Amidst cancelled meetings and postponed events, we’re all having to develop new plans and make alternative arrangements. A central challenge for any PR function right now is how to keep media engagement high while most of us – including journalists – are stuck at home, away from the work-focused office environment.
In a world where everything seems turned upside down, some tactics that were standard in the past are no longer applicable. And some approaches that we previously avoided are now showing new value.
We’ve seen this transformation play out particularly in Asia over the past few months as we’ve moved from total lockdown to partial recovery in some markets. Here are three tips that we’ve learned from that experience.
1. Be ever present
In pre-virus days, we would take time to carefully build and curate relationships for ourselves and our clients with journalists, starting with a face-to-face meeting over lunch or coffee to broker introductions, and then building up to pitching content. Today, we’re forced to skip those early stages in relationship development and get straight down to business. We need to be ultra-proactive in engaging with the media and always reachable by them; they can’t get out to hunt down stories, so are constantly on the look-out for ideas.
For instance, we’ve been producing lots of short, reactive commentaries for clients that we distribute far and wide. This strategy works especially well with market reporters who – with markets more volatile than anyone can remember – are looking for the most up-to-date analysis. Commentary needs to go out regularly throughout the day, be up-to-the-minute, and easy for reporters to pick up. The past couple of months have proved a useful test for this tactic, with the wild gyrations of crypto markets and oil prices in particular.
2. Keep looking for alternative ways to deliver your message
Long-form, written content has usually been viewed as a special feature, being produced, at most, monthly. But in the current situation, we’ve found it a good replacement for face-to-face meetings. Many firms are understandably unwilling to talk in depth about the impact of coronavirus (they may not know even know the full picture yet). So, increasingly, the number of byline articles being placed is a good way to showcase your spokesperson’s insights while managing the messaging.
We’ve also been switching as much activity as possible online. The virtual media roundtable is a great example of how to keep media engagement high. This format has been well received by both clients and media as it gives them a chance to exchange views even under lockdown. It’s also more time efficient and effective, often generating immediate coverage. While preparation work for running a virtual briefing is quite different from a traditional one, our recent experience has provided us with a list of handy tips to guide clients setting up and managing a roundtable, including the appropriate software, logistic tests and level of interaction.
3. Think ahead
Now, more than ever, it’s important to plan activities in advance to maximise the chances of media picking up your stories.
We need to be aware of what economic data is coming up across all markets (media attention on these figures is global like never before), what editorial opportunities are available, and what trends are foreseeable in the short to medium term. For instance, in Asia we’ve started working on content about the post-COVID 19 era, to align with the region gradually emerging from the pandemic.
While it’s always been best practice not to harass reporters (and still is!), checking in regularly with media friends is much more welcome now – they’re as bored at home as the rest of us. Our conversations inevitably reveal what articles they’re planning, and so we have a higher chance to participate in – and even suggest – stories than might have been possible before.
Implementing these three tactics will not only keep your media engagement at an all time high, but may even put you in pole position with a whole new set of reporters when things return to normal.
—Michelle Kwok, Senior Account Manager, Hong Kong