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Running a PR story during a General Election

By Alex Hesketh


Last month, Theresa May stunned the nation by announcing a snap general election. It signalled the next huge wave in a seemingly never ending run of political stories dominating broadcast news.  You might think that until June 8th a PR story won’t stand a chance of making airtime while the fever pitch around the General Election builds to a climax – there are just too many political news stories to compete with.

In our experience, we’ve not found this to be true. So before you are tempted to pull or delay a campaign consider all the reasons why you should go ahead:

The competition

PR stories are very unlikely to be the first item on a news bulletin, let alone during a campaigning period for a General Election; they sit much more comfortably further down the agenda.   So whilst the headlines are focusing on election news there may still be an appetite for a well executed PR story.  You may also find, that by going ahead with the campaign during this period, your direct competition for airtime, with other PR stories, will have dropped significantly. Where other stories will have been pushed back until after the Election, your story may well stand out more than usual.   Come the middle of June journalists will be inundated with PR stories that have been pushed back  – don’t let yours get lost among them!

The appetite

Journalists, as we know, are busy, and a General Election will mean they are busier than ever. This should not, however, be a deterrent for pitching a PR story. If you have a solid story, with accomplished spokespeople, journalists may be more receptive than you think. With their main focus being tied up with the political news spectrum, journalists can often be grateful for a lighter story.  The usual rules, about making it easy for a journalist to run a story, are just as important as ever. For example, if you are running a radio day make sure to provide the availabilities of your spokespeople, and when pitching to TV be certain to offer some B-roll or filming opportunity to accompany it. Don’t hassle them either – burning a bridge during a particularly busy time for journalists could risk your coverage for stories in the future. If you time your sell-in well, you may find journalists will snap up your story even quicker than usual!

The luck of the draw

While it is possible to predict slower news days, broadcast PR stories are always subject to the cards falling in your favour. If a huge, unprecedented story breaks overnight, such as a terrorist attack (read more here on what to do when a big story breaks), it’s just bad luck if your story is dropped. On the other side, even during a General Election campaign, there are slower days where your story may well be bumped up the bulletin.

Yawn…

We have a lot of experience in broadcast journalism at Shout! Communications, and have been through several General Elections from the other side of the fence. Political news, as important as it is for the public, can often drag. A great PR story, with topical case studies and engaging spokespeople may well brighten a tired, bored journalist’s day.

We’re great believers here in carpe diem. Delaying a PR story until after the General Election may seem like a sensible option, but there’s no reason a good story wouldn’t do equally well in the lead up. Why let a story go stale when you could strike while the iron is hot?

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