Case study: What to do when the news cycle goes south

July 31, 2023

Imagine spending months preparing for a major media campaign. Dozens or hundreds of hours, a lot of money, and other resources have been sunk into getting exposure for your message. Everything looks great the night before.

And then the news cycle spins out of control. It’s nobody’s fault. And it turns launch day into a sputter.

This happened on a global scale with the financial crash and the COVID-19 pandemic. And it happens on smaller scales every day when local news makes a restaurant’s grand opening irrelevant or industry news sucks the wind out of your product launch.

A news cycle gone haywire

We recently helped a client navigate a news cycle gone haywire. The client’s groundbreaking study and related white paper had been edited until everyone’s eyes bled, the primary spokesperson was ready for interviews, and an op-ed was scheduled with a top media outlet. Select journalists had also received the study and paper ahead of time.

And nobody really cared. Only the op-ed went off as planned. Client-friendly media didn’t cover the study, and the social media traction was reminiscent of a car on black ice.

Did we mention the client had a board meeting that week?

Waking up to a news cycle gone south wasn’t fun for us or the client. But we relied on a transparent customer service approach that kept everyone’s heads in the game, the client informed, and the campaign rolling forward.

Keeping everyone – and everything – on track

First, nobody panicked. The client’s narrative is relevant, the PR plan was sound, and everyone understood that PR is a rocket ship – not a sniper shot. The op-ed’s high-level placement also alleviated concerns about the campaign’s potential for success.

Second, we contacted the client early in the day to explain how the firings impacted the planned launch. The study would still likely get some coverage, but not likely during the week of the launch, and certainly not before the board meeting. And we laid out a solution for presenting the 2023 media campaign to the board in a way that was both honest and positive. The client bought into the approach – something that may not have happened if we’d tried to run silent on the news cycle’s sudden shift.

Third, we kept pushing for coverage. Friendly media outreach was conducted the next day, resulting in a top-tier interview. The press release still went out, securing a 40% open rate. And everyone kept moving forward with other media plans that will squeeze every bit of juice out of the launch lemon.

Sometimes, the news cycle just pivots on a dime. You can hold off on existing plans, continue as planned, or change course. What you can’t do is give up. And what we will do is transparently communicate the situation and provide a recommended course of action. PR is a long-term strategy, so even the worst launch day experience can be overcome.

A version of this piece was originally published by Dustin Siggins at PR Daily. 

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