Going beyond the first idea: Using cause and trend in reactive PR - Bottled Imagination Skip to main content

Over the last few years, reactive PR has taken centre stage as a mainstay tactic for every PR agency. It’s true – reactive PR can be a quick strategy to go alongside bigger campaigns. It’s an approach we recommend for the majority of our clients – a blend of reactive and campaign PR to give an always-on strategy.

Reactive PR comes in a few different forms, from a quick comment to having a simple data point or stat alongside some commentary from the client. When it comes to Bottled Imagination we of course focus on creative reactive PR. Obviously. We’ve hung our hat on creativity, it’s in our name after all. 

So this week’s episode is going to focus on one method we use to spot reactive opportunities and ideate for any of our clients. We call it cause and trend PR. 

Cause and trend PR

Cause and trend PR is spotting when a trend is happening, and what the cause could be, then pushing this story to press. For example, sales of umbrellas go up during the rainy periods – obvious right? The cause is the UK’s inclement weather and the trend is the spike in umbrella sales to stop us all looking like drowned rats.

Of course, the example above might not be very press-worthy, the country’s journalists know the state of the weather. It’s about finding links between trends and their cause which may not be obvious, or are interesting. Like memes, trends can come and go fast, this is why this reactive PR tactic has to be executed quickly. 

Here’s what it looks like when you are launching a reactive based on a trend::

If you want to learn how you can spot more creative reactive opportunities you are going to want to read on. 

Cause and trend PR is often just training you to think in a certain way, and you know, going beyond the first idea (because no one is covering that umbrella story). Let’s kick it off with a few examples to get the brain going and explain the concept:

  1. Sales of the morning-after pills go up after the England football games
  2. When Black Panther hit the cinemas people were searching for flights to Wakanda (the make-believe land where they live) and if it was a real place. We didn’t have a travel client at the time this would be suitable for, so Luke just put it on his Twitter – it ended up being covered in Gaming Bible organically. 
  1. When Rihanna announced she was to play the Super Bowl halftime show, ticket demand surged.
  2. Federer announced a retirement match and demand for Laver Cup tickets skyrocketed. As a tennis fan, this one was a bit close to home.

So how do you come up with these ideas, or find the link? There are two ways; trend first, or cause first. 

Spotting the trend

Arguably the easier, spotting trends should be a part and parcel of being a good PR. Trends aren’t just the ones happening over on TikTok. There are trending topics or products in every industry and niche. One thing we are big on plugging into our client’s world – it’s impossible to be an expert in everything so we have a variety of methods to get embedded, but that’s a whole other blog post. Being on the beat and knowing what is happening at all times, tied with our ideation processes means we don’t miss a trick for reactive and can come up with campaign ideas specifically for that niche. 

So once you’re plugged in, spotting the trend is easier, and identifying the trend first is specific to the industry you are working in. The best example of this is in fashion. If you are into fashion, or a fashion expert (no surprise this falls outside my remit) you will know the trends first. And being first to spot them is key – each hour that passes is an hour of opportunity for your competitors to get their first. 

In the past few years, TikTok has been the ’cause’ for a lot of fashion and beauty trends, and it is easy for your in-house experts to provide commentary on these. So next time you see the same bag everywhere, you might want to check if TikTok or an influencer or celebrity is the cause

Spotting the cause

This is when things get a bit more creative, but is definitely harder. The trick here is knowing when something is trending in popular culture and then researching whether any trends have spun from it. This is great for us agency folk, we’re plugged into the media and we can use trending moments and apply them to various industries (if there is a trend of course). 

What do I mean by trending moments? The list is endless.

Films, TV shows, Netflix series, sporting moments, music, anything Taylor Swift. All such big pop culture moments can spiral off trends in a variety of niches. Let’s take one of my favourite series of the year, The Traitors. This series was the talk of the UK, traitorish behaviour was being quoted in WhatsApp chats and offices, and you couldn’t escape denying yourself as a traitor, or even worse, a bad faithful. 

One trending TV show, a host of trends could be happening – but you need to know the show. Claudia Winkleman is the infamous host of the show, and she has an iconic hairstyle in the show. A lot of people wanted that hairstyle – a trend was born. Location, the show is filmed in Scotland during the summer (somehow it was only ever beaming sunlight), has this caused an increase in staycations to Scotland – or visits to the stately home where it is filmed? I bet it did. But my favourite trend from the show was the Land Rover defenders spiking in sales throughout the show. They do look pretty epic in the entourage shown throughout the series – stellar product placement from their team if I do say so. And a great example of reactive PR. 

Tips to execute cause and trend 

You need 3 things to accurately execute this method of reactive PR. 

  • Data that backs up the trend and what caused it
  • Expert commentary from the authority in the space
  • A story that is interesting from a reader’s point of view. 

Getting the data

This is the hard bit and can sometimes be a bit of trial and error, especially if you have identified the cause first. There may not be any trends, or any trends that fit your clients happening off the back of it. 

There are a few different data points you can use, but there is one that flies high above the rest  – first-party data. If you are a retailer, you have access to sales data that no one else has, which journalists would want. If you can – always go for first-party data, but if that is a no-go when you can often gauge interest in topics based on search and social metrics. 


This one’s for EEAT fans. For every client, we have experts ready to comment. Buyers, interior designers, Doctors, and all the professions that can offer that personal insight and help users trust the story that is being told. 

Is my story interesting?

This is hard to quantify. The validation tool is the years experience of working in PR. Working with journalists, and knowing what consumers want to read. 

Of course beyond that, is testing the story on others. You will have heard of the mum test, or the pub test…. If you would mention the story in the pub then it must have some interest. Or if it is something your mum would like on Facebook, or pop in the neighbourhood  –  you’re probably onto a winner. 

The takehomes

Cause and trend PR works. It works because consumers are interested in it already, but the story hasn’t been told yet. Time is everything for this. Trends can emerge over such a short space of time and can also die in the same breath (need I remind anyone of those awful AI headshot generators on Instagram). Spot trends early, and execute at speed.