Staying abreast of current events is crucial to informing strategic media relations, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up in a world where breaking news is tweeted 24/7. Recently, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson announced they tested positive for the coronavirus, and Donald Trump banned all travel from Europe for the next 30 days — and that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. So, how can public relations professionals keep up? Read my tips for quick and easy ways to make sure you’re always in the know, even when you’re on the go.
1. Listen to news podcasts
There are several news-based podcasts, typically released in the morning, that give a daily rundown of the most important current events. Some of my favorites include New York Times’ “The Daily,” “Today, Explained” by Vox and “Fresh Air” by NPR. Not only do these podcasts break down the day’s news, but they inform listeners in an engaging narrative style, as opposed to throwing out hard, fast facts. Podcasts are great options for the PR practitioner who commutes to work; I was probably the most informed I’ve ever been at my internship last summer, because I had a two-hour commute each way — plenty of time to listen to the news and read a couple chapters of whatever book I was hooked on at the time.
2. Make Twitter Lists
The vast nature of the Twitter-sphere can make it difficult to find specific information, especially if you’re using broad search terms. Twitter lists are great tools that can help you filter through irrelevant content and find news related to your client or industry. You can make multiple lists — adding various accounts to groups with a description of your choosing. For example, my Twitter lists for planning social media content for my Capstone Agency client include PR News, Current Events, PR influencers and PR institutions. Utilizing the “lists” feature allows you to identify common trends, engage with industry leaders, monitor your competitors, and keep up with changes in rules or regulations that might affect your client. Check out these instructions for how to start creating your Twitter lists.
3. Set up Google alerts
Setting up Google Alerts is an easy way to gather information on keywords and terms of your choosing — Google will send results straight to your inbox, and if you want to get really organized, you can arrange for the results to filter into a spreadsheet. Make sure to utilize Boolean operators to ensure that you’re only receiving the most relevant content. Avoid using generic or common terms, and feel free to get creative! You can combine terms, as well as list your client and descriptors such as “best,” “worst,” “love” or “hate” to gauge attitudes toward brands. Follow these easy steps for setting up your Google Alerts.
4. Sign up for newsletters
Newsletters are a great way to start your morning off with a quick rundown of daily news while drinking your coffee. They tend to have a conversational tone, making it easier to digest tough subjects or technical topics. I may have a tiny problem with signing up for too many newsletters and never having enough time in the day to read through all of them, but my current mainstays are The Hustle, theSkimm and The Hollywood Reporter’s “Today in Entertainment.” I would recommend signing up for a few to find out which publications align with your tastes, and then go from there.
The aforementioned suggestions for staying on top of relevant current events are only a few of the many tactics you can practice. Try all of them, a combination of two or maybe just one — what’s important is that you find the method that works best for you and then stick to a schedule. It takes a little bit of discipline, but you’ll be better informed and, subsequently, a whole lot better at being a PR pro.