It’s raining outside the Smoking Gun PR office window today. Amazingly- despite reputations- this is the first dank and dreary day Manchester has seen in quite some time. Whilst temperatures haven’t quite been tropical, they’ve not been too bad, with plenty of sun breaking through the notoriously slate grey clouds of North West England.
Although we may not feel like it, then, we’re right on the cusp of summer’s height, and what the industry has long-since referred to as media silly season. A precious time of year when Westminster calls it a day temporarily, ebbing the flow of policies and hard news pieces from the corridors of power, and opening the floodgates to marketing and public relations professionals to have there way with the story-starved British media. Which, conveniently enough, is also even more short staffed than ever right now as half the journalists take annual leave.
2017 may be a little different, though. We’re right in the middle of Brexit: Stage 1. Or to the uninitiated, Trying To Figure Out How On Earth This Country Can Cut Ties With The European Union. This means that although the UK Government has gone fishing, there are plenty of very serious matters that need to be reported on, such as the announcement by Immigration Secretary Brandon Lewis that freedom of movement between our nation and the continent’s Union would indeed come to a halt after 2019.
Nobody quite knows what this means in the long run, and it’s thought that an implementation period will be required to make a smooth transition from ‘open’ to ‘closed unless you fit certain very specific criteria’. Given how much the UK relies on foreign workers, you could probably spend the next month writing op-ed articles and analyses on exactly what the impact could be.
World on brink of collapse- see page 3
Aside from all that, you have the digital debate which has never been more multi-faceted- Google’s fine and the implications therein, fake news, and the future of humanity within the context of automation and AI being just three aspects we’re all going to be reading plenty about in the coming weeks (as if we hadn’t already).
Add to this some rather worrying overseas situations- American naval forces firing on Iranian gunboats, Russia flexing its muscle, the Korean Peninsula’s rapidly escalating crisis, and Trump making relentless ridiculous but also troubling statements-cum-executive orders, and who needs domestic news, anyway?
So what does this mean for brands and agencies looking to exploit what has traditionally been open season on the headlines? Well, for one thing, everyone will have to try extra-hard to come up with ideas that can be sold in to the media this time round- there’s a lot of competition for column inches out there.
In many ways, though, this is no different to every year- each silly season has been tougher than the last, simply because the journalists receiving soft pitches are increasingly likely to have heard it all before. If not several times over.
Crack-addled squirrels stalk Brixton
Animals are always a big winner- the nightmare prospect of crack-addicted squirrels in Brixton (The Sun, via South London Press, circa 2005), and killer chipmunks being sold to unsuspecting Britons by dodgy French pedlars (Daily Star, 2009) being just two of the more amusing examples. The list could go on, though- stoned sheep in Wales, the revelation that northern dogs wag their tales less than those from the South.
Personalities are also high on the agenda. Where in the world did Tony Blair go on holiday in August 200? Who was the guy who turned up without ID on a beach in Kent? Why did the EU ban busty barmaids. Had Big Brother 6 producers really placed contestant Makosi Mumbasa themselves- was she an actress? And our favourite, the discovery of a constellation of stars which, when joined dot-to-dot style, made up the face of Richard Wilson, better known to readers of The Sun in 2005 as Victor Meldrew from the TV comedy, One Foot In The Grave- as per the image of the late, great astronomer Patrick Moore, holding a copy of said paper at the top of this very page.
All hot content for the right editors to shape into something tantalising in the hope of keeping readers engaged, you’ll need to do better than these in order to secure some great coverage between now and September. Get it right though, and the public’s attention could very well be yours for the grabbing.