• Georgia Hatton

PR lessons from the crisis that caused a media blackout

By Katheryn Watson

As a Head of PR in the digital field, this particular period has been really tough. Part of our role as public relations specialists is to rely on the media in order for us to do our jobs efficiently and successfully. Without these online publications and our lovely journalists, who’d be the face on the other side to ensure our stories are seen?

The extent that the COVID-19 coverage consumed the media throughout the first quarter of 2020 was unheard of. Not many of us can recall a period where the news cycle was completely saturated for weeks on end and where journalists were refusing to take on any extra stories that didn’t relate.

Looking back, these are seven learnings, first shared on Twitter, I came to know over the months that coronavirus seemed to swallow up the media space that we knew and loved.

Lesson 1: You can’t control the media

Whilst we like to think that our perfectly curated stories are going to be well-received by all of the editors and writers on our media lists, during the COVID-19 pandemic these rules went out the window. If it wasn’t an update on coronavirus, it wasn’t being written.

From this, it’s good to recognise how to apply your expertise to help your clients in other ways. Spend time looking at current campaigns to see if you can align them reactively or possibly look to the future and create a content calendar months from now.

Lesson 2: Your campaigns will get pulled

Regardless of all of the love, effort, time and budget that has gone into your latest PR campaign, sometimes the client will decide to pull these back. When this happens put yourselves in your clients’ shoes and respect their wishes. Protect the brand always!

Consider keeping the campaign for a later date. Focus and work on being better rather than what should’ve been.

Lesson 3: All hands on deck

In turbulent times, use your team resources. The assumption that some jobs are more junior didn’t exist during those first few weeks during coronavirus. The more members of the team who are able to help out across all parts of the campaign process meant we were able to push things out quickly for our clients.

Lesson 4: Communication was key

If you weren’t on furlough, the chances are you were working remotely. This can be hard on a team who are used to the buzz of an office. Communication was more important than ever; everything from checking up on team members to introducing daily stand-up calls.

Lesson 5: Creativity is free

Use your team and play to people’s strengths. We could come up with great campaigns before COVID-19, so why couldn’t we apply our same thinking and formats during?

We spent this time reworking and investing budget into COVID-friendly campaigns in order to keep securing coverage for our clients.

Lesson 6: Be there for your clients

Furlough and redundancy were very real possibilities for many employees, employers and businesses as a result of the coronavirus impact. We realised that cementing relationships and being there for our clients was imperative on a business and personal level.

Lesson 7: Put yourself first

To say this has been a stressful year is an understatement! If you too felt extra anxious over the past few months, remember to take time to chill out and unwind so you’re able to enjoy the job we do as PR’s. We come up with cool stories for amazing brands, always remember that.

As we can start to see the links and coverage for our clients returning it’s time to use this strange period as a learning experience whilst we move forward.

If a media blackout was to come to light in the future, for example in British media this could be to do with a birth or death in the Royal family, at least we now know that we’re armed with the tools, attitudes and perseverance to work through it.

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Marketing Island is an award-winning online marketing magazine set to inspire those in the digital industry.