Spike Dates: Musings on a PR Favourite

July 6, 2023By Jim PopleInsights

Globally, theme days consume the entire year. The number of daily celebrations do not perfectly total 365 of course; practically every day of the year has multiple awareness dates attached to it. On the very day that I started writing this, it was World Ocean Day and National Best Friends Day in the United States.

Within the same week of writing, National Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day and Sausage Roll Day had their moment in the spotlight. You get the gist.

The same can be said, although not to the same degree, in the technology and cybersecurity sectors. At C8, we commonly term these as “spike dates”.  Examples include Cybersecurity Awareness Month in October; Data Privacy Week in January; 22nd March is International Data Centre Day; the second Tuesday of April is Identity Management Day; and 14th February is Safer Internet Day.

These provide potential opportunities for PR teams to help their clients generate increased awareness and coverage, and allow them to highlight their areas of expertise.

As someone who has been involved in pitching before, during, and after key spike dates, successful commentary pick up can vary enormously, and how to approach them. Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of pointers and tips to tackle “spike dates” to ensure your commentary gets picked up.

Is it actually a spike date? Criteria is key

In the world of B2B tech PR, we know that “Love Your Burial Ground Week” won’t be high on the list of priorities. But, on the other hand, it’s important to not get carried away with too many dates on the technology calendar that may not necessarily be in your clients’ sweet spot.

A good way to identify the leading dates is to look in the trade publications that will be at the top of your press lists. Have they identified the spike date as worthy of discussing, both this year and in the past? If they haven’t, it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth thinking about (as I discuss below), but it may not generate the coverage you and your client were hoping for. It’s also a sure-fire way to rub journalists up the wrong way if you persist in pitching them a story, with the sole hook of “Because it’s National Internet Day…”, for example.

Furthermore, think about whether your client has contributed to the spike date in previous years. What did they say? Did it get any coverage at the time? How did it impact their PR and marketing strategy? Have they identified it internally as an important date, strategically? Do they have something to say that benefits the reader and the publication and positively adds to the story.  Answering these questions should give you a good idea of how important it is to any given client.

Be proactive and work smart

Clients are normally too busy to identify spike dates on their own. PR teams should be looking at suitable dates at the start of the planning period, whether that’s quarterly, every six months, or yearly.

It’s great for agencies to be tracking and recommending appropriate dates and suggesting how these could form part of a launch or go-to-market strategy. Some will be more obvious than others; eCommerce clients should have Amazon Prime Days and Black Friday/Cyber Monday highlighted in the proverbial red pen, for example.

If you secure some great coverage following your recommendation, significant brownie points are likely. And it doesn’t stop with pitching to the media, often commentary crafted for these days can achieve significant social media traction by posting on certain days.

Say something impactful – and data is important

There’s no point going through the process of identifying a spike date, agreeing on this with the client and drafting, approving and pitching the comment, if you are going to say something vanilla. Journalists don’t want to receive hundreds of pitches with “it’s fantastic that….” and “we’re delighted to recognise (insert spike date here)”. They want punchy, meaningful comment that stands out.

You may also want to suggest to clients that a particular piece of research or thought leadership campaign is focused on a certain spike date. Any owned, new data to support pitching will give it a newsworthy flavour.

The golden rule here: don’t forget the bigger picture and focus all efforts on a certain date just because the theme is related to your client’s area of expertise.

Think outside of the box

When thinking about key dates, don’t limit it to days that are only in your clients’ product or core messaging wheelhouse. Think about important events such as Mental Health Awareness Week, currently recognised in May of every year. In a variety of sectors, including cybersecurity, this is an especially important – and serious – topic. There has been a lot of coverage around CISO burnout for example.

Explore how your client can factor these dates into their strategy and the approach you recommend them taking.

Breaking news rules

If you have to prioritise between pitching a pre-planned comment for an awareness date identified six months ago, and commenting on a breaking news story that is absolutely perfect for your client, think about which will generate not only coverage but also position them as a thought leader.

As I write this piece on spike dates, I am celebrating my sixth wedding anniversary, which also happens to be World Gin Day. Anyone who has read my profile on the C8 Consulting website will know that I’m partial to the occasional botanical, and it has long been a fact that my wife and I laugh about. This glorious coincidence shows that these days will always carry significance for someone – to harness that significance, your commentary needs to be written with that audience in mind.