BREAKING NEWS! Good Stories Sell... Even During Osama Bin Laden News Cycle
Osama Bin Laden Dominated Headlines Throughout The Week
Scanning the PR industry trades last week, an article about the impact of the Bin Laden news on PR professionals caught my eye. The article suggested to PR pros: “Don’t even try to pitch a story this week, and you’d better inform your clients that any news they may have in the coming days will not get any coverage.”
The article was written by a former reporter turned crisis/issues management professional. Could he be on to something? Would pitching the media about anything non-Osama-related be a fruitless exercise? Were reporters really only interested in pitches with a Bin Laden angle? To get to the bottom of this, I picked up the phone and reached out to some of my best press contacts.
As it turns out, this article was spot on. Reporters were indeed only interested in Osama-related topics. They suggested I follow up in a week or so with any pitches related to anything non-Osama until they finished up their Bin Laden coverage. Below is a summary of what I found out from my round of phone calls about what some of the most reputable news outlets were working on:
- A fashion reporter at Vogue was looking for experts to discuss whether or not Navy was now the new black
- At Kiplinger's, a retirement reporter was working on a story about investment strategies to retire comfortably in a compound in northern Pakistan
- The New York Post was doing a piece on what (or who) celebrities such as Victoria Beckham and Natalie Portman were wearing when they learned about the Osama news
- Vibe was looking for industry sources to confirm that Jay Z was in talks to produce a new album by Eminem titled "Bin There, Done Dat"
- A Politico.com writer was seeking commentary on how Rudy Giuliani was planning to claim credit for the raid to launch his 2012 presidential campaign
- Bloomberg was putting the finishing touches on a story about how Meredith Whitney had predicted that Osama would be captured and killed before the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
Of course, none of the above stories were actually in the works. And, I did not really confirm from my contacts that any pitches not related to Osama would have to wait. What I did actually learn from my outreach is that a timely, compelling pitch, if delivered to the right news outlet in a thoughtful way, will more often than not appeal to scoop-hungry reporters and their editors. The volatility we have seen over the past few years seems to have shortened news cycles, creating tremendous opportunities for PR to continue to influence media coverage, regardless of the hot news of the day.