How To Piggyback On News Events To Get Free Publicity

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It's tempting to sit back and just write a continuous string of online press releases, neglecting other ways to drum up publicity. After all, they'll generate links, bring folks to your site, and if you're lucky, catch the attention of an influential journalist or blogger. And so, week after week, you dash off a quick press release with the hope of getting a few nibbles of attention. 

In the words of Dr. Phil, "How's that working for ya?" 

If you're like most business owners trying to generate publicity, you've probably noticed that online press release distribution, while valuable, doesn't go the whole nine yards. You need other ways to get the full attention you deserve.

Today, I'm going to show you how to jump on major news events to stir up publicity for yourself. Once you have a system in place, you'll find that putting it into action is pretty simple. Let's start by taking a look at how a typical news story begins, grows, reaches its peak, and starts to fade from the public's consciousness.

How Big News Stories Gain (And Lose) Momentum

It's important to know how a news item progresses from the moment it "launches" to the point it dies. As a marketer, you need to hit a sweet spot somewhere in that story's lifespan. Come in too early, and you might get lost in the shuffle. Come in too late, and no one will care.

Your goal is to align yourself with a breaking story during the "sweet spot" when reporters are scrambling for details. Getting in at that point does two things for you. First, you get there before most of your competitors. Second, you'll have plenty of opportunities to revisit the story as it gains and loses momentum. That gives you a chance to leverage it for all the attention and publicity it's worth!

Create A Strategy For Taking Advantage Of Big News Items

As with any marketing task, it pays to have a system in place for leveraging news events. That way, when a big story breaks, you can use your system to save a ton of time and effort. If you wing it, you'll spend a lot of both just spinning your wheels.

There are 3 major steps involved, and each step includes a series of mini steps. First, you need to uncover a story. Second, you need to figure out your approach to that particular story. Third, you need to get your point of view out to the world. Let's take a quick look at each step.

Step 1: Uncover A Story

Let's look at the story of one of Kim's coaching clients, Kimberly Reynolds, whose daughter's less than favorable experience with the Girl Scouts turned into a viral national story covered by major media outlets including Forbes, The Huffington Post, cnet, CBS, MSN, TV news, radio, and blogs.

After researching the evolution of the story in great detail and talking with Kim, I outlined a "formula" for finding and promoting story angles to help others generate their own publicity. 

One way to find news items is to monitor certain keywords that are relevant to your business. For example, if you run an accounting software company, you might track phrases like "tax laws" or "tax write-offs." You can set up a Google Alert for each phrase and have stories delivered to your inbox. You can also track relevant phrases used on Twitter and Facebook.

This allows you to jump in quickly, which is critical for hitting the sweet spot we talked about earlier.

Step 2: Figure Out Your Approach

When you find a news story, ask yourself how it is relevant to your business. Does it relate directly to your products and services? Does it touch an aspect of your brand? And most importantly, why should a journalist, editor, or influential blogger care about what you have to say about the item? Are you qualified to give an expert opinion on it?

Your answers will help you to formulate an approach that best leverages the story for your business.

As an aside, it's not necessary for you to be an expert on the topic of a story in order to use it for publicity. You can still generate attention with it by using a bit of creativity. For example, I recently read about a dating site that blogged about their "favorite Hurricane Sandy Date Ideas." It goes without saying that you should keep it in good taste.

In a second wave of publicity Kimberly's daughter generated, she responded to a breaking story about the Girl Scouts dumping 13,200 boxes of cookies in a landfill by starting a petition to encourage the organization to donate the cookies to Troops or food banks.

Taking ownership and starting the petition now inherently intertwine the Girl Scout story intertwined with her cause. Emma has provided a solution to what many people see as an appalling story that is a natural extension of the story itself.

Step 3: Give Your "Take" On The Story

This is where the rubber meets the road. After you identify a juicy news item and craft your PR approach to it, you need to get your opinion out to the world. There are a lot of ways you can do this.

For example, blog about the event. Create a special report about it. Then, tweet about your blog post or special report on Twitter. Encourage friends and fans to like and share your material on Facebook. Reach out to journalists you know and pitch them your personal story based on the news event. Hold a local press conference, and explain what your business is doing to help the victims (if there are any).

The point is that there are countless ways to inject your take about a news story into the public's consciousness. In fact, the social channel makes doing so easier than ever. The benefit? You'll grab eyeballs, attract visitors, generate links, and open yourself to interviews, which position you as an expert.

So, while eating lunch today, fire up your laptop and take a look at what's capturing headlines. Your next chance to stir up publicity for your business may be happening at this moment.


Christine OKelly HeadshotChristine O'Kelly is the co-founder of Online PR Media, the press release distribution site that supercharges traditional media press releases with multimedia, social media, and search engine optimization. A recognized expert in SEO press release strategy and distribution, Christine teaches marketers, advertisers, and business owners how to gain more online visibility and publicity for their businesses. For a FREE copy of Christine O'Kelly and Tara Geissinger's e-book, "The Results Driven Press Release Formula," visit:

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