Making sense of the “silly season”

By Elsbeth Smedley

Every country has one – the time during the summer months when many feel the news dries up.  For the British it’s called the “silly season”; for the Germans it’s the “summer news hole” and in other parts of the world it’s known as “cucumber season”.

With the big machines of politics, business and sport having wound down for the summer, the a la carte news menu can sometimes look a little thin.  It’s opportunity for you to get your dish on the list…

Newspapers still have column inches to fill and the 24-hour television and radio stations are still hungry beasts.  There is more opportunity for PR people to help journalists fill the space.

Here are our top ways to maximise these opportunities:

Be available and accessible

The big global news stories will continue to dominate the headlines – geopolitical developments; the global migrant/refugee crisis; Iraq, Syria and ISIS and major sports dramas eg: FIFA.  With many of the media’s regular commentators/contributors disappearing on vacation there is a great opportunity to get your share of voice.

If you have people who can provide insight, reaction or even a different angle around the main global news stories, let journalists know your contributors are not just available but also accessible.  This is a great opportunity to raise the profiles of your spokespeople.

Leverage the predictable

This summer there will be the inevitable series of seasonal news stories: travel delays; health and safety issues; hotels and weather (too cold, too hot, too wet, too dry…). There is a certain level of predictability about what the media will cover in your market so have a plan to piggy-back on these stories.  Get organised now.  Brainstorm ideas that can link your agenda with these stories.

Use your weapons wisely

The classic PR tools of surveys, top tips and advice often find much greater traction during the vacation months.  Consider commissioning a survey relating to your business – qualitative or quantitative – both are very effective.  The media and consumer alike love a list – short, sharp information in a digestible format.  Draft a list of advice or top tips that your business can offer people – content that can be tailored/adapted to a relevant news story.  You’re an expert in your sector, so use that expertise and turn it into complimentary content that any editor would be happy to read.

Picture your story

A picture tells a thousand words and in today’s multi-platform world this is even more important.  It’s obvious when pitching story to TV but don’t forget this when pitching to newspapers or websites.

The right content to the right media

Remember that many people will be viewing your information on a phone or tablet.  Don’t have a one-size fits all approach – tailor your content to the multi-media world.  What can make your story more “sharable” on social media too – the catchy headline; the revelatory statistics; the captivating image or “fun-facts”.   Think about what would make someone want to send this to their friends?  Target the right platforms with the right content.  What can bring your story to life in the multi-platform world – invest in an animation, an info-graphic or a montage of pictures.

Finally remember the usual rules apply for any pitched story

Pitch it to the right publication and the right journalist.  Pick the ones that might have an interest in the subject area.

Timing is critical.  Take advantage of what’s already in the news agenda and think laterally to place your expertise in the environment of a developing story.

And finally…

Relevance will always beat persistence.  Numerous calls won’t make your story any more interesting if it is not relevant.  So think – what is my peg?

How can your information be an interesting sidebar to a broader issue already in the news?  Think how your content/information can be complementary as much as a stand-alone story.

Find out more

This article draws on the knowledge base from ISOC courses on media relations.