The world is changing around us, but some things remain the same: good public relations always works. But what happens when an industry that thrives on expensive campaigns, purchasing power, and public events has to employ the same PR strategies with a seriously reduced budget?
It becomes a little trickier, to say the least.
Business after COVID-19 — well, everything after COVID-19 — looks and feels drastically different, even just months after the pandemic first hit. Consumers have lost jobs and loved ones, forcing brands to change their messaging. Many families are living off of one income, and millions are out of a job completely.
This can make even the most seasoned executives feel uncertain about their future: after all, how do you pitch about a lipstick or an expensive bottle of wine when there’s a global emergency happening around you?
Take a deep breath—and remember your impact. In many cases, PR professionals can lean on the current climate to drive an important message home. Think: If a natural disaster severely hit an area of the country, brands can emphasize the importance of sticking together, helping those in need, and protecting themselves in case disaster strikes.
A brand’s message may just be one of many, making it hard to break through the noise. As a result, the PR strategies that have worked in years past must change to meet the growing demands of today’s world. It won’t be an overnight swap or a simple solution, but rather, a practice that will take time, trial-and-error, and plenty of learnings.
In other words, the solution has many layers: Brands must change how they measure their PR success, communicate with journalists with empathy and understanding, emphasize overall value versus profit, and shift efforts online. When done right, both PR professionals and the media will successfully weather the storm — but it won’t come without its own struggles, of course.
Here are four critical ways that PR strategies will change as a result of COVID-19 — and who knows, there’s a chance these practices will stick around for the long term:
ROI will take precedence.
Return on investment (ROI) has long been a metric to determine the success of PR efforts. Typically, brands measure ROI in terms of the number of media placements, media impressions, web traffic, and key message pull-through. But given the stark reality of business after COVID-19, brands will need to gauge whether their PR strategies are as effective as possible, especially since they may be working with a tighter budget and smaller team.
As PRWeek points out, this metric isn’t new by any means, but the renewed focus may shift how PR communicates a message. For example, a brand may invest more time and effort in SEO because it’ll result in better payoff in the long run than, say, a social media-first strategy. They may also decide to dabble in content marketing initiatives, other forms of media (like podcasts, for example), and spend their dollars on all-inclusive platforms, like The Press Hook.
Daily outreach will be more intentional.
Say goodbye to mass PR pitch emails — at least for now. Everyone has been forced to adjust how they go about greeting one another amid the coronavirus outbreak. For starters, the classic “how are you doing” has been replaced with “I hope you and your family are safe and healthy.” This thoughtful outreach will be weaved into current efforts: both PR professionals and journalists have to be more mindful of one another, and sensitive to the world around them.
By sending an insensitive pitch or not acknowledging the dangers at hand, PR professionals may find themselves blacklisted by the people they need most: the media. While sending personalized messages has always been the goal, this new business after COVID-19 will make it more critical than ever before, especially if PR professionals want to foster long-lasting relationships with specific journalists and media outlets.
There will be a greater focus on value over profit.
Here’s where PR strategies take a significant shift from year’s past: this uncertain time for businesses after COVID-19 means that many people — both consumers and businesses — aren’t able to invest as much money in new products or services. That means that it’s up to PR professionals to emphasize the overall value that one gets from investing their time and effort into a specific brand or product.
With that being said, it’s up to PR professionals to switch gears from a profit-over-everything model to one rooted in humanity, as stated by Agility PR. To go about this, brands can rely on The Press Hook to ensure that they’re connecting with the right journalists — time is money, nowadays — and therefore, creating long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with media outlets.
But really, it’s all about word choice: PR professionals may need to shift the language in their news releases to reflect the times best. By doing so, journalists will follow suit.
A new emphasis on online businesses and social media startups.
The coronavirus pandemic has opened people’s eyes to a new, sustainable reality: For many, this time spent at home has forced them to re-examine their “old” lifestyle. Previously, only 7 percent of Americans had the option to work from home, according to the 2019 National Compensation Survey from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. But now, out of necessity, it’s become more commonplace, and many businesses are aware that they can thrive whether their employees are in the office or not. This ultimately changes the day-to-day life of individuals: How will brands that aid in public transportation, commuting, or traffic communicate their message if fewer people are driving to and from work?
But it’s not just about the emerging WFH culture. It will still take a while for life’s joys — sporting events, movie theaters, plays and musicals, and so on — to resume normal, so people are likely to become more reliant in virtual experiences enjoy safely in their own home. It’s up to brands to meet this growing demand by focusing their PR strategies on digital efforts that can accommodate this new way of life. And if media outlets are looking to write about more online businesses, startups, or virtual experiences, they can turn to The Press Hook to find new brands that fit the criteria.
Continuing with your previous tactics and solutions can set you and your company backward. Instead, try to let go of how life (and business) was pre-pandemic and set your sights on the future. There will be plenty of opportunities to be found, but it’s up to savvy and smart PR professionals to take off their blinders and spot the new route. If there’s any comfort in the COVID-19 wake, it’s that we are all in this together. And it’s through collaboration, teamwork and diligence that’ll we’ll see the brighter road ahead.