Does ‘silly season’ still exist for PR agencies?

Agencies Launch PR, FleishmanHillard Fishburn, Nelson Bostock Unlimited and Porter Novelli tell Gorkana that the traditionally slower news cycle commonly experienced by PRs across the summer, or ‘silly season’, no longer affects them as it has done in the past.

The need for ‘silly’ news stories, often used as filler across newspapers and broadcasting, was especially unnecessary in summer 2016 due to mass coverage of the fallout of Brexit and the Rio Olympics.

But the agencies also refer to the changing nature of comms as a reason for the trend disappearing. Traditional media relations has moved from solely seeking out national papers or broadcasters, to incorporating other parties such as infleuncers who don’t adhere to the conventional news cycle.

Gorkana asked what this means for the agencies’ yearly calendar, and what challenges and opportunities these changes bring. Here is what they said:

Agencies are adapting as influencers move the agenda beyond the newsroom

Stephanie Bailey, head of corporate at FleishmanHillard Fishburn, says the summer months are no longer just an opportunity push outdated or ‘silly’ news.

“There was a time when August was saved for the silly season stories or for information you didn’t want widely covered, taking advantage of your journalist contacts being away to ensure that significant attention wasn’t generated when unwanted. This has changed somewhat.

“August is no longer the month to safety pack your bags without a backward glance. Influencers extend far and beyond the newsroom and can no longer be relied upon to take holidays when the school breaks up,” she adds.

Agencies are focusing on timely opportunities

Over the summer, Brexit heightened interest in economic stories across all sectors including retail, investment and property, according to Launch PR’s director, Niki Wheeler.

In addition, Wheeler says many families see September as the start of their ‘new year’, so ‘back to school and university’ themes are increasingly big moments in the product PR calendar and means it’s a big focus for August.

Stories with big impact, such as Brexit, are also ongoing, says Debbie Spitz, corporate practice director at Porter Novelli. This will create notable news for summers to come.

“Brexit is the never-ending news story. Since the UK cast its vote, we have been sharing regular insights into media and industry reactions to the twists and turns in the issue. This analysis will continue and we’ll certainly be publishing our thoughts and analysis one year on,” she adds.

The ‘summer slump’ is an outdated concept in integrated comms

Nick Clark, MD at Nelson Bostock Unlimited says that talk of a ‘summer slump’ is as dated as the ‘hacks vs flacks’ debate and PR is an ‘always-on’ function. He adds: “For our clients this doesn’t mean having a month off.

“While it’s perhaps true that the mainstream press slows down somewhat during the summer months, and of course more people are on holiday, there are no quiet periods in the fast-moving world of tech and corporate PR. Summer is especially busy for us as we help our clients gear up for conference season – IFA, Photokina, IBC.”

Clark continues: “PR has become a truly integrated, cross channel marketing function and my team is developing content for upcoming events, shooting videos, working with influencers, training spokespeople and of course speaking to the media, some of whom admittedly are out of the office at the moment.”

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