PR Lessons from the headlines

The diversity of the news headlines struck me today.

The comms team in Downing street probably hoped that “Brexit Good News” would dominate the newsstands this morning, but they could not have known that they would be  competing with Britain “Colder than Moscow”, “The biggest breakthough in brain science for 50 years” (Huntingdon’s Disease) and tributes to the much loved broadcaster Keith Chegwin?

The diversity of these headlines shows certain truths about PR and the media.

Real news is impossible to predict. News is, by its very nature, unpredictable and the  element of surprise is one of the reasons why a story is new and interesting. This is not always good for PR departments, which usually plan their key media announcements quite a long way in advance. Even the best planned PR announcement can get pushed aside by an all-embracing news event such as Britain blanketed in snow and ice.

Today, more than ever, each publication knows its readership extremely well – their viewpoints, pet hates and interests – and their editors are dedicated to keeping their readers informed and entertained, and are careful to select the top stories that their readers care about most. This means that each editor is effectively creating their own version of the day’s news. Creating powerful headlines is an important part of the editors’ art, and editors are influential people because their headlines will be setting the scene for the conversations that many of us are having during the day.

Headlines sell newspapers and magazines and publications of all kinds are vying for our attention. Fewer people buy the same newspaper from the newsstands every day, so a paper with an eye-catching headline is more likely to sell out.

The same principles are true for trade publications and business titles, so we can apply these lessons to our PR stories for the trade and business media. We should remember that each publication has its own unique place in the market and we must never lose sight of the fact that editors can choose whether or not to publish our stories. We will be more successful if we also follow the main stories that the media are reporting day by day and week by week. We need to ensure that what we provide to editors is genuinely worthwhile, interesting, and of importance to their readers. If we can get this right, we will have a very effective and efficient PR operation.