Service: media-research and advice on publicity (keeping up statistics on media questions, issue ownership, training expert position, preparation for crisis, media policy, execution of active and reactive publicity, networking with sources).
Read more on free publicity
Free publicity is not really for free. It does take quite some time and skills to really develop something worth publishing, worth for your organization as well as for the publishing company. Your own publicity channels, such as your website and socials, are not regarded as free publicity. We reserve the term for publications in external newspapers, magazines, television appearances and radio performance.
Free publicity is the last chain when your research and monitoring is in place. Your domain and your frame have to be chosen and be consistently executed. You can choose for ad hoc or structural free publicity. Ad hoc might be on occasion such as the kick-off of a new campaign, or the introduction of a new CEO. However, publicity is a continuous and structural process and should be put into a policy. If one is to become the owner of an issue or decide to become the (main) source of the media, one needs to have a board member in place who is an expert in the field on the one hand and has an excellent media performance on the other hand. He or she also has to be readily available, because most journalists are usually in a hurry.
Structural free publicity doesn’t exclude ad hoc publicity. The structural approach can also mean that the expert of the company publishes a weekly contribution on the subjects important to the company. One has to know how the public opinion develops around certain topics and what knowledge and facts people have at their disposal, facts they base their opinion on. Again, it is important to know who is or are the sources, what facts they bring to the fore and what interpretation they give the facts. Depending on the age of the issue, one can trace the people discussing it as well as the media they use. From that point one has to decide to participate, but it is clear in what media one should do that and with whom one is communicating. Sometimes social media are the way, sometimes traditional media, and sometimes popular media, sometimes professional media.
Case: Journalistic Selection Processes, part I
News shares some characteristics with the weather. The safest forecast for tomorrow is the description of todays weather. The same appears to be the case for the news. Look at the news of today and forecast the news of tomorrow. Like the weather forecast one can be slightly wrong, but usually one forecasts more or less correctly. If yesterday there was an outburst of foot-and-mouth disease, we’ll have some more foot-and-mouth disease today, if today didn’t show any clearing away of cows, than we’ll safely predict that this will the case next week. If yesterday there were flooding rivers in Poland, we’ll probably have them today as well, and depending on where it exactly took place, most likely in Germany or Austria tomorrow. Meanwhile there is the law of distance: how further away the less newsworthy or at least less press agencies around. The flooding of the Yellow River in China most likely gets much less coverage than the flooding of a local creek. Even if the first knew 6000 casualties and the latter one single person hurt. Just like in meteorology, ‘news’ knows three categories: climate, weather and unexpected, sudden weather modifications. Let’s say we’re talking of the Garda Lake. It has a Mediterranean climate, with its yearly and seasonly characteristics. On the basis of statistics one can predict many useful things. There is the weather, for example from 7 to 14 August. It can reasonably be forecast on the basis of the locally noticeable weather. It is a bright sunny summer day. Most probably this will also be the case tomorrow. Notorious the Garda Lake however is also because of its sudden, enormous hailstones, causing huge dents in cars, boats and caravans. Its predictable it’ll happen, but not exactly when. There is a like situation for news. There are news themes, drudging year after year, just because they are normal themes in society for which there is a genuine interest from the public. Health care, economy and employment will predictably return again and again. There is always space in the newspaper or the evening television news, same as ‘climate’. We used to call that the ‘spirit of the time’. In the seventies and eighties of the 20th century themes like the regimes in South America, hunger in Biafra, recession and the environment, especially garbage and pollution, dominated the columns of the news media. In the first decennium of the 21st century we can name Ukraine, Asia (China in particular), Greece and the debt problems and European debts, terrorism, recession and emissions. Social-economic trends live news cycle lives of over decades such as individualism. Trends like the above attract like subjects, such as liability.
Next to this there is the weather, daily, weekly or seasonly items, that are also predictable, like the budget of the government. Today a Euro top meeting on budget issues, tomorrow the meeting will still be covered. And finally there are the predictably unpredictable modifications, the unexpected rain shower on a lovely sunny day. In the news this is the category of disasters, incidents and scandals. Every airline company can be confronted with an air plane crashing. Nobody however, knows when. The one who is in the business of the prevention of disasters usually cannot count on much press coverage in the sense of ‘another day that the river did not flood’. That, for one thing, is not how the news selection works.
Structurally keeping track of the items that journalists pay attention to or call the company about, will notice a relatively stable selection of news items. Especially over the months, one sees little fluctuation. Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less, but media questions usually come from a limited variety of categories. Is this the case, than one can safely predict the news of tomorrow as like to the news of today. Or even the news of next year: coming year the media questions will come from the same categories. Small fluctuations are possible however. Some categories grow others diminish. Some new ones slowly come up. With sufficient statistical material it becomes fairly easy to signal what trend is moving and this makes it more easy to predict what news started a cycle into matureness. The latter is by far more interesting that predicting todays weather. When one is able to see a climate change, than one is capable to see a trend. Trends produce news themes and news items.
Cases we are involved in concern participation in media processes. Journalists follow what the colleagues in the profession put on their agendas during the years, especially what press agencies produce. Next to this journalists follow the spirit of the time, which is that what they assume to be on the minds and interests of a lot of people. They also follow up on yesterdays news and they cover disasters and incidents. That, all in all, is much more predictable than it would seem in our age of information overload. The organization only has to keep up statistics on media questions to know what the categories of press coverage are that the company has to cope with and can be prepared for.
Clients we assisted with their media policy and in free publicity projects: