I remember the day I became addicted to the news. It was the day after the 2000 presidential election, when the entire nation turned its attention to Florida and became embroiled in a discussion of hanging chads, recounts and electoral college votes. As a young high schooler with slightly nerdy tendencies, I followed this national drama closely by reading the Houston Chronicle every day, a habit which later followed me throughout my professional career.
Whether you work in public relations or being a busy marketing executive, it’s absolutely vital to stay on top of the news. However, this can easily fall low on the priority list, which is why it’s important to build habits and use the right tools so you’re always in the know. Here’s some tips and tricks that have worked for me.
Determine a time and place when you’ll scan through the news each morning and afternoon, and set up a reminder on your phone or in your calendar. Treat this as a hard commitment, and stick with it. Subscribe to some daily news feeds, or bookmark your top national, local and trade news sources. It’s not necessary to read every article; quickly scanning the headlines, reading a few articles, and bookmarking the longer reads for a later time will provide you with a basic grasp of what’s going on in the world.
It’s also important to have mechanisms established for catching breaking news stories to avoid finding yourself 24 hours behind a major development. I find that the best way to foster this ambient awareness is to connect with key news sources in as many ways as possible, which increases the chance that I’ll see breaking news during a busy day. This includes subscribing to email alerts (use a filter to keep your inbox from blowing up!), following the outlet on Facebook and Twitter, setting up news alerts on my phone, and keeping my radio dial on NPR.
Do you have a healthy mix of trades, business and daily newspapers? What publications do your clients’ customers read? What publications does your client’s CEO read? (If you don’t know, make sure to casually ask the question in your next conversation.) By mirroring their reading lists, you’ll be able to connect on a more personal level and also develop the knowledge to deliver focused strategies and media pitches that resonate.
Although following a few priority outlets helps keep this task manageable, make sure you still check out what other sources and outlets are saying. I find it helpful to occasionally do a keyword search in Google News, or visit some news aggregator sites to see which topics and emerging outlets are bubbling up to the surface. This is a great way to continually keep your client’s media list fresh, and finding a new beat reporter before the competition could lead to that next killer media hit.
It’s important to figure out which tools and resources are best for your specific situation, but if you’re needing a place to start, here are some of my favorites.
Feeling overwhelmed? Take a deep breath! This doesn’t have to be a huge task. With a little effort each day, you’ll be well on your way to becoming bona fide news junky.