National Press: Tapping into the Current News Cycle

Every entrepreneur dreams of being on the cover of Forbes, but unless your name is Mark Zuckerberg or Warren Buffet, a much more realistic goal is to be frequently mentioned in articles about a larger industry or trend that affects your business. Being quoted or cited as an example across a broad range of media has numerous benefits: it exposes the company to a wide audience, positions the CEO and other spokespeople as experts in their field, cultivates relationships with key reporters and improves SEO, to name a few.

One of the primary goals nearly every company and PR firm should have at the start of their engagement is to build the company’s reputation as a valuable resource reporters can go to time and time again when working on relevant stories. This requires input from both sides.

A competent PR professional will start her day by reading the newspapers, blogs, newsletters and other media that focuses on her clients’ industries. She’ll know which reporters cover that “beat” and read their bylines religiously. She’ll set up Google alerts for key terms so she can be informed of any breaking news throughout the day. And, as soon as something happens that her client could potentially comment on, she’ll flag it to them and ask for their take on it.

The client, on the other hand, should be prepared to provide his or her unique (or even controversial) point of view on industry news or trends. And because CEOs and other company leaders are often privy to new developments before they become public, they should give their PR firms a heads up whenever possible. This is why Ditto recommends setting up standing weekly calls: it provides the opportunity for both the client and the firm to share what they’ve been following in the news cycle, whether it’s worth commenting on and what the company’s POV is.

Ditto recently began working with a few ed tech companies, including ArborBridge, an online test prep company, and Student Loan Hero, a platform for managing student debt. By closely following the outlets and reporters that cover higher education, Team Ditto identified a few key milestones coming up for high school students, recent college grads and their parents. High school juniors and seniors are in the throes of the college application process, including taking the most important exams of their lives: the SAT and ACT. High school seniors and their parents are applying for student aid and facing the reality of student loans for the first time.

And as of November 1, the six-month grace period for federal student loans has expired, meaning it’s time for recent college grads to begin paying up. Team Ditto began outreach to top-tier media, offering insights from ArborBridge and Student Loan Hero on these trends – and, more importantly, their POV to demonstrate why they are uniquely qualified to comment. As a result, ArborBridge was featured in a New York Times article about the cost of SAT/ACT prep, another NYT reporter included Student Loan Hero in an article about financial aid, and the Associated Press asked Student Loan Hero for tips on tackling debt. Each article was also picked up by other news outlets, extending the audience they reached.

Neither the NYT nor the AP would likely have covered these companies as a standalone feature, so tapping into the current news cycle is a great way to get into these top-tier outlets. This approach requires heavy lifting from both the client and the PR firm at first, but if done correctly, reporters will start to approach companies’ PR reps to ask for their take on news or trends, rather than vice-versa.