On the face of it, lockdown and tough tiering should have been a disaster for PR, an industry that is all about close contacts, networking with media gatekeepers and physically putting products in journalists and influencers hands. However, the challenges that 2020 threw at us meant that we were forced to take a fresh look at how we generated coverage for our clients, without losing the human touch, and while still immersing the media in our clients’ products.
California-based Follow Your Heart, who make the best vegan cheeses and other delicious and innovative plant-based alternatives, briefed Storm to build a campaign to drive awareness of the fact its products were newly available in more than 800 Tesco stores nationwide. Typically, we would have recommended a media event as a powerful way for a brand to engage with key media and influencers, sharing rich content that goes beyond a standard press release and delves into tasting notes, food pairings, a company’s background, ethos and more. But amidst the pandemic, with most journalists working from home, we looked at new ways to replicate this tactic.
Using our insights in how media consumption and consumer behaviour have changed during lockdown, with influencers having a greater share of voice and the ‘new norm’ of video calls being commonplace, we hosted a live Zoom cook-along and product demo session. Location, budget and a solid guest list can make or break a traditional media event, so the benefits in hosting it virtually removed the limitation of a central London location as well as the budget-hungry venue hire and dressing costs. It also allowed us to invite media and influencers from around the country, as travel was no longer a barrier to attend, broadening its appeal and opening it up to a completely new audience.
Choosing the right host was crucial to the success of the event, to provide credibility and interest. We identified Roxy Pope, cookbook author and one half of the popular So Vegan Instagram channel, who created an easy and delicious chickpea ‘tuna’ melt recipe featuring Follow Your Heart’s Smoked Gouda Slices, Mature Cheddar Slices and Original Vegenaise – the three products newly landing on Tesco’s shelves.
Roxy hosted a 40-minute lunchtime cook-a-long which saw 14 media and influencer guests tuning in. Each was sent all of the ingredients by post ahead of time, to ensure the event was easy to get involved with. Following the event, the Storm team followed up with each guest, encouraging influencers to post on their channels and media to review the newly listed products.
Alongside the event, we worked with four Instagrammers to deliver over 20 posts about Follow Your Heart and their new Tesco listing going live. These boosted posts were all run over a week, reaching consumers with an interest in vegan products and recipes. Finally, as with any good PR campaign, we underpinned this activity with a hard-working press office function, emailing, calling and video calling our database of relevant journalists to brief them on the new listing.
The campaign reached more than 1 million consumers across digital and traditional media and proved that virtual tactics deliver as strong a cut-through and a more compelling return on investment as traditional ‘real world’ events.