The channel has undergone a radical change over the past two years, and with access to 230 million households and hotel rooms worldwide, it is one media outlet PR professionals should not overlook.
Since 2008, CNN International has launched nine programmes, broadening its focus from a multimedia 24-hour rolling news channel to cover business and current affairs, behind-the-scenes reportage, documentaries and 'Connect the World', which shows how global stories interlace.
The channel is now broadcast from cities including London, Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi, and its website relaunch in October has given more depth to stories from Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, alongside existing sections for Europe, Asia and North America.
Big news themes such as the economy, business and environment are on the menu alongside UK politics (the channel is available in more than 26 million UK households). CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour recently interviewed Conservative Party leader David Cameron on her primetime show live from Davos.
Ketchum's head of strategic media Richard Griffiths says this new approach has paid off: 'In the past, a breaking news story meant editors instantly flicked back to domestic CNN in Atlanta. That now seems to be changing and the attempt to be more global buys CNN more credibility with international brands.'
Tim Duncan, head of PR at design firm Seymour Powell, who pitched successfully to the channel last month, says CNN International's wide-reaching influence makes it a key target. Not only will popular stories leapfrog from the website to the broadcast programmes, they will also be picked up on the American CNN and other news outlets. 'The opportunity for news syndication and extended coverage is also a draw,' he says.
The channel's varied programming means more space for different story ideas, says Diageo's head of broadcast and digital media Dominic Redfearn. PROs should not be scared to field their CEOs for business interviews, something Diageo regularly does, because the journalists 'give you a fair crack of the whip'. But he reminds PROs to be selective about what they pitch in. 'It must be a credible story. It's a serious brand,' he says.
Griffiths, a former BBC World journalist, advises PROs to recognise the difference between the BBC and CNN International's approach to stories. 'CNN International is much more personality-led.'
'By successfully pitching to CNN International,' says CNN International's planning supervisor Krsna Harilela, 'you will gain exposure to the 230 million households that have access to it.' PROs cannot turn their noses up at that.
Audience reach 230 million households/hotel rooms
Audience breakdown by household/hotel room
167 million in Europe, Middle East and Africa
11 million mobile TV users
35 million in Asia
16.5 million in Latin America and the Caribbean
10.2 million in the US
London office 020 7693 1777
A MINUTE WITH ... Krsna Harilela, planning supervisor, CNN International
- In what type of stories are you interested?
All story pitch ideas should start with the question 'why should people care?' I want to be able to draw a line directly to the viewer.
- What advice can you give PR professionals pitching to the channel?
Do not offer a story without a spokesperson. We cannot be expected to simply read out your news release to our audience. Also think about time sensitivity. It's difficult for me to focus on something happening three months out, unless it's a big calendar event, when I'm dealing with developing today's stories.
- Is video/photography important for your journalists?
Absolutely - I cannot stress this enough. You double the impact of the story if there are accompanying pictures. Our business is to keep people watching. Offering visual content that is appealing and informative is key.
- When are your deadlines?
Owing to the nature of rolling news, deadlines can be anything from 30 minutes to a week or two in advance. Unless it's a significant calendar event such as the UK elections, we are generally focusing on more immediate stories. Two weeks' lead time is fine. Email before calling. We do respond if we are interested.