Published On: 18/05/20215.7 min read

According to Adam Craig, Head of Corporate at Storm, the pandemic has forced change, but evolution is something communications professionals have had to deal with before. Here are his thoughts:

Pivot. How many times have we heard that word used over the last 12 months? It’s got to be up there with ‘the new normal’ and even ‘social distancing’. The fact is that almost all of us will have experienced a ‘pivot’ during the pandemic.

For us PR professionals, we have always had to adjust (no more pivoting here) to the times. We did it when online news became a thing, when Mr Zuckerberg and Mr Dorsey came on the scene, when influencers started influencing and even when email replaced post.

The point being that we have always had to adjust to ensure we’re hitting the right channels – those that our target audiences are reading . And that goes for B2B, corporate and B2C audiences. It’s not new and the agencies that have succeeded over time and continue to make their clients happy will always look at the new trends. It’s something that makes this industry so intriguing to work in.

Despite all the change, the fundamentals of what we do remain. We still need excellent contacts. We still need to know where the opportunities lie. Content remains king. And collaboration continues to be as important as ever. So, as we head into the second half of 2021, here are a few thoughts on how businesses can best get in front of their audiences right now.

Op-eds will always cut through

While we are now getting back to a somewhat normal news schedule – one that isn’t governed by the next Covid announcement – we can expect that the agenda will be slightly easier to infiltrate with brand stories, surveys and other tried and tested tactics.

However, op-eds that complement the day’s news stories will continue to be an excellent way of generating high quality media coverage for clients. They have always been around and  will continue to provide opportunities to businesses that are on-the-ball and have something meaningful to say; most importantly they help build strong rapports with influential journalists.

Less physical, more digital

Across the majority of markets, the decision-making process has changed since March 2020. For businesses, procurement is virtual, while consumers have clearly been shopping more online – The Drum recently reported that online sales grew by 36% in 2020, the highest growth rate in 13 years. The same can be said for the media. Take the Daily Telegraph for example. Its total subscribers grew by 139,000 from 423,000 in December 2019 to 562,000 in December 2020, with the milestone of 600,000 surpassed in March. However, its print operation saw a decline in turnover of £30m during the same period.

Again, this is not new news and although there is certainly some online fatigue building, some decisions that consumers have made during (and before) the pandemic will last. For PR that means there continues to be great value in the digital channels (take a look at this interesting piece on TikTok) and developing storytelling that can cut through an incredibly competitive space. In our opinion the key is in exclusive, high-quality content and guests – and timing must be at the heart of everything.

Pitching a story

Google is awash with hints and tips on how to pitch a story to a journalist. Anyone that has worked in this industry will have encountered a journalist on a bad day – I remember my first pitch for a BBQ-related client was during the wettest summer on record, needless to say it didn’t go down well! Storm-colleague Lisa Moore, a freelance journalist, also tells some fantastic stories!

It’s important to remember that journalists are our friends and without them we won’t deliver great earned media coverage, but we need to meet their expectations and deliver stories that suit their needs. Targeted pitches that show you have read the title or listened to a story always perform better.

Over the years the telephone pitch has become less important, with journalists relying more on email, however the need for relationships has become stronger during the pandemic. With that in mind, it’s important to connect with journalists in differentways – like video messaging on WhatsApp or DMs on social media. Face-to-face is still extremely valuable, adding character and showing your personality, so it’s important to try and achieve that by any means possible.

Searching out the next big thing?

As someone who has a slightly irritating addiction to Jim Cramer’s Mad Money Podcast (well worth a listen just for the sound effects and booyahs!), I am fascinated by his interviews with upcoming tech businesses that claim to be the ‘next big thing’. A recent one caught my ear – Roblox. Those of you that have kids will probably have come across it. In simple terms, it’s an online gaming platform and game creation system that allows users to programme and play games created by others..

What does this mean for PR I hear you ask? Well, on this episode the CEO was discussing how it had facilitated concerts and coaching events. It got me thinking, when will we see the first Roblox newsroom, press conference or exhibition, and how will brands tap into the concerts and other consumer events? We’ve seen how quickly Facebook et al have influenced PRs and the news agenda, so can fast growing businesses like Roblox provide the future disruption – I’ll be watching closely. However, the point is we are always watching (and listening) for the next comms channels to emerge, because if we’re on the front foot we’ll be first to the party.

Create unique content… obviously

To stand out, brands need to be bold, deliver unique and authentic content and say something that nobody else has. It has always been the case, but we’re now doing it for more channels than ever before, investing in creative content that elevates digital storytelling and delivers campaigns people will remember.

In the past we may have created a blog for a website or a press release for the media. Now a story has multiple touchpoints and can be pitched as a podcast, converted to a webinar orturned into a LinkedIn article and YouTube video. Essentially the content can now go where you want it to – as long as you have someone valuable listening/watching. We’re using time to get the most out of the best ideas and making sure our clients’ messages are heard again and again  to support their business objectives.

Of course, this is all just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the world of Storm. If you’d like to learn more about how we can elevate your brand, drop Adam a line >>