There’s no doubt that times are tricky in the world of PR right now. In the run up to the UK government’s response to COVID-19, we saw a decline in the uptake of outreach campaigns as journalists, quite understandably, focused on the wider issues at hand.
However, the shift into an almost globally shared experience of working from home, limited-or-zero outdoor leisure time, and cancellation of holidays appears to have brought about requests from influencers for ‘alternative’ stories to entertain, educate, advise and inspire.
We’re seeing global travel, entertainment and real-life stories take up space. The Mirror explained how important travel content is for them, stating “we believe that travel offers up a sliver of escapism - so we want to keep providing you with inspirational content, from beautiful destinations to quirky places well worth a visit one day”.
Although it may be tempting to pause all marketing and PR efforts during this time and wait for things to ‘blow over’, it’s useful to remember that your audience hasn’t disappeared – they’ve simply shifted the dynamic, and many are still expectantly looking to brands to provide them with familiarity during unprecedented times.
Digital PR has always been a reactive skill, and whilst it may need to alter, it needn’t disappear. We’ve put together some tips for PR best practice based on strategies we’ve adapted to help our clients continue to serve their audience.
1. Improve onsite content
Working closely with SEO strategists, this is a great time to improve, create and amend your onsite content. Having high levels of expertise, authority and trustworthiness (E.A.T) will help Google to rank your site higher. For this, you’ll need a variety of content onsite that serves audiences in different ways. Take this as an opportunity to work on this, making it a destination journalists want to link back to. If your new articles contain interesting, useful advice, you may receive some coverage from topical sites that want to share your content or think it will add value to an existing article.
2. Revisit campaigns
Have you got research from previous campaigns, reports or whitepapers that could be used? We’ve been noticing, particularly for cleaning and property content, research is being reused to support wider stories. For instance, a piece we were previously working on about work perks and benefits generated some great coverage after we focused the angle on flexible working.
Now we’re moving into a period of journalists wanting fun, uplifting and eye-catching stories, look at your campaigns to see if there’s a suitable angle. As well as the flexible working coverage we received above, we also had success with a ‘pawternity’ angle about employees wanting time off to look after their new puppy.
3. Provide expert commentary
Most coverage now is coming from expert comments featured in articles. These range from cleaning and market predictions to food and medical advice. To make the most of this, find out what your target journalists are writing about. A good way to do this is read through their recent articles and check social media. Outreach platforms like Cision and Roxhill are also useful to spot comment opportunities, as well as monitoring Response Source media requests.
Pre-preparing a comment from your brand is useful for timely responses and increases chances of journalists quickly including it in an article. It’s important to have a relevant stance and an opinion on the subject as journalists want a variety of voices to support their stories.
Ensure that comments are useful, provide advice and are sensitive to the current media landscape.
4. Retrospective linking
Pair link tools like Ahrefs with Google searches to source brand mentions from previous campaigns, content, comments and business news. Get in touch with publications that have mentioned your brand in credible, topical articles to tidy up some missing links. This tactic must be done appropriately and where a backlink to a relevant page on your website makes sense.
5. Amplify your values
Elevate your brand values to stand above the noise and reconnect with your audience. Find a way to remind people if you’re cool and fun, thoughtful and clever, or a unique and charming independent. An Italian restaurant in Chester is including a CD of relaxing Italian music with every delivery to recreate the restaurant ambience at home. Coffee chains across the country are offering NHS workers free hot drinks and discounted menus. Distilleries have switched to using production lines to create free hand sanitizers.
We advise that while it may be tempting to shoehorn a PR idea into issues that sweep the media, not only will this take your strategy off-track, but it could also damage the reputation of your brand. Times are difficult and challenging but there’s no reason you can’t continue to use SEO and PR to grow your brand. In the long term, there’ll come a point when things revert back normality and you’ll be thankful of your brand-building efforts.
When speaking of brands that make the most of a quieter time, Mark Ritson puts it nicely when he says, “They stand out by actually exemplifying their brand values in the face of the crisis that surrounds it.”.
The prospect of effective PR during this climate can be daunting. Our recommendation, as it would be at any other time, is that you develop a strategy based on your current goals. Aligning this to your Technical Search plan can help ensure that your website is reflective of your PR messaging and vice versa. More about what can be done on site at this time can be discovered here.
Steph Hodgson, Head of Content & Communications
Steph is our Head of Content and Communications. She started her career in traditional PR before transitioning to the digital arena. Aligning closely to our SEO team, Steph oversees campaign delivery, outreach and engagement, strategy and planning, as well as new business.
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