What is the news agenda and how can you use it to your advantage?
How ever we digest the news (whether that be TikTok for Gen Z, Gen X parents getting their daily dose of Susanna Reid on GMB or millennials scrolling on the Sky News app with their morning coffee), the majority of us religiously check the headlines when we wake up in the morning.
From social media trends to world affairs right down to the “weather where you are,” staying informed is just as habitual as a roast is on a Sunday.
But in terms of brands and businesses, being aware of what’s grabbing the attention of global (and your own) audiences is critical, and can provide marketing opportunities you wouldn’t get elsewhere.
So, what is the news agenda and how can you take advantage of it?
What is a news agenda?
By definition, a news agenda refers to the topics, events, and issues that are deemed newsworthy by media outlets and journalists. Institutions then shape their broadcasts around these subjects, including political debates, social debates, and other discussions. All of which spark conversations that allow each outlet to cement themselves at the forefront of the narrative.
Not to mention prioritise what they report on in terms of what they think people might care about the most.
The role of the UK news agenda in digital PR
It’s pretty much accepted that what we know, think, and believe about goings on in the UK – and the rest of the world for that matter – is shaped (and sometimes) orchestrated by how they’re reported and communicated in the media.
The UK is known for having outlets that lean to the conservative party (The Times, The Telegraph, etc.) therefore pushing right-wing agendas and slandering the left. There are also labour-leaning publications that favour a left-wing approach, too – enter The Guardian and The Observer which are traditionally centre-left outlets.
Readers of each tend to have different views and stances on subjects, especially when it comes to politics.
So, the influence that the media can have on public perception is very strong, which is why it’s handy if you can utilise the news agenda (in a positive way) for your digital PR campaigns. Regardless of whether your campaign is politics-fronted, or something a little lighter.
Newsjacking – or reactive PR – is the answer many pro PRs will give you should you express an interest in taking advantage of the trends and breaking news.
We’ve actually written a whole blog about newsjacking and how it can boost the success of digital PR campaigns. Plus, how to effectively pull it off. But in short, it’s the practice of latching onto current news stories or events to promote or advertise a product or brand.
Disclaimer: what you’re pushing must have some sort of relevance to the trending topic. It’s always super obvious when a brand creates content on a subject that they’ve got absolutely no interest or knowledge in. It completely discredits any credibility and compromises authenticity.
How digital PR professionals can use the UK news agenda to identify opportunities for coverage and engagement
Rule number one: be on the ball. When a breaking story or trending topic begins to circulate, you need to be fast. First, evaluate if it’s relevant to you. If so, how can you capitalise on the free advertisement and open your brand up to a wider audience?
If there’s scope for you to offer an expert opinion or insight, act on it. And no boring stats or info about your brand unless it has the capacity to make a positive impact on those you’re trying to influence. People don’t have the time or the attention span to digest stuff that’s not got anything to do with them. And bottom line, if it’s not interesting to them or linked to them in some way, they literally won’t care. Savage, but true.
Also, it’s no secret that the UK news cycle can often be the bearer of bad news after bad news. And often (when approached sensitively) a positive story can be a bright beacon of relief. If you can jump onto a lighter, conversation, it can often be the tonic people need in times of genuine strife. Being able to bring joy to people is always welcome, and if you can weave that into your campaign then great.
How the UK news agenda can inform your messaging and help you craft a compelling story that resonates with your target audience
Depending on who your target audience is, you should make sure you digest the news the same way as they do. (Like we mentioned in the intro.)
This helps you to follow the conversations you know they’d engage with, and stay relevant. Therefore helping you to know which stories would be worth jumping on, and which ones simply wouldn’t. Plus, in what manner to approach them.
In terms of how you can respond to a news story, there are a number of tried and tested ways. Say you’re a travel company and are being hit by the cost of living crisis. The next time the news agenda has focus on personal finances, budgeting, inflation, etc. – you could create a campaign that looks at the cheapest UK getaways, or even a little further afield, like the cheapest destinations in Europe. Despite the original story being bleak, you’re giving people hope and putting a positive spin on things.
Last year, we launched a campaign for one of our finance clients, Admirals when the rising inflation rate was a topic that was trending. Cue the key findings document we put together that outlined the current average price of a pint in 25 cities across the UK and how much it’s set to rise every year until 2030. This playful way of explaining things allowed us to engage both millennials and Gen Z – all of whom spend a fair bit of time in the pub, use social media, and are likely to be affected by the rising rates.
