. As a PR professional, you deal with the media day in, day out, so you need to be able to think pragmatically and draw on your own experience to help them feel at ease.”


Photo credit (c) The Climate Reality Project, Unsplash.com