2020 has been challenging in the PR space, as most reporters have been writing about the elections, politics or issues related to COVID-19. I do believe 2021 is going to be much of the same, at least for the first three to six months. So, as a PR company or professional, how do you stand out?
Here are my tips for creating your 2021 PR strategy amid the ongoing pandemic, as well as a few trends we might see in the coming year.
Tips for creating a 2021 PR strategy
Businesses need to be much more focused on pitches and op-ed pieces. Pitches, which are defined as targeted outreach to publications and reporters with an angle only they receive, need to be targeted to specific reporters and the story has to be a perfect fit.
Journalists don’t have time to wade through long, irrelevant pitch emails. Create and write relevant, thoughtful pieces that you can submit as opinion pieces. Keep in mind, the topic must be tied to what is happening on the national stage or be hyper local. Pitching is a skill that requires creative thinking, persuasive communication skills and knowing how your story idea benefits the reporter and the audience.
- Research the heck out of reporters. Find them on social media, read their past articles and then develop a storyline that is a fit for their area of coverage. It also needs to be very timely.
- Social media needs to be at the top of your list for outreach. Twitter is a great way to stand out when you are reaching out to a specific reporter.
- Follow-up and perseverance are key. The story might not be a fit at the time, due to breaking national news, but don’t give up. Keep a document of your pitches and, when the time is right, be prepared to act.
- Share your earned media on your social platforms, as well as on your website and in email and advertising — you get the drift. Often, the publication that featured the piece will also share the coverage on their social media. Engage with it! Comment, share, like, repost, send it to your mom. Do it all! The more you can circulate the feature, the more your brand will benefit.
2021 and the pandemic
COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere any time soon, so it has to be included in your strategy. Take a look at the trend graph below. In November, there were over 2.7 million articles written on COVID-19. If your pitch, announcement or company news is not relevant to the pandemic it will be hard to find coverage.
As everyone is saying, be prepared to pivot again and again and again. Less than 9% of all email outreach emails receive a response. Add the pandemic and our current political climate, which has caused an increase in potential stories, and that number is even less.
PR trends for the new year
A lot of this was relevant in 2020, until, well you know.
- Influencers are the one area companies are still able to stand out amidst the pandemic. While I don’t believe influencers fall completely under PR, they are considered coverage. Setting money aside in your 2021 PR budget to build an integrated influencer campaign is a must. They are reaching your customers, and your customers listen to them.
- Content generation is key: build a content calendar that reflects the key information you want the public or customers to know. This also goes along with submitting op-eds or drafting pieces to be published on other platforms. Many business journals are looking for content from readership to build their online library. Find these opportunities.
- Blogging is your way of telling your story through your own platform. Writing consistently (twice a week) will build your digital presence and SEO, which will help position you as a thought leader.
- Flexibility and responsiveness are so very important. Planning a full year strategy for PR is almost laughable; you can’t predict what is going to happen in the ever-changing media landscape. You need to be ready to jump on opportunities as they arise. Set up searches and monitor for certain phrases so you can proactively respond to opportunities.
- Be sure you also are including bloggers, podcasters and nontraditional media outlets in your media list.
2021 is shaping up to be another challenging year for us all. If media coverage is your goal, work with an agency or have a person on-staff dedicated to finding opportunities. PR is a very demanding profession, and it takes gusto, moxie and perseverance.