The campaign saw us combine the general interests of these age groups and create something that would be highly shareable across relevant platforms. And it worked because the story went viral and was picked up by national and regional websites across the UK. Which just proves that reacting to and using the news agenda to your benefit is worth doing.
Tips for incorporating the UK news agenda into your PR strategy
Now’s the time to make the most of the news agenda and create content that can boost your campaign. We’ve dropped some more tips below that’ll help you to utilise breaking stories …
Use media monitoring tools to stay up-to-date with the latest news and trends
While you can physically search the news day in and day out, you’ve also got other stuff to be getting on with, right?
Media monitoring softwares are super handy for giving you a helping hand in this respect, as they allow you to track topics across online, print and broadcast media outlets. All while staying up-to-date with the latest news and trends while you go about dealing with the other aspects of your business.
In PR especially, they’re valued massively, as they can provide you with the top stories they think you’d be interested in/would be relevant to your brand. You can then get busy brainstorming ways you can hop on the hot news and generate free publicity around your product or service.
How to identify opportunities for coverage and engagement based on the UK news agenda
There are a number of things you need to remember if you want to succeed with this PR trick:
- Understand your audience: Think of the iconic RuPaul phrase – “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Now in terms of PR, remember this: “If you don’t understand yourself, how in the hell is anyone else gonna understand?” Basic philosophy, but true nevertheless. If you can’t fully comprehend the story you’re backing, it’s going to be obvious to your audience (& journos!), they’re not going to understand it, and the whole thing will seem a little lacklustre.
- Look at what they’re talking about: What kind of news outlets do they follow on social media? What’s their generic political view? What kind of celebs do they follow? If you can gage an idea of the type of person your audience is and what they like, it’ll be easier to pick the themes to jump on.
- Reply to news on social media from your brand account: As well as curating content on the back of a story, you should also utilise social media and start a conversation with the audience that’s already there. Reply to comments, and just cause a general stir to get your name out there even more. (The newsjacking blog we mentioned earlier has some key examples of companies who have done this really well.)
- Be active on social media in general: This is a non-negotiable.
- Look for journos who report in your areas: Make sure you’ve got a healthy media list full of journalists who report in your target areas. For example, if you’re a travel company, you need to be on the radar and have the details of prolific travel journos. Then, once you’ve found the news story you want to play off, pitch your press releases/data/expert commentary etc. to them.
- Keep building your media list: Never stop trying to build relationships with the media. Whether it’s PR people, journalists, or other people in the industry, you need to keep growing your media list. Plus, always update it, as journos often move from publication to publication, or take on new areas of expertise.
- Start a blog as it allows you to display that you’re an expert in your field: Blogs are *so* important and you’re missing a trick if your brand doesn’t run one. They’re critical for SEO, and they provide people with more shareable content than just your products or service. Plus, it’s an ideal way to educate your customers and provide them with how-tos, and tips, and just create more connections with your brand.
You might already have the perfect blog or data-driven piece that would suit the current news agenda, which means all you’d need to do is pitch it to the relevant people, or offer up snippets to journos so they can quote you as an expert. Which leads us on to our next opportunity…
- Become a thought leader in your field: Dropping regular, good-quality blog posts is essential to reach this status, btw. Once you’ve established yourself as an expert in your field, reach out to other blogs and publications to offer your commentary. Note that high-profile outlets don’t suffer fools, so you’d need to make sure you’ve got some sort of influence and buzz surrounding your name (plus plenty of great published content) if you want to be considered (and used as) a thought leader.
Tips for crafting messages and campaigns that resonate with your target audience, based on the key trends and stories in the UK news agenda
Last but not least, let these tips sink in too…
- Again – be relevant. Use language that your audience would use/understand. No fancy industry jargon that alienates the average joe. Also, different types of content require different things. For social media, make sure your captions are snappy and short. Instagram loves infographics, TikTok is obviously all about high-quality videos, and Twitter LOVES a good debate.
- Be concise and to the point in what you want to convey. We’re using our price of a pint example again, but the simplicity of it was what helped it kick off.
- Make sure that your facts are accurate – it would be really embarrassing (and detrimental to your brand) if the stats or data that you were sharing were wrong.
- Try and use data and stats to give your campaigns more reliability and credibility.
- Don’t miss the boat – if a trending topic has been and gone, don’t try and ride its wave afterwards. It’s a waste of time for all involved and makes you look as though you weren’t on the ball.
- Be quick – without compromising on quality, make sure that the content you’re leading with has a quick turnaround time so you can act on the story at the perfect time.
Be smart with it
Reacting to the news agenda is one of the most powerful (and free) ways to get your brand in front of a large and already-created audience.