Nine months into the pandemic, no one can ignore the ever-shifting challenges and expectations – whether you’re trying to maintain business collaborations virtually, managing a full-scale remote schooling environment or navigating family and social interactions (or perhaps all of these at once!). However, what we can do is remember to also acknowledge thegood stuff happening around us.
These days things often look and feel different than what we “normally” would experience outside of a pandemic, but it doesn’t mean that the value of our experiences, work and connections are diminished. We may be glued to the Zoom screen instead of meeting face to face, but we can still share great ideas, improve target outcomes and develop strong relationships.
This year, I’m especially grateful for the people who I love and care for – family, friends and colleagues – as well as the communities surrounding all of us virtually. I hope you will join me in returning to gratitude this season – I’m counting on it to help us maintain a sense of collective support and resilience.
With the close of a crazy 2020 in sight, budget season is here and more uncertain than ever. Conferences and events have taken an inordinate hit this year as business travel came to a grinding halt. With the status of 2021 conferences in limbo, marketers have an opportunity to revisit other ways to allocate some of those funds.
Here are three ways your PR team can help supplement a lighter conference budget and support the lead gen pipeline in 2021.
Content rules – Tech buyers who may normally keep a pulse on trends by attending industry events are homebound and looking for ways to keep on top of new developments. Extend your PR and content programs to include more white papers, case studies, blogs and podcasts to communicate how your industry, your clients and your platform are responding and performing amid these unprecedented times.
– Reporters are always interested in research reports, but now that we are in
unknown territory, they are looking for the real impacts of the pandemic. Look
for ways to leverage your anonymized platform data to illustrate trends and
tell a marketplace story. The PR team should have some insight on how to
utilize this data and tell a story about changes in use cases or a rise in
certain features and functionality since the pandemic or other news event.
– Without the steady foot traffic from exhibit halls and conference meetings,
companies must lean into social media and ensure they are active on the
appropriate channels and regularly sharing content and company news. This is
also a time to offer short commentary on relevant industry news. Your PR team
is already monitoring the news stream and commentary in your industry. Empower
them to help you be a voice in your industry.
With the news cycle dominated by the pandemic, the election and racial injustice, it can be difficult to discern what is of interest to journalists on any given day. This includes national, local, business, technology and various trade media. Additionally, many reporters are still operating remotely and may have limited availability.
Here are some tips for staying connected, relevant and in sync with rapidly evolving reporter needs.
Study Coverage Trends
Keep a pulse on the fast-moving coverage patterns for target journalists and outlets to get a sense of where their focus is trending. This will help inform timely pitch angles that hook effectively into recent news or support upcoming ideas that address forthcoming marketplace needs.
Offer Customer Examples
To support new or innovative points of view from company executives, provide examples of customers that reflect these viewpoints and illustrate the real-world application of concepts. This is particularly helpful if the example is recent and relatable as it will help encourage reporters to include your company in addition to your customer.
Don’t Be Afraid to Forecast
With a level of uncertainty permeating most industries, many journalists are interested in future-looking trends that could signal the next direction or opportunity. It’s a great time to offer market leadership perspectives about what’s to come or how current trends could shift in the next 3-6 months.
It’s been an incredibly busy past few months as we onboarded three new clients and managed the launch of several major client initiatives. In the not so subtle background loomed everything and anything related to COVID-19.
Bored kids lurk just around the corner, Zoom calls dominate our workday and an always-present feeling of anxiousness exists that questions if we are doing enough and doing it right for all the demands in our lives right now.
And yet, as PR pros we push and pull trying to navigate these unchartered waters and help our clients appropriately fit into current conversations. But in it all, we have established stronger bonds with our clients — shifting what was once just conference calls to Zoom meetings and talking more about the importance of life and personal strife. The same rings true for connections with journalists, whom we’ve always maintained a strong business relationship with but now have had the opportunity to connect with on a deeper level thanks to many of thesame challenges and journeys.
The COVID-19 twists and turns are far from over but finding the hidden gems, particularly when divisiveness seems to prevail, can be a guiding light in these stressful times.
With today’s news cycle changing – often dramatically – by the hour, organizations are trying their best to keep up by developing meaningful content that can be published before it gets stale. While it was common to promote both evergreen and timely topics prior to the pandemic, this strategy requires a pivot as “relevance” is paramount to getting seen these days.
What does this mean? If your content doesn’t have a COVID-19 angle, it is certainly still valuable, however you may need to reframe it to fit the context of how business is now being conducted and the current customer experience. Here are a few quick tips for keeping your PR and marketing content relevant and not tone-deaf.
Offer Current Customer Success Stories – While a client did wonders with your solution before March, both the media and your prospective customers may not relate as closely to those experiences based on new operational demands. Demonstrate your company’s agility and commitment to customer service by showcasing stories that involve resilience during the pandemic – including continued delivery of top-notch products and services that help customers stabilize and improve their businesses.
Evolve Product Use Cases – The most successful companies are open to continuous reinvention. They recognize that things are always shifting no matter the drivers and that they must keep a pulse on changing demands and pain points. Use this time to understand new or expanded use cases and get current customers onboard to promote your offering’s value. Media and prospects will appreciate knowing how your solution meets today’s unfolding market demands as well as anticipates needs on the horizon.
