Advice for publicists during a breaking news event

Reporters don’t want your off-topic pitches when they’re covering a major news event. Such times call for a pause for PR, the author says. 

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This has happened at least two other times within the past six months as the nation grieved from tragic losses from Hurricane Sandy and the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre. It appears the massive explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas on Wednesday night will be another of these tragedies.

It’s hard to know what to do in that situation. But after the initial shock wears off, publicists need to spring into action to communicate both internally and externally as needed. Here are some fast actions to consider:

Review the situation. Do you have operations in the affected area? Do you have clients that do? If so, check in with them. As necessary, refer to your crisis communications plan.

Stop pitching. I’m not suggesting that you stop pitching indefinitely, but you should understand that all news outlets will be looking at breaking news and will not be entertaining new pitches in the moment of crisis. You should pause non “breaking news” pitching until the news cycle resumes some normalcy.

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