Putting the “Rapid” in Rapid Response

When a big news story hits, reporters often look to executives and experts for commentary in their articles. Whether there’s a merger or acquisition in the industry, a major product outage, or a security hack, rapid response opportunities always pop up.

While many PR professionals will agree that rapid response is a foundational aspect of any PR program, both the agency and client need to be prepared if it’s going to be successful.

Below are three key things you should keep in mind when developing a rapid response strategy.

Work quickly

When it comes to rapid response, time is not your friend. Reporters are working with tight deadlines in hopes of publishing their story while the news is still “new.” While they might want to add more color to their article via commentary, they won’t wait for long. That’s why the first step for a successful rapid response strategy is to ensure your team and spokesperson/marketing stakeholders are on the same page from the very beginning.

It’s imperative your team has its thumb on the pulse of the industry. There are several tools, such as Google Alerts, Talkwalker Alerts and MOZ Fresh Web Explorer that flag coverage based on key words. Team members should use these tools to become aware of coverage quickly, and then flag the rapid response opportunity as appropriate. You also should provide your recommendation for next steps in that email so you cut down on some unnecessary back-and-forth. Depending on the urgency of the news, you may want to consider calling your spokespeople and stakeholders versus sending an email as this can speed up the process.

Offer a compelling and unique perspective

Many companies tend to play it safe when developing commentary. While every situation is different, reporters prefer quotes that are more compelling and unique, or that offer a counter argument. Furthermore, quotes that focus more on your own brand than the news at hand are rarely (if ever) going to be used in articles.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard reporters ask for commentary that provides real value to their article. While the spokesperson may be the expert in their respective industry, your team is the expert when it comes to public relations. When appropriate, you should provide insight on what the quote should look like and feedback on the quote before you send it to reporters. If a quote is too fluffy, you should let your spokesperson or marketing stakeholder know and provide a recommendation on how it can be improved.

Determine who you want to reach out to

The type of news that breaks will ultimately determine who you reach out to, but you should be as prepared as possible in advance. This means having your media lists organized and up-to-date at all times. My team has found it helpful to develop media lists based on reporters who have covered competitors as well as those who write on specific verticals. This is a is a great starting point when you’re determining who to reach out to.

Something I’d recommend is to think of your media lists as living, breathing documents. Reporters are constantly moving around and their beats change, so you shouldn’t consider a media list final just because you used it once. Instead, you should consistently update your media lists so they’re always ready for a rapid response opportunity.

Rapid response opportunities are a dime a dozen, which is why having a strategy in place can help ensure the process runs smoothly. With that in mind, you should always consider which situations are appropriate for rapid response and when you should walk away. Not every situation calls for rapid response, but these tips will help you be prepared for the ones that do.

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