Don’t Let Thought Leadership Lapse – Proactive communication around industry advice and points of view are more important than ever as customers and prospects look to industry leaders for reassurance and market stability. Thoughtful commentary that speaks to the latest challenges and opportunities demonstrates a thought leader’s depth of understanding and fosters confidence in their ability to help lead the market through them.
Keeping content fresh and reflective of what’s happening now goes a long way toward building and maintaining a company’s reputation for both media opportunities and marketing campaigns. Build on existing successes and don’t be afraid to offer new takes to drive momentum.
The past few months have thrown companies many a curveball as the effects of COVID-19 reverberate with operational, economic and psychological impacts. While seemingly chaotic at first, the next phase required putting a new order into sustainably maintaining business operations. Fortunately many companies were able to quickly shift into work-from-home scenarios and – while far from perfect – enable their workforces to continue delivering work effectively.
From a PR perspective, it has been a universal crisis requiring careful next steps. During times like these, maintaining a proactive voice in the market can play a critical and stabilizing role in the company’s ability to maintain market leadership with relevant, evolving messages. Following are some best practices that have helped companies sustain positive PR momentum during crises like COVID-19, whether for the short or long haul.
Stay Connected – While it can feel like a game of “Whack-a-Mole” during the early stages of a crisis, it is important to maintain regular connection among the PR team’s members. Whether establishing a weekly check-in Zoom meeting or a Google doc that tracks key program activities and outputs, having tangible, predictable ways to track progress can go a long way in helping maintain a productive direction during times of uncertainty.
Offer Thought Leadership – Keep a pulse on shifting client perspectives and news coverage related to your company’s industry. This will help identify new angles for thought leadership content that can be leveraged for media interview and byline opportunities. This proactive approach enables companies to stay relevant and show that they continue to understand the needs of their particular market.
Promote New Use Cases or Product Updates – If your product or solution has timely value during the crisis, e.g., helps drive cost savings or other major benefits, use this time to update messaging and pivot into new go-to-market opportunities. With the right PR support, announcing updated offerings that address customers’ quickly-shifting needs can be an effective strategy for strengthening market traction.
With the realization that work and life will be very different for the foreseeable future during the COVID-19 outbreak, most B2B companies are tackling challenges on how to effectively communicate both internally and externally.
The marketing and communications team, which is often on the front lines for crises, needs to ensure that if they don’t already have a crisis plan in place, that they quickly develop one to be a guiding and calming force for leadership and the overall employee base.
As you are considering a communications strategy for the coming weeks or months, here are a few tips:
1) Issue External Statement on Company Continuity and Employee Policy – Most likely, your company has established a policy for telework for employees and determined cloud-based operations to support ongoing customer efforts. It’s important to let clients, employees and partners know of your efforts and that you are taking the current situation seriously.
2) Don’t Be Tone Deaf – In these initial days and weeks, it’s important that social media posts include a mix of COVID-19-related posts, such as the statement mentioned above, as well as corporate news and coverage. If employees or clients are taking extra steps to help in their communities, share those good news stories.
3) Re-program Your Program – For the most part, press releases and other external efforts should be reevaluated each week. But that doesn’t mean PR efforts should come to a grinding halt. Use this time to recharge your content arsenal with contributed articles and blog content, and don’t forget awards.
The most important aspect of communicating during a crisis – whether you have an official plan or not – is to be as nimble and as transparent as possible.
Week one of social distancing, working from home and homeschooling has been bumpy. Even though our team has worked remotely for 15+ years, work and life are anything but normal these days. With kids home from school, confused about why they can’t see friends or play video games all day, the universal struggle is real.
We have found some silver linings. My kids are reading a ton and creating forts and works of art. They even completed two loads of laundry, albeit with screen time mixed in. And, hey – I’ve accomplished some work tasks as well. A few days into this new dynamic with years of experience working from home, here are my two cents on smoothing out the bumpy ride we’re on:
1) Set your working hours but also carve out a chunk of time to recharge with self-care or an activity with the kids
2) Establish realistic daily goals – accomplishing short-term tasks can boost our moods and productivity
3) Long term outlooks are no longer clear – set short bursts of time to address what if scenarios, accept worries about the unknown and plan accordingly
4) Take breaks – this is even more important when there are few opportunities to get out
5) Calls and video chats will include more background noise like dogs and kids – appreciate the sounds of life and get to know your coworkers, clients and partners on a more personal level – we are all in this together.
As we adjust to the immediate impacts of COVID-19, it is not business as usual. Marketing and PR pros are tasked with communicating up-to-the-minute plans and precautions. We are navigating an unprecedented time, requiring measured and informed communications. With this in mind, we’ve prepared a special issue of The Spark to serve as a communications resource. Wishing you all good health in the days and weeks ahead.
Editorial calendars help lay out a given publication’s planned editorial topics and are a great opportunity to sync up with editors and reporters on aligned topics that our clients can address with news, trends and other points of view. Some publications follow their editorial calendars to a tee while others use them more loosely. Regardless, it is wise to track editorial calendars to understand priority publications’ planned focus areas.
As an example, we worked with University Business on a story about enterprise technology, securing interviews and quotes from our client Campus Management and their customer Central Arizona College.