MONDAY 13 JAN 2020 2:53 PM

INSIGHTS: FINDING ORDER IN CHAOS, HOW PRS CAN NAVIGATE THE UK’S NOISY NEWS AGENDA

Brexit has overwhelmed the media, thereby making it more challenging for PR professionals to do their jobs. Katie Finn explores the ways in which PRs can work through the Brexit blockade. Babel is shortlisted for the 2020 Corporate Content Awards

Chaos theory teaches us that it is possible to find order in chaos, and predict the unpredictable. In the face of Brexit uncertainty and political turbulence, communications teams have had to become masters of chaos theory. We’ve had to keep pace with a news agenda that’s moving at unprecedented speed, and a landscape that’s rife with uncertainty.

With the country’s departure from the European Union dominating almost all media discussions, journalists have become inundated with Brexit-related stories. As a result, they have found themselves either unable to face covering it, or unable to cover anything else.

For PRs, this makes our roles increasingly challenging. How can we make our clients relevant to business media at a time when so much else is happening? And how can we try to preempt what’s around the corner to get ahead of the news agenda when no one in government seems to know?

In the B2B space, this challenge has been compounded further. Many business leaders are unsurprisingly hesitant to weigh into the Brexit conversation for fear of alienating customers on either side, making it harder to align their voices with the news agenda. And with a major story breaking on an almost daily basis, journalists are less able to dedicate time to smaller B2B brands; competition for airtime is fierce.

At times of unprecedented noise, the quality of what we produce has never been more important. Journalists need to know that when we’re contacting them at such a busy time, it’s to say something relevant and interesting. PR can often be a case of the boy who cried wolf; say something irrelevant too many times, and no one will listen when you have something important to say. With today’s busy news agenda, it can be a case of one strike and you’re out.

This makes it all the more important for PRs to really understand the needs of journalists, and how Brexit has changed what they’re looking for. We must be selective with what and who we pitch, and be honest with our clients about what won’t work. This begins by establishing thought leadership positions that genuinely say something interesting, and add to what the press is saying. Commission data to support arguments, and map it against economic trends to give it relevance. Offer a panel of experts from different companies on a briefing instead of just one, and remember not to push a company’s party line at the expense of offering real insights.

We might not be able to predict what’s around the corner, but we can make informed predictions about what might occur, and informed decisions on what will resonate with journalists. Through this approach, we can ensure we still drive media visibility for our clients, stand out from the noise, and establish order in the chaos.

Katie Finn is the associate director of Babel

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