3 Strategies for Breaking Through When the Only News is Spelled T-R-U-M-P

3 Strategies for Breaking Through When the Only News is Spelled T-R-U-M-P

  • On June 10, 2020

We run a progressive communications firm, so trust us when we say that our clients are often affected by President Trump– and rarely in positive ways. But nearly every advocacy organization in Washington, regardless of political leanings or policy aims, has had its communications irrevocably altered by the new Commander-in-Chief. That’s because our reality show President is enviably good at dominating a news cycle, making it difficult for other non-Administration stories to break through. Just ask anyone who’s tried to secure network coverage lately on a topic other than the Russia investigation or the Obamacare repeal.

And let’s be clear: what may be legitimately big news for your organization (an innovative new campaign! A new Executive Director!) may not be as compelling a story in the glazed-over eyes of Assignment Editors, who can barely catch their breath after 100 Days of Cabinet nominations/SCOTUS confirmations/”Alternative Facts”/ “Holocaust Centers”/Bannon-Priebus-Javanka/Melania, oh my. The bar is simply higher nowadays– and will be for the foreseeable future. So, what do you do when your story¬†isn’t¬†the hottest one of the day? Here’s three possible avenues to try:

  1. Focus on longer-lead stories: Get out of the day-to-day news cycles and look to media outlets with a longer lead time, whose reporters don’t have to publish in a couple hours and aren’t chasing tomorrow’s (or today’s) news. Look instead to magazines (both the online and the old-school, in-your- mailbox kind), which by necessity feature more “evergreen” articles that will still be useful in two or three months. By the same token, think of your news in a higher-level “think piece” sort of way. It’s not breaking news, not by today’s standards, so consider the more in-depth angle to your story. Is your organization fighting harsh new immigration policies? Rather than just pitching your new campaign, pitch the story of one family’s fight against deportation– something that allows a reporter to go in-depth, and therefore, doesn’t have to be written for tomorrow.
     
  2. Keep the narrative going: Press notes and ICYMIs. This is the counter-intuitive, “I’m not trying to date you; now don’t you want to go out with me?” strategy for gaining press coverage. You’re not pitching a story, but you might just get press out of it. When there’s no story compelling enough on its own to pitch, look for a trend of two or three items that back up your overarching narrative, and package it up for press. Recently, our team noticed that in the course of 48 hours, two small reports had been released that were unfavorable for our client’s opposition. We wrote up a press note about it, briefly summarizing the reports’ findings, noting how it was in line with what we’d been seeing, and offering to put reporters in touch with the group’s Executive Director. From a single pitch note on a non-breaking news topic, we garnered interview requests from the Washington Post and the Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as an invitation to write a column for a trade press outlet.                                                
  3.  Don’t fight it: Give your story a Trump angle. Sometimes, the best strategy is to go fishing where the fish are. Is there a Trump-based angle to your story? Use it.