Legal PR blog

Generating national media coverage using FoI data

Limited budgets for surveys, incomplete company data and no case studies: how do you generate national headlines from just an idea?

Surveys can be expensive to run and gripping case studies are often hard to come by. But one tool has enabled the PR team at RTS Media to secure national headlines on topics ranging from immigration to education: the humble Freedom of Information (FoI) request.

In spring 2016, we completed one of our FoI projects for the specialist education law team at Simpson Millar solicitors. We had asked all local authorities in England to tell us whether they had managed to produce final transition Education Health Care plans for children with special educational needs by the 15 February deadline. This deadline is crucial for parents who need to carefully orchestrate their child’s transition from primary to secondary school, but from the number of calls answered by the legal helpline we knew there was a problem.

PR coverageOur FoI research revealed an issue on a far larger scale than expected: local authorities had left over 3,800 special needs children waiting for months for the plan they should already have had. This wasn’t PR fluff but real and comprehensive data that reflected a substantial issue for parents across the country. The BBC ran the story in detail – crediting our client with the findings and including a suite of advisory comments. Additional articles in Birmingham Mail, Leicester Mercury and Southern Daily Echo followed.

Earlier this year, our FoI data revealed the councils with the highest number of secondary school applications, and the areas with the biggest shortfalls in matching parent requests with actual places. Again, being able to furnish the press with actual facts and figures, region by region, allowed us to secure a significant amount of press coverage – with our clients advising parents on the appeal process. National hits included articles in Times, Telegraph, BBC News Online, The Guardian and Netmums alongside several national broadcast appearances on Good Morning Britain, BBC 5 Live Daily and BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show.

On behalf of a team of specialist immigration lawyers, using Freedom of Information Requests, we discovered that the ‘Right to Rent’ pilot scheme carried out in the West Midlands had had little impact and delivered poor results. The subsequent press coverage included articles in This is Money, the Daily Mail and numerous property publications.

Limited to ten requests every 24 hours and with no automated way of posing the same question to multiple recipients, making FoI requests can be a time consuming exercise. But the potential to generate substantial national media coverage from the results is substantial – with the potential to deliver a return on investment far beyond the initial investment.

Is there an issue you want to highlight in the press? Contact us and we’ll help get it out there.

Christina Savage Post by: Christina Savage / Website:
With a strong network of media contacts and in-depth knowledge of professional services, Christina advises a range of businesses and law firms on media and business development initiatives.