Our livelihoods have changed in the span of weeks, and the appetite for what's newsworthy has changed overnight. But that doesn't mean you can't adapt your Digital PR strategy towards helping people right now. We'll show you how to change tactics to make your content work smarter online.

It doesn’t take an expert to know that 99% of news stories right now are linked to coronavirus. From finance to security, conferencing to education, every industry has been affected by COVID-19. 

Now is not the time to stop your Digital PR efforts or to stop investment in communications. PR communications are more important than ever as this crisis goes on, as work can be better invested into link-building or brand awareness.  It’s important to push and promote positive messages, and provide insights into the changing trends in society. Be sure to check out our COVID19 Marketing Hub for other marketing strategies.

Don’t think of creating PR content as a sales approach. People have tightened the purse strings, and going in with the cold sell will not only turn off journalists, but can make you come across tone-deaf to consumers. Right now, focus on building your brand, sharing good news stories, and generating those crucial backlinks to your website.

So, what forms of PR content are working well?

1 – Uplifting Content

 

Right now is a great chance to get in touch with journalists with fun, interesting stories that can act as a distraction from the crisis. 

A search in Google Trends shows a spike in user searches for the phrase uplifting news.

Some recent good news stories: 

Stories about people are thriving right now – we all want to share the successes of those stepping up in the crisis.

Find out if someone in your business is doing something great or has a story to tell. There has never been a better time to shout about it. The press themselves have been quoted on social media multiple times saying they need to put a smile on people’s faces. If the story is strong, it can still get picked up. If it doesn’t do as well as expected, we can outreach later. 

There are tonnes of journalists wanting this kind of news – The Daily Telegraph even has a daily ‘good news round-up’ of positive stories relating around the world. 

The Krasinski Model

A great example of this which has seen success across the board is the YouTube channel Some Good News. The Office actor John Krasinski launched the channel a week ago, dedicated purely to uplifting news. 

While he is unable to go to work and act, the Hollywood star used his platform for good. He even reunited with his The Office costar Steve Carrell, which seemed to bring a smile to many faces if you go by social media. It trended on YouTube, got picked up across the board in the press, and got people talking. 

2 – Share useful tips and advice

People don’t always want to see headlines like: 

“What to watch while you’re stuck in isolation due to COVID-19.”

Instead, make the tone a little gentler and softer. A headline of “10 best things to watch on Netflix this weekend” has a softer effect, as it doesn’t explicitly mention COVID-19.  It moves the crisis out of the equation for five minutes of bliss.  

Rework content for different audiences

We do a lot of newsjacking at Hallam, and it’s one of my personal favourites ways to get coverage. One example of articles we’re seeing popping up from journalists everywhere is content around gardening with your kids. This isn’t surprising, given the schools closing and the (annoyingly) great weather we’re having. 

In this case, we’ve worked with our client who gave us a piece of advice on creating a sustainable garden. We tweaked it depending on the journalist we’re outreaching to, which has resulted in coverage like the below: 

Analyse Simple Data 

Combine two PR favourites – thought leadership and data-led content. Analyse the sectors which are thriving right now, and see if you can lean your content towards them, depending on your industry. Google Trends is a hotbed for inspiration. Before, changes in interests may have seen gradual increases. But right now it’s easier than ever to see what’s piquing people’s interest. 

Take a look on Google Trends and Answer the Public for topics which are rising in popularity, and see if you can put your spin on it. 

As an example, if you’re an education provider, take a look at what is of interest to your audiences right now. The interest in learning languages is soaring, which may be something you can help with. 

A simple data analysis on ‘the top 10 languages people are learning right now’ is simple and effective. Data gets picked up, and it’s timely enough that journalists will be interested in publishing it. You can then accompany this with advice on how best to learn a language. 

Another search term which is growing in popularity, and a problem I have noticed first hand, is how to cut your own hair.  If you take a look on Answer the Public, it’ll give you the most commonly asked questions around this topic, which you can aim to answer with your expertise (but only if you are an expert in cutting your own hair – not someone like me who thinks they can cut their own fringe which turns out wonky.)

Journalists get measured on how many people click and read their articles, hence why they’re so keen to publish content which is of interest to people. Try and back up your outreach with data from sources to show them the reason for publishing your content. Just make sure you add something different to the conversation than everyone else has. 

Topics working well right now

There are writers out there who are sticking to their main niches, especially in trade publications. But they will still be looking for information which concerns their sector, which is more likely than not to concern coronavirus. 

It’s not a case for being opportunistic – but coverage can help your brand build crucial credibility and awareness. It doesn’t have to be about the virus, but your content needs to be adapted to be slightly related. 

Topics we’re seeing work well at the moment: 

  • Preventing your VPN from getting attacked while your workforce is WFH 
  • Mindfulness tips for isolation
  • How to grow your own food 
  • Tips to actually enjoy running 
  • How (and why) you should clean your phone 
  • Great garden outhouses

3 – Plan Ahead

The crisis is not going to last forever. You can keep hold of your ready-to-go ‘most affordable student holidays in Europe’ until the time is right again – don’t discard it altogether. 

Use this time to your advantage, to make sure the content is as strong as it physically can be.

Stop wishing – start doing

And for those content ideas that you’ve constantly put off doing but always secretly wanted to go ahead with, use this time to stop thinking about it, and start doing it. I can guarantee there are hundreds of people out there that have thought of cool ideas to promote their brand or build links, but are too scared to go through with it – I’ve been one of them. 

If you’re holding off on outreach for some of your content, then right now is the time to re-invest those hours into researching, designing and developing the content. You can also work with other people in your team to make a plan of action for marketing the campaign on social and paid ads to boost awareness. Then, when the time is right, you can outreach it. Who knows – maybe you’ll strike the jackpot. 

Offer advice for the future

We’re all keen to know what the world is going to look like in three, six, twelve months time. What will happen to the High Street? Will pollution levels continue to decrease or shoot back up? What about the way we’ll socialise? 

If you have expertise to offer advice on what the future might look after the pandemic, do so. Perhaps you can give insight into how insurance and policy wording might change, what CO2 emissions will look like in six months if we continue at the rate we’re going, or how restaurant advertising will change. 

People are looking forward to the future more than ever, and if you can use the experts in your company to give predictions, great!

Summary

It’s a daunting time right now in all industries, not least marketing, where the fight to stay relevant has skyrocketed in mere weeks. 

If you take one thing away from this blog, it should be that you need to look at your current planned strategy – and place it softly to the side. You don’t need to discard it, as it might still work. But you’ll definitely need to make sure you’re pitching in stories that are a) relevant, b) not tone-deaf and c) don’t exploit the situation. 

It’s time to change tactics to make your content work smarter online. 

Social media forms an important part of your communications planning now, too.

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