Public Relations Tactics

Influencing the news cycle in real time

November 1, 2010

What good is information if you don’t use it in a timely manner?  This is a major premise of author and communication strategist David Meerman Scott’s latest book, published today by John Wiley & Sons, “Real-Time Marketing and PR.”

Real-time business opportunities happen right now — not in an hour or so. Accessible information is your most valuable commodity for discovering them and responding, according to Scott — who ought to know, having worked in financial markets during the 1980s.

On the trading floor, Scott observed how split-second decisions based on real-time information could generate millions of dollars if acted upon. He sees market-like patterns in public relations. With “Real-Time,” he endeavors to help communicators turn those “ifs” into business realities.

I contacted Scott to learn more, and noticed some common themes throughout our discussion.

Roles and readiness
Scott says that giving PR professionals leeway to seize real-time opportunities is their greatest obstacle. He suggests that practitioners and their supervisors adopt a “first responder” mindset, monitoring direct and tangential markets for ways to influence news cycles in real time.

Opportunities don’t always occur in a convenient weekday, 9-to-5 time frame.  They can pop up over the weekend or on holidays, and you may need to personally take action without the aid of colleagues and in-depth analysis, or risk missing out on stories entirely.

When Boston’s water supply was deemed unfit to drink one Sunday in May, Scott noticed the clever door-to-door and reverse 911 call methods the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority used to alert citizens. He immediately blogged about the PR implications. The Boston Globe’s post-crisis analysis included Scott’s quotes on the front page.

“Carve out time each day to just be online and absorb what is happening. This practice will bring to the surface activities weekly that can get you more ink than all your other efforts combined,” Scott says.

Since you can’t accurately predict what the market and your industry will experience next week, concentrate on what it is doing now.  And although you can’t specify plans for unique opportunities, Scott says you can prepare for them with basic guidelines. He suggests taking a cue from crisis planning, albeit with a positive slant, to develop real-time opportunity plans.

Your plan should designate chief real-time officers who can act on opportunities without the required permissions that often result in missing chances.

Establish who is allowed to speak and outline protocol, including who is ideal for what topics.

Audience and format
Scott and I are both fans of companies that issue news online via blogs or newsrooms, especially timely news detailed with information like graphs and videos. (See October’s Digital Dialogue column on brand journalism.)

Says Scott, “If you have a new product announcement, then why tell a press release service before you tell your clients?”

Scott advocates alerting your best fans first — including customers, partners, Twitter followers and blog readers.  Doing this can better engage your brand with your audience. 

While press releases are valuable in certain instances, Scott insists that sharing information with people directly in a human way can yield the most results — and opportunities.

Ryan Zuk, APR
Ryan Zuk, APR, is a media and analyst relations professional, Phoenix PRSA Chapter member and Sage North America representative. Zuk can be reached @ryanzuk on Twitter. He also blogs at
Email: ryanzuk at gmail dot com


Rusty Cawley says:

The greatest obstacle to a PR counsel's success is the willingness of the client to act on an opportunity ... NOW! How many times do we miss chances because the client is too busy right now, or out of town, or in a meeting, or just not ready, or a little concerned about this or that, or just suffering from cold feet. Most of the PR folks I know already have a first responder mentaility. How do we get the clients to adopt one as well?

Nov. 1, 2010

Ryan Zuk, APR says:

Thanks for reading Rusty. It's sometimes easier said than done as your comment suggests, and I think real-world examples get to the heart of the matter when convincing clients to be active. Monitoring and discussing missed opportunities with clients is a similar approach - and admittedly a challenging one given these are the very people you generate revenue from, yet if you can't progressively advance their cause, or they just won't let you, those relationships are nearing an end anyway.

Nov. 2, 2010

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