When the pandemic hit, the initial response of many businesses and organisations was to hunker down, cut back on communications and not to market themselves, their products or services.
For many it just didn’t feel appropriate.
My opinion is that it depends on the type of service or product you provide, as to whether PR was, and is, effective (or timely) during this period.
As consumers we certainly didn’t stop buying or needing. In many areas, this rose.
Spot fresh opportunities
Over the past few months, COVID-19 has forced much change and provided organisations with the opportunity to share news about exciting developments and experiences.
Although it’s been a tough time for many organisations and individuals, out of the pandemic, fresh ways to work, to do business and to provide services have emerged.
One of my not-for-profit clients, Legs Matter, which I work for as part of the Pink Marketing team, decided to share news about different ways of caring for people with serious lower leg problems – brought about by the pandemic.
What to send a journalist
I think once you’ve been a reporter yourself, you always have a ‘nose for news’!
So, I went about building key messages around the angle I felt we should focus on and what was likely to pique a journalist’s interest in the current climate.
I wrote and issued a Press Release with comments from experts, a patient case study and we also supplied an expert Blog for trade media.
As the patient was shielding, photos were taken by the patient’s daughter and health care worker and we offered telephone access to people for interviews.
We made it easy for journalists to write their stories based on the Press Release and case study and to contact us to ask questions.
Reporters are currently under more pressure than ever, so giving them all the right ingredients to make a great story not only helps them but also means you stand more chance of making ‘the cut’.
It’s a reciprocal arrangement and if you both work together the results can be hugely beneficial for both.
I’d never done PR in a global crisis before so it was all a bit unknown.
I attended a webinar hosted by journalists a few weeks beforehand which was really useful in knowing exactly what they were looking for and what challenges they were facing.
I found contacting journalists was far harder and took longer. Most were working from home, many were furloughed.
It also took longer to get the key messages and angle agreed as the lockdown situation was changing so quickly.
Things were more challenging on many fronts – many of the health care workers involved had been deployed into the community so were harder to reach and we couldn’t send a professional photographer as the patient was shielding with limited mobility.
But with an interesting patient story and details of radical new ways of caring for people to share, we honed the messages and then it was out of our hands and over to the Media.
The resulting PR
The Press Release was picked up by Mail on Sunday’s health desk after a phone call and also made its sister outlet Mail Online.
Good editorial coverage was achieved in national health media also.
This coverage will reach new audiences and continue to drive traffic to the client’s website for the lifetime of the articles.
It has meant potentially life-changing and life-saving information stand a far great chance of reaching many more people, all round the world.
It’s estimated the articles will be read almost 700,000 times over their ‘lifetime’ and have already been shared on social media hundreds of times.
The online readership of these outlets is over 300 million and coverage is far reaching, credible and sustained.
How to share your news with the Media
As I start media outreach again, things are not surprisingly different. That aside, there are still plenty of opportunities and by following some simple steps, sharing your story is still well worth doing as long as it ‘stands up’ as news. There are other ways of course to share your key message if it’s not strictly speaking ‘new’ – I’ll cover that another time.
- Get a unique, relevant story
I’ve said before – news is all about something new – the fact that many of the health care professionals at Legs Matter were providing care differently and that out of a negative situation involving a deadly virus, many lives were improved and will be saved, instantly struck a chord.
- Time it right
It obviously wouldn’t have worked if we had issued the story once services had changed – it had to be while it was happening and as close to the start of it as possible so it was still new.
- Give the Media what they need
View my video for tips about what the media are looking for and how to position yourself and your organisation head and shoulders above the competition.
During lockdown, I secured a BBC Radio interview and coverage for a client because I spent time researching the different programmes which were currently running and which journalists to contact with what information.
You need to send the right information for each outlet/programme/feature/column and always to the right person.
And always issue it at the right time.
- Don’t give up!
I should start by saying, please don’t be a nuisance – don’t call on deadline day or first thing in the morning or at the end of the day.
If you do, you’re likely to get short shrift because journalists are under huge time constraints to meet their deadlines. COVID-19 has only made this worse.
Do email over your Press Release, respond to any questions they ask quickly and follow up with a phone call 2-3 days later.
Often the journalist hasn’t seen the release in their sea of emails and you will be asked to send it again. At other times they are glad you’ve called as they just haven’t got round to contacting you to find out more.
I get the most media coverage when I call and email afterwards to give a gentle nudge – NEVER be demanding!
- Don’t get it wrong
Press Releases have to be interesting, a proper news story, topical, contain at least one relevant comment (that doesn’t just repeat the heading or first paragraph of the release) and ideally have a professional-quality image or access to some.
Make sure there are no typos or inaccuracies as this not only looks sloppy, it doesn’t instil confidence and the journalist probably won’t pursue it.
- Be available
If a journalist is interested in potentially running your story that’s brilliant – news coverage is worth 2.5 times the value of advertising and carries a lot more clout and credibility as it’s endorsed by a third party.
Be prepared to give up sometimes several hours to answer the many questions that a journalist may need to ask you to write their story.
Also, to be available to give an interview – if it’s requested.
There’s nothing that’s going to make reporters more frustrated than not responding to them when you’ve contacted their publication in the first instance.
- We are working differently
It’s far harder to get hold of many journalists currently. Many are still working from home (so the office number doesn’t reach them), they are also working different hours and sadly many have been laid off.
Be understanding about people’s circumstances. Remember the better you write your Press Release and the more relevant it is, the easier it is for a time-pressured journalist to run it, rather than look at it and decide they don’t have the time for a complete re-write.
- Don’t newsjack unless it’s relevant to your industry
Journalists I’ve talked to say one of the most irritating things to occur in the pandemic is the tenuous links that many Press Releases contain, just to try and piggy back on another announcement.
It just doesn’t work and could be counter-productive as that journalist may press ‘delete’ without even opening future emails from you.
Is it worth trying to ‘get in the media’?
Yes, if you have a strong enough story. Being visible in the national or regional media is worth its weight in gold for a number of reasons:
- Raising your profile⠀
- Establishing your position as a thought leader⠀
- Reaching new audiences
- Driving more traffic to your website
- Selling more of your product/service and raising awareness in a non-salesy way.
Book a 15 minute chat with me by sending me a DM or email at email@example.com
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Ian Inglis, Bluebird Care
“I know the wellbeing team are really pleased with the coverage they are getting and it’s great to see the Health Champions name in the press so much. People can see the good work that is going on. You have made such a difference to raising the profile. I only wish we had you on board sooner!”
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