A few short weeks and another lifetime ago I was in Amsterdam at IIEX EU. Talking to a friend one night we discussed Coronavirus. At the time there were either no, or very few, publicised cases in the Netherlands and only a handful in the UK. Yet a few weeks later I’m sitting in my London flat, having not seen another person for three days, except for video calls, while a virus tears through most of the world. However, I count myself one of the lucky ones. Almost all of our work can be done online and the majority of our clients work online as well. However, for many in research this is an unpredictable time as clients pull new advertising and new products. And that’s really only the tip of the iceberg, as we potentially face hundreds of thousands out of work and a global recession.
With that, as in 2008, we are facing a slash in marketing and research budgets, at a time when marketing can make the difference between going under and staying afloat. My advice is to start thinking about your own marketing immediately, there’s a lot you can do for very little budget and a little bit of time – and PR is a good place to start.
However, although it may not seem difficult to run a study and send it out to press for some easy media coverage, start poorly and you risk alienating journalists and potential clients. So, if you’re looking to start media relations in this difficult time, I have some tips for you.
1. Is it valuable?
To put it frankly, journalists don’t care about you or your company. The fact that you exist, in most cases, is not inherently newsworthy. What journalists are looking for is what you give clients. They want insight. They want it new and they want it coming from a background of expertise. If you’re not thinking about those criteria you’ll end up very disappointed.
2. Is it on brand?
By this I don’t mean that the press release is designed in your company colours and you’re using the correct logo for the format. What I mean is, does the content speak to your brand, your messaging, values and your vision? You also need to think about your audiences. Who are you trying to build awareness with and what are the key challenges and trends that you can provide solutions or data for? If you’re an innovation research agency, don’t waste time trying to secure coverage by doing political polling just because there’s an election on. Do a study that your target audience will find useful instead.
One of the biggest issues we face is often to have a client with a self-funded-research study ‘ready to go’. The project is completed, the analysis done, the PPT created. Time and money have been invested. The challenging aspect of this is that they typically didn’t do enough desk research before they started. It’s imperative you understand what’s out there and being published before think of your topic, frame your hypotheses, develop your questions or conduct your study. For example, there’s no point doing a report on consumer perceptions of brand innovations, when those studies are a dime a dozen and being conducted by huge research organisations with much better brand awareness than you.
3. Don’t make everything about Coronavirus!
When you’re in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s easy to read both the mainstream news and business press and think you have to make it about CORVID-19 in some way. That is very is wrong. If you can create valuable content around the crisis and it’s on brand, then go for it. But pivoting everything toward the crisis will make it look like you’re trying to capitalise on it. If you follow any journalists on twitter, you might have seen that they treat such press releases as jokes, and you’ll find it very hard to get them to engage with the content.
4. A killer press release
The biggest piece of advice I can give you about press releases is not to treat them as sales collateral. Journalists hate promotion. Although no one is naïve enough to think that research companies are providing the press with data from the goodness of their heart, journalists will always avoid promoting a business with their story. That means if they get a salesy press release they’ll turn off immediately. What you need to do is make sure your release is fact and data-led; keep your opinion to a quote at the bottom of the release. Then all you need is a killer title and to make sure you keep all the important content in that first paragraph.
Journalists are very busy people. Newsrooms have become much smaller over the last 10 to 15 years, and all journalists are flooded with press releases every day . What’s more, due to the impact of coronavirus, physical newsrooms have become virtual newsrooms and journalists are experiencing added pressures of working from home. What they want and need now more than ever is easily digestible, new, and expert insights. But if you send them poor, boring and hackneyed content, then you are doing far more harm than good: if you make a bad name for yourself with publications, it can then take years of professional hard work to get past that. So, if you’re going to do it, do it well. If you can’t do it well, get professional advice.