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That tingling feeling: Spider-Man’s guide to great press coverage

Media - 30th October 2009
That tingling feeling: Spider-Man’s guide to great press coverage

BA’s Business Life recently mused on the qualities of Darth Vader as an unlikely business guru (plusses:  decisive, inspires loyalty and cultivates air of mystery; minuses: went all mushy and sentimental at the end). In a similar vein, we’ve identified in Spider-Man some of the key qualities required of a great PR operator.

We’re not thinking so much of his superhuman strength or agility, although these could doubtless come in handy when organising a press conference or grappling with a sceptical diarist.

Nor are we talking about his wall-crawling abilities, although these too could be invaluable when trying to speed a press release through approvals and past the clutches of overzealous in-house lawyers.

What marks Spidey out as a potential PR superhero is his almost clairvoyant ‘Spider-sense’ of what is going on around him and about to happen. PR doesn’t involve much biffing of baddies, but it’s at its best when finely attuned to its environment. Companies wanting to maximise their press exposure should follow the example of the ‘Web-slinger’.

Our top five tips for knockout media relations are here, ready for unmasking:

1.       Know what’s happening around you. Media and public opinion set the context in which your news will be seen. If you’re planning to launch a 125% mortgage scheme now might not be the best time to do it.

2.       Scan the horizon. At minimum, you or your PR should be tracking your industry news on a daily basis to see what’s breaking. Follow as many news outlets as you can and use an RSS feed aggregator like Google Reader to ease the task. Even news from other people can create PR opportunities for you, provided that you can be quick in getting newsworthy comments to the media (see our recent post re IT Governance and the Tories).

3.       See yourself through the other person’s eyes. Your news may indeed be the finest thing ever to grace your market, but remember you’re talking to outsiders, not colleagues. Seek and destroy all industry jargon and buzzwords. Reduce everything to plain English. Talk 80% about benefits and 20% about features. Fundamentally, get across why your news matters to anyone else.

4.       Respond. The most frequent complaint we hear journalists make about companies is that nobody answers their questions in time. Most journalists are under time pressure and need an answer quickly or not at all. If you’re sending your news to the press, be sure that someone’s there to take their calls. If your news market is global, have press contacts in multiple time zones.

5.       See things in perspective. With very few exceptions, no single PR event is as good or as bad as it first looks. What counts is the long-term trend, as you manage your communications with the media and customers over time. Like Spider-Man, if you’re winning more than you’re losing, you’re doing the right thing.

(Of course, Spider-Man’s other great PR lesson is always to be on the web. However, we’ve written about that under SEO PR. Oof!)