The influence and power of the media is most acutely felt during times of crisis and uncertainty, and the COVID-19 pandemic has once again proved this to be true. The world has turned on its head and as question marks shadow many aspects of our personal and working lives, many of us are turning to the media for answers. Recent research shows that it is the media that is helping up to make sense of this strange new reality: 45% of people now prefer traditional media outlets as sources of tried and trusted information, whilst online media consumption has risen by 95%.
Even though trust in the media is high, how it operates has changed dramatically – editorial teams have been scaled down, journalists are on furlough or working from home, and depleted and overstretched teams are under pressure to continue to deliver relevant and engaging content to keep eyeballs on their pages.
So, what has been working for us and our clients in recent weeks, and what can businesses factor into their media relations programmes to maintain momentum?
Cutting through the noise with data: Opinion will always have its place in the media, and expert input is invaluable especially when it comes to B2B communications. Yet as decision-makers become inundated with conflicting opinions, it is quantitative and fact-based knowledge that will grab attention during such uncertain times. Our client Signifyd, a leading ecommerce fraud protection company, is using its own data on ecommerce sales to provide the media and their audiences with weekly insight into consumer shopping habits during the crisis. This weekly ‘Pulse data’ communication with journalists is not only strengthening its relationship with the media but also ensuring that Signifyd is part of wider industry conversations – e.g. Internet Retailing’s report on retail sales falling in March.
Add real value: Businesses of all shapes and sizes are in unchartered territory and need more support than ever from their suppliers and partners, and marketing teams can play a key role in providing that support. Selligent Marketing Cloud, a marketing automation platform, prioritised this from the get-go, ensuring that all its content and media relations was attuned to the challenges of its customers and providing advice and solutions. You can read Selligent’s advice for marketers here.
Strike a balance between being relevant and being appropriate: The pandemic is high on the media agenda but it is not always necessary or appropriate to use the current crisis as a hook. Not only will your story fall flat but you could risk tarnishing your business’ reputation in the long-term. From our conversations with journalists in recent weeks, the media is receptive to non-COVID-19 content and will continue to welcome strong stories – news or thought leadership.
The need to be appropriate also applies to the way in which PRs and marketing teams deal with the media too. We have had to make clients aware that many media outlets are grappling with team challenges of their own, with many now running with skeleton teams in place. A news story that may have been published instantly a few months ago, could now take journalists a couple of weeks to turn around and this should be factored in when planning any new press pushes.
Think laterally: This should be an obvious one for a profession which prides itself on creativity, but many marketers can find themselves blinkered by what has worked before. The reality is that tried and tested tactics may not be effective and so adaptability has been key. We have continued to check in with clients on what tone they need their campaigns to deliver to support the wider business – and we have adapted tactics to deliver on this.
Build new relationships and listen to what they need: Now is not the time to be complacent when it comes to engaging with the media. Journalists you could always count on may not be available or, if they are, their priorities may have changed. Of course, be resourceful and draw on old contacts, but be prepared to put time and effort into forging new relationships with the media and take the time to understand exactly what they want to hear about.
For instance, if you had been successfully using podcasts to build a spokesperson’s profile, you need to consider that there’s been a record drop in people listening to podcasts. Your audience, however, will have turned elsewhere. Radio listening figures are on the rise so now is a good time to build relationships with radio producers so you can still reach those audiences.
The media landscape will continue to change as the UK acclimatises to this new reality and media relations tactics which worked one week may not be the best course of action the next week. Whilst the media is unpredictable and the landscape is constantly changing, businesses and marketing teams can effectively keep front of mind with their audiences by displaying agility, creativity, and ingenuity with their communications.