If you work in digital PR right now you’ve probably been there. You’ve had a really good idea that you know from experience can’t not fly in the media, you’ve worked hard to get internal buy in, you’ve done your home work and put together a killer pitch. And then … breaking news. Another pandemic, lockdown or political landslide, probably. Thanks Boris, mate, you’ve just ruined my PR story.
So, what to do now? Well, first off, it is really not a disaster. And at the end of the day, you’re going to have to do something if you want those juicy backlinks for your SEO strategy. But when it comes to digital PR, we need to accept that it doesn’t always pay to keep calm and carry on (with the same story) through turbulent times. Ask yourself if the story is still newsworthy or as relevant in light of recent events. If your gut says no, it may be time to cut your losses and adapt to a new strategy. Or at least pivot. Because if you don’t, you’re not getting as many of those sweet backlinks.
Here are five tips for pivoting your digital PR strategy through turbulent times:
1. Tick, tock: timing is everything
This one’s not exactly new. It has long been the case that you need to get a story out at the right time for optimum impact. Obviously we all know its important to avoid sending out stories when you know journalists are on deadline or at some obscure time, like 4pm on Friday. But now the relevancy window of your story is shortening.
Gone are the days of planning in stories months in advance with ‘evergreen’ or generically ‘interesting’ campaigns. The fact is that the bar for ‘interesting’ gets raised when pandemics and lockdowns become the norm. And when the news cycle and peoples’ lives change in dramatic ways every 5 minutes, so must your PR tactics. This means thinking about quick to implement campaign ideas that are both relevant to the news agenda right *now* and quick to implement.
It’s time to ditch the big hero content pieces for a strategy that’s more agile and reactive.
2. Keep your ear firmly to the ground
Keeping on top of the news agenda has always been important. Particularly if you want your PR story to be relevant or to do some newsjacking. However, it has never been more important to read the news. Regularly.
As readers’ realities change on a weekly and month basis, so too does the content that journalists are creating for them. We’ve seen old editorial slots get scrapped, and new ones created. The pandemic is also impacting different audiences in multiple ways, resulting in different kinds of changes across titles depending on who their audience is.
You’ll obviously need to know what those changes are if you’re planning to get your company or client into those publications! And with more evergreen angles increasingly feeling less relevant to journalists, you’ll need to produce pitches that are super timely and super topical. And you wont be able to do that without keeping your ear to the ground and on top of the news agenda.
3. Make your campaigns multi-pronged
You’re probably starting to see a theme here. As you find the news agenda changing more rapidly, you’ll need campaigns that can mimic being evergreen without actually being overly evergreen. That means not boxing yourself in and thinking of topics that can have multiple angles or be changed quickly and at short notice.
First think about how easily you can adapt the current story into something more relevant if the news agenda goes south. Spending days combing through data to come up with an angle that becomes irrelevant overnight due to a new lockdown is pretty disheartening.
Make the story as adaptable as possible within the confines of being newsworthy. And think about the breadth of media outlets available to you too, if your goals is to secure links. Your story may longer appeal to your intended target media if things change, but other media sectors and websites may still be receptive to it.
4. Revisit those old media lists
Furloughs. Lay offs. Changes in editorial focus, media slots … and at times, responsibilities. The media and journalists haven’t been immune to the pandemic either. The reality of what that means for digital PRs is that its time to revisit those media lists.
That journalist who always used to pick up your story and who you’ve relied on for years may no longer be there or want the same content anymore. So go back to basics and revisit your media lists, do some Googling, find out who is now writing what and even call up to confirm and find out what’s of interest to journalists right now.
Media targeting is key to getting your story in front of the right people who might want to publish it, and you may find that you’re now inadvertently targeting the wrong people.
5. Sprinkle some wanderlust on top
Lets face it, right now isn’t exactly easy for anyone. Many people out there are in lockdown, or facing a lot of stress or financial or personal difficulties due to issues that stem from this pandemic. People need an escape, something to look forward to … and if you look at the media (on the features/lighter pages at least), journalists are very much focusing on that sense of escapism right now.
So wherever you can, inject a bit of wanderlust into your campaigns. Travel, animals and aspirational items often work well. If you’re story is likely to evoke a strong, positive emotion in the audience of the media you’re targeting, you might just be on to a winner.
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