Pitching the press is a key part of PR, but what if your client doesn’t have any news announcements or product releases? This is a dilemma that many in the PR industry face, but, luckily, there are creative ways around this issue. For instance, capitalizing on current events and relating them to your clients’ expertise, products or services is a great way to engage the media and keep up a steady stream of news and thought leadership.

Some events, like the Olympics or Christmas, you can plan for in advance, but, for others, there’s no advance warning whatsoever. Last year, in Boston, hurricane Irene proved to be an opportunity that many PR firms attempted to leverage on behalf of their clients – perhaps in terms of IT disaster preparedness or backup and data recovery procedures. And then, again, just last week, the transformer fire that left the Back Bay without power for nearly a week presented a similar opportunity.

To create PR opportunities out of such events, however, how quickly do you need to react? Well, according to tech journalists Michael Farrell, Gregory Gomer, Eric Lundquist, Dan Primack and Dan Rowinski at the Publicity Club of New England’s tech panel last night, waiting even just one day could be too late.

Gomer noted that after the Back Bay fire last week, his team at BostonInno had posted somewhere around nine articles about it within the first few hours. He went on to say, “So much today is focused on real time. Pitching even just two to three days after an event likely won’t get coverage without a big wow factor or a number that only you have.”

For PR efforts, this is invaluable information and an important way to set client expectations. Farrell of The Boston Globe and others agreed that if you’re client mentions something in today’s meeting about pitching off the back of an event that happened yesterday, it’s important to set their expectations or at least get those critical numbers that will create a new story or angle for the event that we may not have considered.

While, in many instances, it may take more than a few hours, or even a day, to pull together the critical success criteria to make a compelling pitch, it’s the job of the PR team to identify these opportunities and get the ball rolling right off the bat. Whether leveraging the current event garners an interview or coverage this time around is hard to say, but the benefits of taking this proactive approach are invaluable. Even if it’s simply to show your client your creativity, or to get your client on key journalists’ radars, this strategy of leveraging current events has proven very successful in the past – provided you can act quickly and effectively!

This post was first published by Meredith L. Eaton on March Communications’ blog, PR Nonsense.