How to Do A Good Job as a PR Pro When the News Cycle Is Going Crazy

Jul 24, 2023

The media landscape is constantly shifting, and there are some days when it feels like the news cycle is moving at a breakneck speed. When this happens, it’s usually because a major news story just broke…and it’s about to derail your pitching plans! But whether you’re waiting for it all to blow over or are pushing ahead despite the media flurry, pitching during a busy news cycle isn’t as panic-inducing as it seems. 

What to Consider Before You Pitch During a Busy News Cycle 

If a big story breaks just hours before you were planning to pitch, don’t worry! There are ways to work around the speedy news cycle and still have a successful pitch. Before you reach out to your media contact, though, you need to step back and evaluate the situation.

Review What You’re Pitching and Who You’re Pitching To

When a breaking story hits the news cycle, some niches will be more impacted than others…and some reporters will be busier than others, too. If a beloved actor has sadly passed away and you’re ready to pitch your client’s newest short film, be prepared for crickets! Your media contacts in the entertainment industry won’t prioritize your news over reporting on the actor’s death, publishing retrospectives on their career, or compiling highlights from their previous interviews. 

Even tangentially connected niches may be impacted by a big story, especially on a local level. If a hometown tragedy becomes a national news story, the vast majority of your local and regional contacts could become unavailable. Don’t forget that journalists often cover multiple beats and niches, so make sure you’re up-to-date on their total reach. 

If you know your target media contact will be (rightfully!) preoccupied with the breaking news, consider pitching another contact who will be less impacted. Just be sure to personalize your pitch to your new contact before you send it! If there’s no other editor you can contact, you can put your original pitch on hold and reach out to them once the news cycle has slowed down a bit. 

Keep Your Relationships the Priority 

Even if your pitch has nothing to do with the current news cycle and your media contact likely won’t be reporting on the breaking story, you should still pause and reevaluate before reaching out. Carrying on with a “business as usual” tone could come off as out-of-touch and disrespectful to the situation, especially if a tragedy has just taken place. This can seriously sour your media relationships — editors want to know their PR partners share their concerns and values and will show sensitivity when the situation calls for it. 

As a PR pro, you need to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your niche and beyond. Part of that is knowing where the general public’s heads are at in the fact of global, national, and local news! You should always tread carefully; if there’s any doubt that you (or your client!) could come off as ignorant or insensitive, wait to pitch

How to Pitch a Story When the News Cycle Is Focused Elsewhere 

Moving forward with your pitch despite a media flurry is definitely an undertaking…but a successful pitch is still possible! It’s about timing, sensitivity, and managing your expectations. Here are my best strategies for reaching out to your media contacts when the news cycle is focused elsewhere. 

Be Flexible! 

You know that PR is all about sending the right pitch to the right person at the right time, but sometimes that “right time” isn’t what you planned. Flexibility is key when pitching a story during a fast-moving news cycle! If you’re planning to send out your pitch at 9 am but a news story breaks at 8:47 am, you need to hit the brakes and reset. 

This can be really tough if your pitching date has been locked in for a while, like with a product launch or a major brand event. If you absolutely must pitch that day, be sure to rework your email before sending it out. Show sensitivity to the situation at hand and explain why you couldn’t wait to pitch. 

But if you can hold off until the news cycle calms down, then do so! How long you wait will depend upon your pitch, your niche, and the breaking news story that caused the delay in the first place. For big political news or tragedies that directly impact your client and niche, you may need to wait a week or more. If the news cycle slows down soon after the original story, you should be good to pitch after just a few days. 

Manage Your Client’s Expectations 

Talking to your client is crucial when a breaking news story throws a wrench into your plans. Even if they’ve likely heard the news, explain the situation to them and provide your updated strategy for proceeding with your pitch. 

If you’re delaying your pitch for a few days, be upfront about your reasoning behind the decision. Make sure you lay out how this delay will impact their press coverage over the next few weeks of the news cycle. If they’re expecting coverage for their story ASAP, remind them that their industry’s editors have another focus right now and that waiting can generate more results than if they had pushed forward. 

If you have to pitch your story regardless of what’s happening in the news cycle, reset your client’s expectations on what will happen next. Let them know that they may not get traction right away and that the timeline for this particular pitch may be longer than usual. Outline how the breaking news cycle will impact your pitching plans, especially if it’s connected to a product launch or event. Be prepared for a less-than-stellar response right out of the gate and don’t panic if your media contact leaves you hanging for a while.

Get All Your Assets In Order 

Your media contacts are already having a hectic day — their plans might’ve shifted to cover this breaking story, or they could be picking up the slack for co-workers who had to change focus. When this happens, the best thing you can do is to make their lives easier and give them all the information and assets they need in your initial pitch email. Fact-check all your info, proofread your pitch, and ensure all media or documents are properly linked (with the appropriate viewing/editing permissions).

When the news cycle slows down and editors get back into their normal writing routine, they’ll appreciate the effort you put into making their lives easier. With so much valuable info in your pitch, they can start writing ASAP and put out their piece quickly! This reinforces your relationship with your media contact, too. They’ll know you’re a reliable source of relevant information in your niche, a respectful media partner, and a valuable asset no matter what’s happening in the news. 

Related: How To Write A Good Pitch That Will Wow Journalists and Editors

Wait…What If My Client Is Connected to the Breaking News? 

It happens! Sometimes, the breaking news story has a direct connection to your client and their niche. If you have the opportunity to add value to the current news cycle, then switching gears and turning to newsjacking may be your best move. 

Newsjacking is the process of leveraging trending stories that people are already talking about to get your client into the news. A newsjacked pitch is still about the breaking news but with your client and their products or services at the center. It’s about piggybacking off the news cycle and using it to your client’s advantage. 

Be careful when newsjacking, though: you need to do it ethically, with sensitivity, and in a way that provides true value to the situation. You should never newsjack a tragedy solely for your client’s benefit. This isn’t a PR stunt or clickbait! Newsjacking should only be done when your client is relevant to the situation, like if they have a solution to a problem, provide help for victims, or can offer a new, thoughtful perspective on the breaking story.

Sitting down to pitch and finding a breaking news story instead is stressful. But you should take the busy news cycle as a sign to step back, reevaluate your pitch, and determine the best, most impactful time to send it out. Whether you wait to reach out to your media contact or push forward despite the flurry, a successful press placement is never out of reach!