By: Santiago Villegas, Co-founder of 1903 Public Relations
The public relations (PR) industry as a whole has been hit tremendously by the financial fallout of the virus spreading across the world. Many would-be-clients have been impacted themselves, and as a result, are cutting budgets wherever possible. Cost cutting efforts often look to PR programs first. While this is a difficult time, PR can help companies strategically navigate challenges and can lead to business success in the long term.
It’s important to remember that the world is concerned with more than a company’s desire to sell products right now. Reporters are looking for larger themes that impact industries and the world at large. This is where a skilled PR team can be especially valuable.
Executives are too close to their own company, often don’t see those larger themes. Reporters in 2020 have been forced to view everything through the lens of COVID-19. The undeniable global implications of the virus have been incorporated into every story, and any story being pitched needs to think the same way. Journalists don’t want to cover a subject that isn’t relevant to their readers, and the pandemic is highly relevant to every person, in every industry. Even niche subject matter publications want to know how pitches account for the impact of COVID-19.
PR practitioners can help navigate the nuance of the media landscape. While the best PR pros are always aggressive about media outreach, knowing how to apply the right amount of pressure is especially important at this moment. It’s important to remember that journalists are people too. They are living through these uncertain times, just like all of us and they may not be able to be as responsive as they were previously. Give them some grace and caution clients that this may be the case before media outreach is undertaken.
Companies that shuttered their PR departments in an attempt to save money may actually have set themselves up to fail. Many companies have actually gone forth and done a lot for their employees or communities and these are great PR opportunities, as well as important community events. These are things that should be highlighted and can bring positive attention, while demonstrating how companies live business ethos. Reputations can be made or broken by how a business conducts itself in times of trouble. PR can help make sure the story is told right.
Companies across the country are looking to place stories about the decisions they’ve made in terms of working from home, or money invested into the community. These moves play two roles. One – showcasing that the companies do good. Two – highlighting that the company cares about their employees and the community, more than their bottom line. The goodwill around a business can be the difference between a decision maker going with one company or a competitor. While PR is not a replacement for having quality products/services, it can definitely create a halo-effect that may lift one company over another.
When spending is tight, any extra reason as to why one business is a better choice can make the difference when it comes to sales. If companies decide to cut their PR programs they face the risk of the competition retaining theirs, and using it to gain mind-share and customers. If a company isn’t top of mind, it can easily be forgotten as news cycles rush by. While most businesses are going through some real obstacles, those who are able to maintain their PR programs, should.
That doesn’t mean it’s “business as usual.” The media landscape has completely changed over the past couple of months, but so has the way that PR pros partner with their companies in order to achieve goals. Step one should be an in-depth look at what the goals are for the business, and how PR can help. Media relations is often where most companies see the most benefit from PR. But, this might not always be the case and you don’t know until you assess the company’s goals overall. The coming months will be as hard, if not harder than the months before. It’s important for businesses to take every PR opportunity possible to come out ahead in 2021.