As a PR professional and founder of RemotePRJobs.com, I am keenly aware of just how COVID-19 has truly disrupted the entire PR and Communications industry. In conversations with agency owners, seasoned PR pros, and more junior folks who are just breaking in, the sentiment is the same in that layoffs and furloughs have been unbridled and existing strategies have been put to the wayside. However, the good news is that PR Pros have not only rebounded, but they’ve found ways to evolve, adapt, and flourish once again.
Here are some of the tried and true strategies I’ve seen recently that are working, and things to consider in your own practice:
1. Adding legitimate value during a crazy news cycle. Obviously. This is not exactly shocking, but I don’t mean try to spin or stretch the angle to fit what’s happening in the news cycle. Whatever you're pitching must add meaningful value to not only the media, but the audience they’re writing for. It’s 2020 so it feels like anything goes, but not when it comes to the news cycle.
How do you break through the noise and add that great value? Think at a macro level and what’s happening in the world right now. If you’re uninformed about current events, read up. It’s a grim world right at the moment, so be sure that whatever you are pitching to the media is truly worthwhile and adding value to people’s lives. What worked earlier this year is guaranteed to flop now.
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2. Ditching the pitch! In looking at the news cycle, if you determine that your product, service, or your thought leader doesn’t make sense or apply and add value, DO NOT PITCH IT. Read that again.
But, not all hope is lost for attaining brand awareness. Look at other channels where you can maintain your brand awareness. Maybe it’s social media, eBooks, white papers, video case studies, etc. If the timing isn’t right, consider moving away from a pitch and into content that is truly going to resonate and add value to your audience. Consider now a great time to ramp up other channels.
3. Upleveling your thought leaders. If your thought leaders aren’t bogged down with media interviews, briefings, or reviewing press material, now is the perfect time to get to know them better. Ask your leaders different questions, draw out different angles, get their thoughts and opinions about what is happening in the news.
Also consider expanding your own spokesperson sphere. Maybe it’s working with a product manager that knows important nuances about your product, or perhaps there is someone in training or HR that can help explain talent or culture initiatives. Think outside of your typical scope and see what stories and angles you may be able to uncover.
4. Examining your own skill set. As we get wrapped into our own careers and time passes by, we can forget to invest in our most important asset—ourselves. Now is a great time to take that online course you’ve been eyeing or attending a webinar to educate yourself about something new in the marketing or PR world, business in general, or even just a hobby to keep you well-rounded. The world of PR and media changes so fast and PR pros are able to adapt because of that robust toolset. Make sure to keep it sharp.
Insider tip: one of my favorite courses on LinkedIn Learning is the 17 PR Mistakes to Avoid because it serves as a reminder for PR professionals all the simple things that sometimes prevent us from having success with the media or clients. Check it out!
5. Giving back to the PR community. I know for a lot of my PR friends and former colleagues, this is one that tends to shift to the back burner when things get busy. Giving back through mentorship, hosting an intern, or organizing an online panel of PR pros to share their insights is a great way to continue lifting and empowering others in the PR ecosystem. Now more than ever, we all crave human connection—albeit online—and this is one way to foster new connections, nurture existing ones, and share your wealth of knowledge.
As a PR professional, you are undoubtedly nimble and open to changing things up to adapt during difficult or challenging times. This season of life can be particularly challenging; people are feeling uneasy and PR professionals are no different. I hope this was able to provide some creative juice to either get you thinking differently about PR in the time of COVID-19 or at least reaffirm and validate current strategies.
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