Successful public relations campaigns are often dictated by a clear timeline carefully crafted throughout the year. Yet crafting such a timeline is only made trickier in the new normal: health protocols, hybrid work setups, and possible disruptions caused by case surges must also be considered.
Which begs the question: how are companies to go about this when each new day is still marked with so many uncertainties?
The transition to digital platforms is expected and can help, but the regular media relations strategy from before the pandemic won't necessarily be fool-proof.
But the show must go on — here’s how you can keep your media relations growing in the new normal
Be sensitive to what's going in media
Even during the pandemic, recent study revealed that while 75% of consumers agreed that a brand ought not to exploit the situation, only 8% felt that companies should halt all advertisements altogether.
No matter what, do not capitalize on the tragedy. Instead of forcing a connection between your brand and COVID-19 when there isn’t one, it’s smarter to simply acknowledge that a lot has changed — and that you will continue to serve your customers the best way that you can. This is sound advice when selling in markets that may be experiencing a COVID spike.
Always err on the side of caution. Audiences aren’t dumb — they can sense when a brand is thirsting for sales. Any negative response diminishes a brand’s credibility. Instead of the risk of sounding tone-deaf, be honest about what there is to offer. More on this below.
Take it easy and hold off on hard selling until the pandemic has died down.
Reach out to the cornerstone of media relations: journalists
Every day, there is an abundance of articles regurgitating the same information. Not every media outlet is hungry for the same type of stories. Reporters have beats — some of which does not concern the pandemic. Journalists are desperate for an angle, so why not give it to them?
Since the circumstance requires a more unique approach, don’t settle for the traditional media pitches to source a journalist. While there are journalists assigned to different beats, it is still crucial that the story in mind is aligned with what the journalist is concerned with. To get a good grasp of this, take the time to do a little background research. Figure out the type of content matters to them personally or the articles they have published in the past. These will provide a guide as to what is relevant or what lacks in the cycles.
At the end of the day, partnerships are built on foundational relationships. Even if the beat reporters usually assigned to the company can’t take on any industrial pitch, it might be beneficial to initiate a conversation for additional rapport. Surely if the brand is impacted, more so are the effects felt by journalists. In doing so, insights might even be gained as to how they’re covering the pandemic and the ways the company can fit into the picture.
Another tip to consider: avoid scheduling media releases on Mondays. The backlog of news accumulated over the weekend will overwhelm the papers. There’s no fighting chance.
In the new normal, shift the focus
Now more than ever, it has become essential for brands to understand the audience and maximize the shift to digital media. Keep in mind that the message should be helpful for the general public, not just something self-promotional. In the new normal, you must shift the attention from brand promotion to the concerns of the community, and build your connections there. Any relevant insight that has the potential to help others should be shared.
Back when industries were involved in direct matters with the pandemic, for example, platforms should've been used to offer knowledge on how the company manages the situation. If not, there were the opportunities to talk about business continuity. For instance, something that could have been discussed was how the company was handling the situation — what was done that people would want to hear about. What was done to protect stakeholders? What products are were value?
Once thoroughly brainstormed, it can be fairly easy to connect the dots.
Most importantly, adjust expectations accordingly. Even the best roll-outs will be drowned in a sea of other attempts at public relations. At best, the published article might be a dot in a white paper.
But do keep in mind that companies should still be handling the brand in the long term. Today’s setbacks can provide tomorrow’s perspective on how to better build the brand’s reputation. The situation is nothing we’ve seen before — which can give the unique perspective no other communications leader can provide.
-Written by Micah Avry Guiao