When a large political event looms, businesses often have an opportunity to issue their own responses that focus on how organisations like theirs will be affected – both locally and across the country.
Once a national event hits headlines and stirs up sentiment, it can be a chance for a business to reassure their customers, demonstrate their expertise or even win a few fans with some barbed political comments while they’re at it.
In these moments, companies of all sizes can enhance their reputation by quickly and effectively responding to these events, reaching big audiences, and demonstrating their expertise as well as informing and reassuring their clients.
Propped up by specialist support
A great example is the government’s Spring Budget and Autumn Statement.
These political and economic events are followed closely by UK business owners, and members of the public keen to know what it might mean for their livelihoods (and their bank balances). Journalists are often in need of expert insight and real-life case studies – this is where a good PR agency should step in.
So, how can you do it?
Be present and be personable
Firstly, for any response to a time-sensitive announcement or historic event, you’ll need to be quick off the mark.
Then, as much as you can Zoom around on Teams, it can open up the possibility of being disconnected and missing someone’s exact intent or tone, so we suggest sitting with the business’s spokespeople to watch the event, speech or statement together. This way, you can make your own informed observations and clearly see how the expert is responding – and you can probe them for their immediate reaction.
Their emotional response is important in this scenario, as it can help to shape how you best frame their media announcement; it also makes sure that you’re on the same page from the get-go.
For shorter, snappier responses, a quick phone call straight after the event can help you to draft a simple statement which you can then share with the client for their edits or sign-off.
Summarise and streamline: giving structure to their skills
For detailed responses, we recommend having a candid conversation with the client to ascertain their thoughts after the event. How did they find it? Were there any key elements that struck a chord? Were there any surprise announcements that might alter their opinion?
This is crucial to a media response as it creates structure; they share their concerns and priorities with you so that you’re able to suggest how to best frame their thoughts. Of course, it has to get across all their intentions but in the most direct and newsworthy way.
Often, with their acute business acumen, they’ll make surprising suggestions and say why a particular element needs to be highlighted. This is where they truly shine – but you can help to ensure their words are poised and polished.
Once you have a clear understanding of what needs to be said, sit with the client and summarise their thoughts clearly and concisely; help them to frame their words so that they’re immediate, evocative and impactful. Essentially, it should feel like they have a ghost-writer on site; the words and the sentiment are their own, but you’re there to make them really pop. No jargon, no legalese – just concise copy.
Of course, lots of companies have an expectation of being politically impartial or there may be sensitivities toward giving political opinions. To navigate this, you might have to remind the spokesperson to make sure they ground their statements in fact, probing them to gain some balance or helping them to stay calm and level headed. Of course, some organisations are free to let it rip and say exactly how they feel, but the advantages and disadvantages of doing so need to be considered as an opinion one way or the other will change how people perceive the client or their spokesperson.
Delivering the story and shaping the narrative
Once you’ve really cracked to the crux of the story, you’ll need to deliver it to the right journalists.
Getting coverage for your hot-take is a major struggle, especially for events such as the Spring Statement where it seems as if every PR is out for the same thing. Journalists will be bombarded with commentaries and reaction so speed and quality are of the essence.
To grease the wheels before the announcement, we recommend creating a list of hyper-relevant journalists and publishers that you’d like to pitch your response to. Sometimes it can be advantageous to have spoken to key journalists in advance to make them aware of what content you can provide them – this allows you to discuss any specific requests they have for commentary so it can be exactly what they’re looking for.
Once you’re ready, send out the bespoke, unique commentary to these journalists and also widely share a more general response which can be distributed like a press release, as fast as you can.
After this, make sure to carefully monitor media outlets for any mention of your outspoken clients and the businesses they represent across the UK and respond to journalists with any follow-up questions or requests.
Hopefully, you can then report on the great results to your client. This report should detail the coverage and its value to your clients in terms of the audience it reached and its quality.
It’s not all about third party media
Of course, sharing commentary with third party media is only half the battle. There’s also value in your clients communicating more directly to their existing audiences, clients and customers.
Whether it’s through social media, marketing emails, or on a website, it pays to prepare this ‘owned media’ content alongside the material that you’ll share with external media.
Once you’ve agreed their response, this might involve whisking the spokesperson to a studio and coaching them as they record a piece to camera to produce a social media clip, or it might mean preparing a short quote to be posted as a graphic.
One client we work with goes the whole hog, hosting a live webinar after each budget, as well as a full, written response that’s shared on their website and in a client email. And that’s on top of bespoke earned media commentary and a generally distributed response. In this instance, it pays to be prepared.
Audiences for this kind of commentary, pitched in the right way and targeted to a specific readership, can be enormous. Budget responses often rank as the best-read pages on clients’ websites and capture terrific engagement on social media.
Meanwhile, media coverage can hit the big leagues, sometimes reaching national mass media audiences, or being featured in the best-read local, trade or industry press.
But if you’re not careful, quick, concise or relevant enough, you might be shouting into the void, so professional support is invaluable at times like these.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can work with a PR agency (ideally us) to have your voice heard on big political events and how they impact your business, get in touch today.