How can you engage the media in the run up to an election?

Newsroom editorial meetings are already shifting their attention to election-related issues, says Zubair Ahmed, Senior BBC journalist.

Zubair Ahmed adds: “Managers are already brainstorming for good stories in the run-up to the election”. He points out the challenge for reporters is to generate interest in audiences so early before the election. But it is imperative to try, because, “all political parties are now in election-mode and therefore it is important for the media to engage with them. Social issues, women’s problems, lack of development and safe drinking water are becoming part of the election coverage strategy. A good reporter will try to humanize the proposed stories and file them as quickly as possible.”

Why it’s difficult to get in the news

Sonali Madbhavi, VP and Country Manager at agency India Gutenberg Communications explains: “With more content to churn out and several sources to manage, journalists face added pressure when looking for compelling stories. This, coupled with the space crunch for timely, news-based stories, makes efforts to pitch somewhat challenging, especially with the more limited scope of business-focused stories.“

How to succeed in getting noticed

The secret to getting noticed is to, “do better research and think creatively” claims Sonali Madbhavi, plus, PR professionals should look for ongoing trends relevant to a company’s industry and share these. However, the story must always be of high quality: “It is always about the strength of your story. If you have a compelling story, it will be noticed and remain unaffected by the election news.”

The types of stories that are popular, says the BBC’s Zubair Ahmed are entertainment and social issues stories: “Business and sports stories were once considered inside or back-page stuff. Today a big cricket controversy can easily be the lead story.

“In the run-up the 2014 general elections, stories on corruption in high offices are sought after by newsroom managers. There is a more severe scrutiny on how the authorities and politicians are conducting their affairs.”

General rules for pitching at any time

Being able to pitch well to journalists isn’t just important before an election, it is a skill that is always in demand. PR professionals need to be aware of how the media is changing, and how it now has a thirst for different types of content. Whatever the subject matter says Sonali Madbhavi, make sure you don’t simply pitch products or services, but link these to a macro trend. Create thought leadership for the brand you are pitching.

As a BBC journalist, Zubair Ahmed finds that short stories are more in demand, he says: “It’s an age of instant gratification. In the traditional media, claims Zubair Ahmed, long-form journalism is “breathing its last breath” as  news-gathering budgets are being cut in most places. Zubair Ahmed says that this is a shame for the quality of journalism, as it has suffered both in terms of written words and the thought behind them: “Today a big story could be a burglar sharing tea with the owners of the flat he went to burgle.”

However, social media is having some positive effects on news coverage. Zubair Ahmed concludes: “Social media has helped to improve the news and views coverage in the entire world. Social media has gently pushed its boundaries. Now the stories are shorter and crisper. Social media is accessible, and the young crowd are gravitating towards social media.”